One of the most accomplished and recognized umpires in Major League Baseball will be sidelined this season due to a back injury — and left wondering if he'll be able to resume a big-league career spanning 31 years.
Tim McClelland said Wednesday doctors decided against clearing him to work this season during the league's annual preseason retreat in Phoenix.
The league recently announced McClelland would start the season on the "disabled list," but he told The Des Moines Register he will miss the entire season and is uncertain if he'll be able to return despite plans to consider it.
"I'm not working this year," said McClelland, of West Des Moines. "I'm not retiring, I'm just on the disabled list. I'm going to rest, and we have to re-evaluate at the end of the year."
When asked if sitting out a season had the potential to provide enough relief for a return to baseball, McClelland said he was unsure.
"Possibly. Possibly," he said. "We don't know."
McClelland, 62, is the second-most senior umpire in the league, behind Joe West.
He has been involved in many historic baseball moments.
McClelland ejected then-Kansas City Royals star George Brett in the infamous "pine tar incident" in 1983. He worked behind the plate during a perfect game by David Wells in 1998. He was the umpire in charge during the corked-bat incident involving Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa in 2003.
GALLERY: MCCLELLAND THROUGH THE YEARS
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In 2009, McClelland faced withering criticism for a missed call on the bases during Game 4 of an American League Championship Series game between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels. In 2007, his "safe" call at home plate in the 13th inning of the Colorado Rockies' come-from-behind win against the San Diego Padres in a National League wild-card tiebreaker game generated much debate.
Throughout his career, McClelland became one of the most respected umpires in the game — a multi No. 1 choice by players in Sports Illustrated polls — and he has worked the World Series four times.
"It's been a real struggle for me to umpire the last couple of years," he said. "I didn't want to go through what I've gone through the last couple of years."
One immediate benefit: McClelland will experience his first summer off since 1976.
"I'm happy with being off the road," he said. "I'm looking forward to my first summer with (my wife) Sandy for a long time. I just want to enjoy it."
McClelland hopes to consider another season in baseball, but said he could walk away content if that chance fails to materialize.
"I'm fine with it," he said. "I'm good with everything in my career, where I've gone and what I've been fortunate enough to do."
Miller writes for the Des Moines Register