Bill Kunkel (baseball)

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Bill Kunkel
Born: (1936-07-07)July 7, 1936
Hoboken, New Jersey
Died: May 4, 1985(1985-05-04) (aged 48)
Red Bank, New Jersey
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 15, 1961, for the Kansas City Athletics
Last MLB appearance
September 21, 1963, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 6–6
Earned run average 4.29
Innings pitched 142⅔
Career highlights and awards

William Gustave James Kunkel (July 7, 1936 – May 4, 1985) was an American right-handed relief pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1961 to 1963 who went on to a career as an American League umpire from 1968 until his death. His son Jeff was a major league shortstop from 1984 to 1992.

Kunkel was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. His major league pitching career consisted of two seasons with the Kansas City Athletics (1961–1962) and one with the New York Yankees (1963). He officiated in the World Series in 1974 and 1980, and in the American League Championship Series in 1971, 1975, 1978 and 1982. He also worked the All-Star Game in 1972 and 1977, calling balls and strikes for the second contest (Kunkel's experience as the plate umpire is documented in the MLB official highlight film of the 1977 All-Star Game). He was the first base umpire on September 28, 1974 when Nolan Ryan pitched the third of his record seven no-hitters,[1] and was behind the plate exactly one year later on September 28, 1975 when four Oakland Athletics pitchers – Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers – combined to no-hit the California Angels, 5–0.[2]

Kunkel, who also worked as a referee in the National Basketball Association from 1966 to 1968, died of cancer at age 48 in Red Bank, New Jersey. Kunkel's uniform number 9, assigned when the American League adopted umpire numbers in 1980, was retired after his death until the umpiring staffs were unified in 2000, when it was assigned to Brian Gorman. Kunkel was the last umpire to use the outside chest protector in an American League Championship Series game (non-strike situation) when he worked Game 2 of the 1982 ALCS. At the time of his death, he was only one of two umpires still using the outside chest protector.

During his battle with cancer, Kunkel was featured in Safe at Home, a 10-minute film released by the American Cancer Society. Regarding his recovery, Kunkel stated that "I'm living proof that there's life after cancer. ... My problem never enters my mind until someone brings it up."[3]

There is a park named in his honor in the Leonardo section of Middletown Township, New Jersey, where he had been a longtime resident.[4]

See also


  1. Coberly, Rich (1985). The No-Hit Hall of Fame: No-Hitters of the 20th Century. Newport Beach, California: Triple Play. p. 169. ISBN 0-934289-00-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Coberly, p. 172.
  3. Associated Press (May 29, 1982). "Cancer can't strike out AL umpire Bill Kunkel". Tri-City Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Staff. "Kunkel undergoes tests", Times-News (Hendersonville, North Carolina), February 18, 1983. Accessed August 14, 2012. "LEONARDO, N.J. — Bill Kunkel, an American League umpire who has had one cancerous tumor removed, said Thursday that he will enter New York University Hospital for tests on a malignant tumor that was detected last week."

External links