My grandfather, Bill Stewart Sr., passed away 57 years ago today: Feb. 18, 1964. I was 11 years at the time and remember every detail of this sad today. I miss my "Grampy" to this very day and he was one of my first role models, along with my dad.
Bill Stewart Sr. is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame by virtue of having been the first American to coach an NHL team to the Stanley Cup (the 1937-38 Chicago Black Hawks), and having refereed for the NHL in four Stanley Cup championship series. He later served behind the scenes as the de facto GM -- and one of the primary architects -- in building most of the 1960 Team USA Olympic hockey squad that captured the gold medal. Personally, I would argue that he belongs in the "big" Hall in Toronto, too, in the Builder category in addition to his U.S. Hockey HHOF enshrinement.
I would also argue that my grandfather belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He deserves a place alongside other legendary umpires such as Bill Klem, Doug Harvey, Al Barlick, Jocko Conlin, Billy Evans and Cal Hubbard (who was a prominent football player as well as professional baseball umpire).
My grandfather umpired in the National League from 1933 to 1954 -- refereeing or coaching hockey in between baseball seasons. He umpired in four World Series (1937, 1943, 1948, 1953) and four All-Star Games (1936, 1940, 1948, 1954). He was the home plate umpire for Johnny Vander Meer's record second consecutive no-hitter in 1938, and was the crew chief for the legendary 1951 three-game pennant playoff between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
I would also argue that the totality of my grandfather's baseball career goes beyond his umpiring credentials. He was a standout minor league pitcher who missed out on a Major League career only due being the first pro player to enlist for World War I military service and then an arm injury when he was on the brink of a call-up where he actually got to pitch (he did have one call-up but never got into a game). After that, he was a manager and then, years, later a prolific talent scout. In his lifetime, he pretty much knew everyone in Major League Baseball, and was highly respected by all.
While most people who know of my grandfather remember him as an official or a coach, he was one hell of an athlete in his day. In track, he once beat Jim Thorpe in a race. I still have the original newspaper clipping to prove it. In baseball, he had pinpoint control as a pitcher before he hurt his arm. He was also a football star at Roxbury High School. He wasn't the fastest skater in hockey or very tall but he was strong and knew the game.
If I had half the career my grandfather did, I did quite well for myself. If you are a sports history enthusiast, I'd recommend reading up on the impact Bill Stewart had in both hockey and baseball within the realms where he carved his reputation. See if you agree that he belongs in the "big" hockey Hall as well as in Cooperstown with the other top umpires of all time.
A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart.