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Robert A. Roesner, teacher and Major League umpire

Robert A. Roesner, a former Baltimore County public school educator and coach who went on to become a replacement Major League Baseball umpire during two strikes in 1978 and 1979 strike, died Monday of heart failure at Imperial Gardens nursing home in Naples, Fla.

The longtime Joppatowne resident was 85.

Mr. Roesner made his major league umpiring debut at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 25, 1978, before a crowd of 10,538 who had gathered to watch the Orioles take on the Seattle Mariners, in a game the Orioles won 5-0. He became a major league umpire after the regular umpires went on strike for that one day.

Right after Mr. Roesner yelled "play ball," Mariner second baseman Julio Cruz stood at home plate, waiting for the first ball to be thrown.

"I was hoping the first pitch would be hit," Mr. Roesner told a Baltimore Sun reporter who covered the game. "Sometimes I bellow 'STRIKE' like the world is coming to an end. I was nervous at the start, but not later."

"They all umpired well," Orioles manager Earl Weaver told the newspaper at the time. "There wasn't one complaint on our bench. Nobody hollered once."

Mr. Roesner was called on again as a replacement umpire during 1979, when regular umpires struck from Opening Day to May 18.

The son of a butcher and a farmer, Mr. Roesner was born in Baltimore and raised on a farm in Middle River.

He attended Loyola Blakefield high school, where he played varsity football for three years and was a member of the debating team.

"I remember Bob from our first year in high school. He was one of the few guys who had a car, which was a little jalopy with a rumble seat. It was a mid-'30s vintage car," said Vince Bagli, former WBAL-TV sports anchor.

"He drove all the way over to Blakefield from Middle River, which was a hike in those days," said Mr. Bagli, who also recalled his friend's athletic prowess.

"He was a gritty little football player and made the 1943 championship team. He was a guard and an unsung-hero kind of player," said Mr. Bagli.

Defeating Calvert Hall College High School, 26-6, in that year, Loyola earned its first A Conference Maryland Scholastic Association football title since 1927.

After graduating from Loyola in 1944, he enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific aboard the carrier USS Boxer as a dental assistant.

"Bob was a year behind me at Loyola, and he played on coach Ed Hargeden's championship football team in 1943," said James J. Lacy Jr., a retired insurance executive and former president of the city Board of Fire Commissioners

"We became terribly close when we served on the Boxer for a year together at the end of the war," said Mr. Lacy. "Bob was an extremely outgoing and personable man. He was the type of individual who always took charge and became a leader."

After being discharged from the Navy, Mr. Roesner earned a bachelor's degree in 1950 in education from what is now Loyola University Maryland. In the late 1950s, he earned a master's degree from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College.

Mr. Roesner began his teaching career at Stemmers Run Junior High School, where he taught English and social studies.

"He enjoyed challenging his English students' creative side by assigning topics for compositions such as 'My Life Inside a Pingpong Ball' and 'My Life as a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich,'" said his son, James W. Roesner, who lives in the city's Beverly Hills neighborhood.

Several years later, he joined the faculty of Middle River Junior High School and ended his career in 1994 at Eastern Vocational and Technical High School in Essex, where he was a driver's education instructor and chairman of the department.

In addition to his teaching, Mr. Roesner played a major role in organizing intramural basketball programs in the Essex and Middle River area. He also coached the Buccaneers, the 12-14 boys travel basketball team that won many citywide championships during the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr. Roesner officiated football, baseball, basketball and soccer games, which took him from sandlot ball to high school and college-level games.

He had been a baseball official since 1946, and as supervisor of the Mason-Dixon Conference assigned all officials to college and junior college baseball games in the metropolitan area.

In the early 1970s, he served as a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers.

"His most memorable experience, and one that he spoke of most often, was during the 1978-79 [major league] umpires' strike, when he was asked to assemble a crew of local officials — Jerry Phipps, Jim O'Connor and Wayne Keister — to umpire Oriole home games for the duration of the strike," his son said. "He even went face-to-face with Earl Weaver over a call he made at third base."

In 1994, Mr. Roesner and his umpiring crew were cast for the movie "Major League II," which was filmed at Camden Yards.

After Mr. Roesner stopped officiating at games, he remained active as commissioner of officials for the Mason-Dixon Intercollegiate Conference, and continued to schedule officials for several years after moving to Naples in 1994.

Mr. Roesner returned to education as a substitute teacher, and when he was 83 he was named Substitute of the Year for his work at Barron Collier High School in Naples.

His wife of 27 years, the former Catherine Elaine Nice, died in 1973.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

Surviving, in addition to his son, are his wife of 37 years, the former Carolyn Mae Putsche; two stepsons, Raymond Griffith Grauer Jr. of Joppatowne and Edward Francis Geier of Parkton; a brother, David Allen Roesner of Carney; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.


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