Nestor Chylak was a highly respected umpire and brave Soldier. He is known for his ability to overcome injury and adversity while serving in WWII and represented what it means to be a true leader on and off the baseball diamond. Being a recipient of the Silver Star, the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award Foundation is recognizing him on Silver Star Service Banner Day. The Silver Star is the third highest military combat decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces.
He enlisted in the United States Army on December 3, 1942. He was trained as a U.S. Army Ranger at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. From there he served in the European Theater and rose to the rank of technical sergeant. He was with the 424th Infantry Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division.
Chylak suffered a major injury during the Battle of the Bulge on January 3, 1945. He was hit by shrapnel from an exploding German shell and was nearly blinded. As a result of his injuries, he was hospitalized for eight weeks and would not know if he would regain his eyesight until they removed the bandages ten days later. Fortunately, he emerged with his eyesight intact and returned to the frontlines. For his gallantry in action, he received the Silver Star as well as the Purple Heart for his wounds in battle.
After Chylak was discharged, he attended the University of Scranton to complete his engineering degree. While pursuing his degree, he was introduced to umpiring games. He began his professional career in the minor leagues with the Class D PONY League, before umpiring in the Canadian-American League, the Eastern League, and the International League. He made his Major League debut in 1954.
During his professional career, he umpired six All-Star games, three league championship series, and five World Series. He was behind the plate for Sandy Koufax’s final game in the 1966 World Series and the Toronto Blue Jay’s first home game in 1977. Chylak was known for the way he carried himself and was respected for his leadership. He expected himself and other umpires to always perform perfectly, having no room for error. He was quoted as saying, “I umpired for 25 years and can honestly say I never called one wrong in my heart.” He was also known for his hustle, enthusiasm, and determination.
He retired from professional umpiring in 1978 after suffering from a minor stroke. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. The Foundation recognizes him for his resilience and determination that he exemplified as a Major League umpire as well as his bravery while serving in the U.S. Army in WWII.