ROCHESTER NEW YORK – Former major league umpire Ken Kaiser, a colorful figure between the lines who briefly moonlighted as a professional wrestler to make ends meet while working in the minor leagues, has died. He was 72.
The World Umpires Association said Thursday he died in his hometown of Rochester, New York, on Tuesday. Kaiser had diabetes for years.
An American League umpire from 1977-99, Kaiser umpired two World Series, one All-Star Game and several playoff series.
The 190-cm Kaiser, who wrote in his book, “Planet of the Umps: A Baseball Life from behind the Plate,” that when he graduated from high school in 1964 his “long-range plan was lunch.” He weighed about 136 kg and often was criticized for that portly physique during the more than 3,000 big-league games he umpired.
In his book, published in 2003, Kaiser wrote of his decade in the minor leagues and off-season jobs that included bar bouncer, bank teller, and that short stint as the wrestler dubbed “Hatchet Man.”
Kaiser’s umpiring career ended when he joined a group of umpires who submitted their resignations in 1999 during labor negotiations, a gamble by the Major League Umpires Association that failed. He was not rehired.
He is survived by two adult children. Funeral plans are incomplete.