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Former umpire union head Phillips dies at 72

Richie Phillips, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer who led a number of negotiations for Major League Baseball umpires, died on Friday at the age of 72.

Representing Major League umpires from 1978-99, Phillips used his brash tactics to play an integral role in obtaining the first pensions and vacations for big league umpires.

He also battled for higher compensation for umpires. At the time Phillips assumed his role in 1978, rookie umpires were making $17,500 annually. By 2000, they were making at least $95,000.

Among the Phillips-led negotiations were a seven-week strike in 1979 and a walkout at the beginning of the '84 postseason. A work disruption in '99, however, ultimately ended his reign when Phillips convinced 22 umpires to resign and they were replaced on a permanent basis.

Phillips was removed from his post later that year when the umpires formed a new union, the World Umpires Association.

His death was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer and later confirmed by the D'Anjolell Memorial Home in Broomall, Pa., which will host a viewing on Thursday. Phillips, who also represented NBA referees for part of his career, died of cardiac arrest at his second home in Cape May, N.J.

Along with his work for umpires, the Villanova law-school graduate represented NBA referees in the '70s and '80s, while also working in the Philadelphia public defender's office and the district attorney's office.

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.