Making the baseball Hall of Fame as an umpire is not easy, but Nestor Chylak is one of 10 men who managed to do so.
The decorated World War II veteran from Lackawanna County returned home to begin a distinguished career as one of the most famous and respected umpires the sport has ever known.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. includes 263 players, 38 executives and pioneers, 22 managers and the 10 umpires.
Chylak, who was born in Peckville and called Olyphant home, was still serving Major League Baseball when he died in Dunmore of an apparent heart attack in 1982. He was then the assistant supervisor of umpires.
In the United Press International obituary on the day of Chylak’s death, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn said: “Few have ever been more respected in his field. Everyone looked up to him, and I developed more respect every time I saw him in a World Series of All-Star Game.”
In his 25-year Major League career, much of it spent as crew chief, Chylak was assigned six All-Star Games and five World Series.
Chylak’s Hall of Fame induction came 22 years ago on July 25, 1999 in a class that included George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount and Orlando Cepeda.
While serving the United States Army in the Battle of the Bulge, Chylak suffered an injury that threatened his eyesight. He was hospitalized for eight weeks with bandages covering his eyes following wounds caused by shrapnel from an exploding shell.
Less than two years after the incident, which led to him being awarded both the Silver Star and Purple Heart for courage in battle, Chylak was on the baseball field as an amateur umpire. After working his way up through the minor leagues, he made it up to a 1954 Major League debut.
Among the games which Chylak called from behind the plate was Sandy Koufax’s final game for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series and the first home game for the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1977.