James Umbricht (September 17, 1930 – April 8, 1964) was an American professional baseball player. A right-handed relief pitcher, he played Major League Baseball (MLB) between 1959 and 1963 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Colt .45s.
Umbricht was born in Chicago but grew up in Georgia. He started his professional career in 1953, making the majors in 1959. Over the next seasons, he alternated between teams, playing for the Pirates and that team's farm system. Umbricht was drafted by the Colt .45s in 1962, and became one of the National League's top relief pitchers.
Diagnosed with malignant melanoma in his right leg in March 1963, his comeback to baseball following surgery made national headlines and encouraged research on the disease. He spent the 1963 season as a relief pitcher, sometimes in excruciating pain. Umbricht's health deteriorated soon afterwards and he died within six months, from complications from melanoma in a Houston area hospital at age 33. His ashes were spread over the construction site of the Astrodome, the future home of the Colt .45s. The team retired Umbricht's jersey number and wore black armbands for the 1964 season in his honor.
By Dean Hanley
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