Ex-GF pitcher and umpire Rex Rupert dies

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Rex Rupert in his playing days with the Grand Forks Chiefs. (Family photo)

Rex Rupert came to Grand Forks in 1957 to play professional baseball.

He never left.

Rupert played three seasons for the Grand Forks Chiefs, a minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was one of the few players during the Chiefs’ existence to marry a local girl. Rupert made Grand Forks a permanent home. He died Friday at his home. He was 86.

“I don’t think he planned on staying here when he arrived,’’ said his daughter, Rancee Rupert. “He came here to play baseball. His dream was to get to the big show.

“I don’t know why he didn’t go any farther with baseball. He never said. But I don’t think he had any disappointments that he didn’t go higher.’’


Rupert grew up in the small town of Petersburg, Pa. He arrived in Grand Forks to play for the Chiefs in 1957. The right-hander was 12-9 with a 3.29 earned run average that summer.

In 1958 and 1959, Rupert started the seasons with other teams before returning to the Chiefs. In 1958 Rupert had one of the best seasons ever by a Chiefs pitcher, going 17-6 with a 2.74 ERA. In 1959 he was 8-10 with a 3.23 ERA.

Rancee Rupert doesn’t know if her father pitched professionally after that. He married Joan Chumich on Sept. 13, 1959.

“When he got here, Dad rented a room from my great grandparents at 125 Belmont Road,’’ Rancee Rupert said. “That’s how he met my mom.’’

The Northern League was a baseball hotbed in the 1950s. More than 50 players Rupert played with and against eventually played in the majors.

“Dad loved talking baseball,’’ Rancee Rupert said. “He could sit for hours reminiscing about back in the day. He didn’t brag about himself. A lot of the talk was about guys he played with and against.’’

Rex Rupert remained active on the diamond for many years after he left the professional ranks. He played amateur ball for several years. In 1965, he began a second career as an umpire. He worked the college, American Legion and softball ranks well into the 1980s.

“For years, he was gone almost every night in the summer umpiring,’’ Rancee Rupert said. “There wasn’t much pay in it, so I assume he did it for his passion for the sport.’’


Brian Kraft caught many Grand Forks Legion and UND games with Rupert positioned behind him calling the game.

“Rex probably did 75 percent of our games,’’ Kraft said. “He was a good ump. He understood the strike zone. And he was always very conscientious.’’

Rex Rupert’s other passion was singing. He was a long-time member of a local barbershop quartet.

Shortly after Joan Rupert’s death in 1996, Rancee Rupert offered to send her father back to Pennsylvania to visit relatives.

“He said, ‘Why would I want to do that? This is my home,’ ‘’ Rancee Rupert said.

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