It was said Gregg generally weighed between 315 and 325 pounds throughout his umpiring career, which started in 1977 at age 24. At the time, he was one of the younger umpires in the history of MLB. Gregg would later say his weight was probably closer to 400 pounds, something he was conscious of. His comrade, John McSherry, had a similar issue with his weight and the two of them planned to slim down together. Unfortunately, McSherry died of a heart attack in the field in 1996, influencing Gregg to try to lose some weight. Gregg would immediately take a leave of absence, returning as a MLB umpire in 1997.
Gregg was known for a wide strike zone, but that was mostly because of his performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS between Florida and Atlanta, where Livan Hernandez struck out 15 batters in a complete game win. While there were other times Gregg called strikes on pitches off the plate, his strike zone was nowhere near as large as it was in that particular game. In fact, Gregg was a fair umpire, who was probably average in regards to ratings of umpires of his time. His wide frame, at times, made it difficult for him to be in correct position to always make correct calls on the bases. Otherwise, he was neither considered a top umpire nor a terrible one.
The saddest part of Gregg's life happened during the umpires mass resignation in 1999. Richie Phillips, head of the umpires union, initiated the whole thing with the hopes the umpires would get a raise in place of MLB paying a ton of money in severance pay. MLB allowed the umpires to resign, instead replacing them with others making much less in pay. While other umpires were eventually brought back, Gregg never got a chance to return. Even after House Representative Robert Brady wrote a letter signed by 25 other House members urging Commissioner Bud Selig to allow Gregg to return, Selig still refused. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he spent his time umpiring softball in the city and was a bartender until his death in 2006.
While Gregg never stood out as a great umpire, the 1999 mass resignation has had its impact on the game today. As many new umpires that were hired and promoted at the time watered down the quality of work. As fans and people associated with the game continue to complain about the quality of umpiring, the turning point seems to be the 1999 season where the change took place. Had this not happened, the umpires not rehired, including Gregg, would have stuck around keeping less competent umpires from being in MLB. Only the best of the group of new umpires would be in the game today, with some trickling in after the older ones retired.
While many insist on instant replay to be expanded, I have always been in favor of accountability. The umpires who do not get the job done need to be replaced. I have mentioned in previous posts that MLB has made progress in publicly announcing suspensions. The poor umpires need to be identified and made public. Yes, a good umpire like Jim Joyce or Fieldin Culbreth may have a bad day, but the ones who are continuously blowing calls will get the reputation they deserve. Like a player who makes an error, it is forgiven granted he does not make errors on a regular basis. If the player continues to make errors, the team replaces him in the field. The same thing needs to apply to umpires.
The fan has a place in improving the performance of umpires. It is (and has been for a while) time to hold the umpires accountable, like fans hold their favorite teams players accountable. It is time to call out the names of umpires who make obvious bad calls. It is also time to call out umpires who do a bad job and make it worse by throwing players and managers out of the game after their obvious mistakes. In the game you are watching tonight, watch to see if any calls are missed. Take note of the umpires in question and look for consistent mistakes. We will find that the ones who's performance is among the worst are usually the same ones who are guilty of throwing out more players and managers than others.