By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

Former Major League Baseball Umpire Chuck Meriwether was a statesman among those who keep the law for America’s National Pastime.  

Meriwhether, 63, passed away after a battle with cancer.  It was a silent battle that ended at his home in Nashville, TN.  There were few who recognized the historic baseball moment in which he played a part. 

The baseball gods somehow put Meriwhether in the middle of history in 2004.  On Oct. 27, 2004 the Boston Red Sox ended one of the great championship sports draughts of the modern era when they capped a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals to win the series. Meriwhether’s role was literally on every pitch. As fate would have it, the unassuming Meriwhether was the home plate umpire for this moment of baseball history that many thought would never live to see.  

Former Major League Baseball Umpire Chuck Meriweather, 63, died at his home in Nashville, TN after a battle with cancer.(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Meriwether was behind the plate in Game 4 when the Red Sox ended their 86-years of championship futility when they beat St. Louis at Busch Stadium. He also called the 2007 World Series when Boston swept the Colorado Rockies.

Earning a spot on the World Series crew is the pinnacle of an umpire’s career.  Few get the call to officiate under the scrutiny of the championship moment, but Meriwhether did.  Twice he was a part of the crews that were charged with enforcing the law of the game with the world championship on the line.

Meriwether called his first Major League Baseball game in 1987 and was promoted to the full-time American League staff in 1993. Through his 18-year career on the field, Meriwether earned eight postseason assignments in the Division Series, two in the League Championship Series, and two All-Star Games.

Former Major League Baseball Umpire Chuck Meriweather, 63, died at his home in Nashville, TN after a battle with cancer.(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

He then became a major league umpire supervisor for nine years.

Meriwhether was quietly efficient at following in the footsteps of Emmett Ashford, who was Major League Baseball’s first African-American umpire hired in 1966.

”Chuck Meriwether was an accomplished umpire on the field, a role model for our staff and a true gentleman in life,” MLB Rob Manfred said in a statement. ”Chuck will be remembered for his genial manner and the outstanding example he set for others, particularly for African American umpires who followed him.”

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library and Research Center, there are currently only six African-American umpires on MLB’s 76-member full-time staff. 

 Kerwin Danley joined the MLB staff in 1998 and has worked eight postseason series, including the 2008 World Series.  Laz Diaz, who joined the MLB staff in 1999, and was a part of crews who worked 11 postseason series, including the 2007 and 2017 World Series. Adrian Johnson, who became a full-time MLB umpire in 2010 and worked the 2017 AL Division Series. C.B. Bucknor joined the MLB staff in 1999 and has worked five postseason series and a wild-card game. Alan Porter, who joined the MLB staff full-time in 2013 after serving as a vacation replacement beginning in 2010, has worked four postseason series.

The number of African-American umpires continues to fluctuate.  Like players, umpires must work their way through the minor leagues after attending umpiring school.