NEW YORK — Salem-based Major League Baseball umpire Jerry Mills has retired after 25 years of full-time service.
Meals, a 1979 graduate of Salem High School, was one of 10 umpire retirements announced Thursday by Major League Baseball, the most in the league since 1999. Marty Foster, Lan Porter, Adrian Johnson, Greg Gibson, Jim Reynolds, Sam Holbrook, Bill Welk, Paul Nauert and Tim Timmons.
Meals, 61, officiated the 2014 and 2020 World Series, and was behind the board with Kerry Wood’s 20-hit game for the Cubs in 1998 and a second by Justin Verlander in 2011.
He has also been an umpire in eight league series, a series championship series, and the 2009 Baseball World Cup. He was promoted to chief of staff in 2015.
The culmination of his career came in 2014 when he was assigned to work at the World Championships. He was behind the plate for Game 1 at Kauffman Stadium between the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants.
“That was probably the most exciting moment for me,” Meals said in a 2020 Salem News interview. “It’s hard to explain the excitement of being on the field for a World Series match and having your family there. It was a very satisfying experience.”
Meals’ career began on the youth baseball fields in Salem as a way to stay involved in the game.
“It was just something I thought was fun,” He said. “I’ve always loved baseball and loved the umpiring side of it. After graduating high school, I got a job in the caretaker field and thought umpiring would be a good thing to do on the side.”
Four years after the crucial Youth Games in Salem, he decided to take the next step and attend umpiring school.
In 1983, Males graduated from Joe Brinkman’s Umpire School in St. Petersburg, Florida. That summer, he earned his first assignment to the Class A Appalachian League.
“After graduation, I was one of two in my class to get a minor league assignment,” meals said. “I originally only hoped to officiate college and high school games to make some extra cash on the side. I never dreamed of where the job would eventually take me.”
Meals spent the next nine years working his way through the minor leagues. He finally made his major league debut on September 14, 1992, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He was the third base umpire as the Cubs took on the New York Mets.
“Just think of everything you’ve done to get to this point,” meals said. “To this day, Wrigley probably remains my favorite stadium because it’s where I first started and because of all the history there. You can’t help but feel nostalgic about this place.”
Six years later, Meals was in his first season as a full-time major league umpire when he tied home plate assignment at Wrigley for an afternoon game between the Cubs and Houston Astros on Wednesday, May 6, 1998.
On that day, Kerry Wood made history by tying Roger Clemens’ Major League single-game record with 20 strikeouts.
Like almost any other umpire at any level, Meals has had his share of fielding runs with irate players and managers over the years.
“Some of the take-outs are pretty funny, some not so much,” He said. “You have to learn to take it with a grain of salt and not dwell on the negative, the next big call could be right around the corner. It’s a great job, but it’s also a very humbling job, you always have to learn from your mistakes. All you can do is get out there, do your best And connect with what you see.”
Alan Porter and Adrian Johnson were also named the chiefs of the second and third crew of MLB black umpires.
Porter, 45, made his major league debut in 2010 and joined the permanent squad in 2013. Johnson, 47, made his major league debut in 2006 and became a full-time senior referee in 2010.
Kerwin Danley was the first president of the Black Crew in 2020. He retired after the 2021 season.
Lance Barksdale, Dan Bellino, Chris Conroy, James Howe and Todd Tichenor have also been promoted to crew chief.
Ten minor league umpires have been promoted to the big league staff, all with 156 to 473 games of major league experience as fill-in umpires:
Eric Bacchus, Adam Beck, Nestor Sega, Shane Levensberger, Nick Maherley, Brennan Miller, Malachi Moore, Edwin Moscoso, Alex Tosi and Junior Valentine.
Hallion has been a major league referee for 30 years and worked the 2008 World Series and 21 along with seven players.
Barrett has worked in five World Series during his 26 years in the majors and was behind the plate in the 18th World Series game, a 3-2 win by the Los Angeles Dodgers against Boston in 2018 that took 7 hours, 20 minutes, 561 pitches. .
Barrett is the only umpire to have called balls and strikes for a pair of perfect games, by David Kuhn of the New York Yankees in 1999 and Matt Cain of the San Francisco in 2012. He was also behind the plate for a no-hit by Los Angeles collector Ervin Santana of the Los Angeles Angels in 2011 and a Seattle no-hitter in 2012, just five days before Caen’s perfect game on June 13.
A major leaguer for 24 years, Foster worked Japan’s first big league game, a two-game series between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets in 2000.
Gibson, a 24-year veteran, umpired the 2011 World Series and was behind the plate on a perfect game by Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2004, and the Dodgers’ umpire Clayton Kershaw in 2004.
Holbrook has hit three World Series championships during his 22-year career, including behind the plate to the Cubs’ Game 7 victory in Cleveland in 2016 that gave Chicago its first title since 1908.
Timmons, Welke, and Reynolds each worked 23 seasons. Walkie, brother of former big league umpire Tim Welke, umpired in the 2015 World Series, while Timmons umpired in the 2018 Series and Reynolds umpired in a pair of Series.
Nauert, a 22-year veteran, worked the 2017 series.