Charles Williams, the first black umpire to work behind home plate in a World Series game, died on Sept. 10 of complications from diabetes. He was 61.
The Denver native attended Long Beach City College in California, where he was an All-American football player. He was working the night shift at a factory in the 1960s when he began attending umpire school.
Williams worked as a minor-league umpire until 1982 when he joined the majors. He ump’d the 1985 and 1995 All-Star games, the 1989 National League championship series between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, and the 1997 National League championship series between the Florida Marlins and the Atlanta Braves.
Williams was the home-plate umpire for Game Four of the 1993 World Series, which pitted the Philadelphia Phillies against the Toronto Blue Jays. That marathon match-up set several records, including the longest game (four hours, 14 minutes), the most runs by both teams (29) and the most runs scored by a losing team (14). Toronto beat Philly 15-14, and eventually took the series in game six.
A consummate professional, Williams often brought home videotapes of the games he worked, just to make sure his calls were accurate. Despite this dedication, baseball fans and players were not always happy with the calls he made. Some shouted racial epithets or spit at him. He even received death threats in 1986 for throwing Padres’ first baseman Steve Garvey out of a game, but Williams refused to be swayed from his calls.
“People come to see their favorite players, to watch the game and to see the manager tell the umpire off. And it’s part of my job to listen to him. When the crowd boos, I know I am probably doing something right,” Williams once said.