APNewsBreak: Longtime MLB umpire Tim Welke calls it a career

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • FILE - In this June 23, 2006, file photo, Milwaukee Brewers' Geoff Jenkins talks with home plate umpire Tim Welke after Jenkins grounded out during a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    FILE - In this June 23, 2006, file photo, Milwaukee Brewers' Geoff Jenkins talks with home plate umpire Tim Welke after Jenkins grounded out during a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

  • Umpire Tim Welke smiles in the stands during a spring training baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    Umpire Tim Welke smiles in the stands during a spring training baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Aug. 17, 1983, file photo, New York Yankees third base coach Don Zimmer argues with third base umpire Tim Welke (30) during a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York. Plate umpire Dave Phillips (7) steps between the combatants. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    FILE - In this Aug. 17, 1983, file photo, New York Yankees third base coach Don Zimmer argues with third base umpire Tim Welke (30) during a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York. Plate umpire Dave Phillips (7) steps between the combatants. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2013, file photo, umpire Tim Welke turns to the Tampa Bay Rays' dugout to exchange heated words with Rays manager Joe Maddon about a call during the fifth inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2013, file photo, umpire Tim Welke turns to the Tampa Bay Rays' dugout to exchange heated words with Rays manager Joe Maddon about a call during the fifth inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 21, 2015, file photo, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale, left, and Texas Rangers first base coach Hector Ortiz, right, go over ground rules with home plate umpire Tim Welke prior to a baseball game in Phoenix. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    FILE - In this April 21, 2015, file photo, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale, left, and Texas Rangers first base coach Hector Ortiz, right, go over ground rules with home plate umpire Tim Welke prior to a baseball game in Phoenix. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this June 3, 1998, file photo, Boston Red Sox manager Jimy Williams, second from right, gets between home plate umpire Tim Welke, right, and batter John Valentin, while teammate Mo Vaugh restrains Valentin, who was arguing two called strikes from Baltimore Orioles pitcher Doug Johns in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Valentin and Williams were ejected from the game. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    FILE - In this June 3, 1998, file photo, Boston Red Sox manager Jimy Williams, second from right, gets between home plate umpire Tim Welke, right, and batter John Valentin, while teammate Mo Vaugh restrains Valentin, who was arguing two called strikes from Baltimore Orioles pitcher Doug Johns in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. Valentin and Williams were ejected from the game. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this April 26, 2010, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates manager John Russell, right, argues with home plate umpire Tim Welke, left, after he called Milwaukee Brewers' Gregg Zaun safe at home during a baseball game in Milwaukee. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    FILE - In this April 26, 2010, file photo, Pittsburgh Pirates manager John Russell, right, argues with home plate umpire Tim Welke, left, after he called Milwaukee Brewers' Gregg Zaun safe at home during a baseball game in Milwaukee. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

  • FILE - In this March 22, 2014, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, left, grimaces after fouling of a bunt attempt for a third strike, as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero and umpire Tim Welke, right, watch the play during a baseball game in Sydney. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016,  that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June.

    FILE - In this March 22, 2014, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, left, grimaces after fouling of a bunt attempt for a third strike, as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero and umpire Tim Welke, right, watch the play during a baseball game in Sydney. Welke is calling it a career after 33 seasons. Welke told The Associated Press on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, that he had one knee replacement surgery in January and would have another in June. Associated Press

 
 
Posted3/17/2016 7:00 AM

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The first time Tim Welke stepped onto a ballfield as a professional umpire, he was a teenager hoping he wouldn't get yelled at too much.

As the years turned to decades, sure, he got an earful. All umps do. But by the time he walked off at PNC Park last October on wobbly knees that would need surgery, he'd gotten quite an eyeful, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Reggie and Yaz, Earl Weaver and Billy Martin. Opening day in Australia, the World Series at Yankee Stadium. More than 4,200 games in the big leagues, spread over 33 seasons.

"It went like a snap," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Now at 58, Welke is calling it a career. He had his left knee replaced in January, his right one will undergo the same procedure in June.

"I know my body couldn't go any farther. It's a young person's job," he said. "It's the circle of life."

Played out on a diamond, that is.

Welke worked the World Series four times, including the harrowing, rain-suspended matchup between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia in 2008, plus a bevy of playoffs. He did three All-Star Games, handling home plate last year.

"That was one thing I always wanted to do," he said. "That kind of filled out the checklist."

In all, he called 4,216 games in the regular season - Joe West is the active leader in the majors with about 600 more.

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Welke worked nearly half his games as a crew chief. For a while, younger brother Bill was on those crews. Next year, Bill might switch his uniform number from 52 to 3, the one Tim wore.

Managers, players and fellow umpires often praised Welke for his even-tempered demeanor and ability to control a game without letting emotions escalate.

Welke is the last umpire to toss a manager in the World Series, that being all-time ejection leader Bobby Cox in 1996.

But true to his nature, Welke's last ejection came in 2012. In 2014, however, he threw out a fan in Atlanta who was heckling Bryce Harper in a profane manner.

"You have to treat everybody fairly, at every level," he said.

No surprise, as Welke spoke in the concourse at Ed Smith Stadium before Pittsburgh played Baltimore on Wednesday, a parade of familiar faces strolled by to wish him well. There was Pirates President Frank Coonelly, a clubhouse worker and a local police officer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I'll miss wearing the uniform and the guys," he said. "I'm going to miss opening day."

Minnesota manager Paul Molitor was among those Welke said he enjoyed on the field. The admiration was mutual.

"I remember guys that always gave me an opportunity to voice an opinion as long as it was respectful and they would reciprocate, and he was one of those guys for me. He took a lot of pride in his job. He wasn't confrontational, and very professional," Molitor said.

"I wish him well. And it's meaningful because you just don't expect to hear that kind of compliment from umpires who have to step down from the game," he said.

Not that the future Hall of Famer and umpire always agreed.

"I remember one time he called a pitch on me, and I said, 'Timmy, where'd you have that?' He says, 'Borderline, borderline.' I said, 'Well, it's either a strike or a ball.' He goes, 'You know what, you're right,'" Molitor said.

In 2012, Welke had a miss that pained him. He called Jerry Hairston Jr. out when Colorado first baseman Todd Helton was well off the bag. That was two years before replay covered such plays. The next time Welke saw Hairston, he apologized.

"You learn more from those mistakes, but I wish I'd been able to change that," Welke said.

Welke got his first pro job at 19 in 1977 in the minors, made it to the majors in 1983 and kept working.

"I wish my career is half as good as Tim Welke's," longtime umpire Bob Davidson said.

Welke's final game was a Reds-Pirates matchup last season, with Pittsburgh trying to lock up home field for the NL wild-card playoff.

"It was a meaningful game, I had the plate, I knew it was my last time," he said. "I walked off the field, I felt great."

Welke will officially be on MLB disability until Dec. 31. In the meantime, he's looking forward to quality time at home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with his wife, Patti, sons Ben and Greg, and daughter Lauren, along with four grandchildren. And his dog, a rescue Lab-pit bull mix.

"We call her Chief," he said. "We knew this day was coming when I wouldn't be umpiring. So we needed a Chief Welke in the house."

He's already planning for this summer, up on Beaver Island in northern Michigan.

"I want to see the Fourth of July fireworks from a boat in the lake," he said. "I haven't gotten to do that, you know."

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