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Hendi Ancich, former NFL umpire and replay official, dies at 80



Hendi Andrew Ancich Sr., 1937-2017

Former NFL umpire Hendi Ancich died December 20, 2017. Ancich worked as a NFL official from 1982 – 1998. He wore number 115 on his uniform his entire career.

Ancich was born on the island of Brac, off the coast of Yugoslavia in 1937. His family emigrated to the United States when he was three and settled in San Pedro, California.

Ancich played high school and semi-pro football. After attending Harbor College, Ancich worked as a longshorman for nearly 50-years. 

After officiating college football, Ancich considered applying to the NFL, but he told author Richard Lister for his book, The Third Team, that he thought pro officials held white-collar jobs and the NFL would not hire him because of his blue-collar job. Happily for Ancich, his assumption was wrong.

Ancich broke into the NFL in 1982 as a line judge on Red Cashion’s crew. He became an umpire in 1983, and remained at that position for the rest of his career. Ancich served several years on crews lead by Pat Haggerty, Jim Tunney and Cashion.

During his NFL career, Ancich worked eight playoff games, including two conference championship games and Super Bowl XXIV. He also worked two Pro Bowls and was the alternate official for Super Bowl XXI. 

Ancich retired from the field after the 1998 season and then worked for six years as a replay official. His on-field retirement was on the advice of doctors. According to The Third Team, Ancich said he had seven head injuries, dating back to his high school playing days. Ancich spoke candidly about an injury suffered after being run over in Minnesota and getting knocked out after his head hit the artificial turf. Ancich recounted,

“When you wake up in the hospital and you don’t know where in the hell you are, that’s pretty scary. You don’t know why you’re there. I had this uniform on but I didn’t know I was an official. I didn’t know what was going on. It was very weird. It really scared the hell out of me.”

Ancich recovered and officiated for several more years, but one last concussion and a discussion with his doctor persuaded him to retire. Ancich remembered,

“The last one was in Chicago. It was a broken play or an interception. Everyone changed directions. I just tried to stand and wait for everyone to go by me because I didn’t want to get in their way. But I didn’t know where the guy was who had the ball. As I started to pivot, one of the players knocked me down.” 

I remember watching Ancich work during the 1980s and 1990s. He was always a very calming presence on the field. I also remember a signature voice command Ancich used. He rarely blew the whistle as an umpire. When a run ended up the middle, the TV sound effects microphone always picked up Ancich saying, “Ok! Ok!” That verbal cue told the players the play was over while the wing officials or the referee blew the whistle. Ancich was the only umpire I heard that used that specific verbal cue on plays.

Ancich is survived by his wife of 61-years Sharon, three children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Our sympathies to all who knew him and loved him.

His full obituary appears below.

Hendi A. Ancich, 80, of San Pedro, Calif., passed away peacefully on December 20, 2017, surrounded by his loving family following complications related to a form of Alzheimer’s disease. Hendi was born on May 6, 1937, on the island of Brac, off the Dalmation coast of Yugoslavia. His family (father Joseph, mother Jermina and brother Marijon) migrated to the U.S. when Hendi was three years old making their permanent home in San Pedro.

Hendi graduated from San Pedro High School in 1955 and attended Harbor College where he was an All-City lineman in football. He was also the starting center for three semipro teams, including the Longshoremen A.C., South Gate A.C. and Anaheim Rhinos.

Hendi proudly served as a longshoreman for nearly 50 years. In 1982, Hendi began a successful 22-year career as a National Football League official, which included 16 years as an umpire followed by 6 years as a replay official. His career highlights include umpire in Super Bowl XXIV, two Pro Bowls and two Canton Hall of Fame games. In 2016, Hendi was honored and inducted into the San Pedro Sportswalk to the Waterfront and in 2017 was inducted into the San Pedro High School Hall of Fame.

Hendi was an avid golfer and long-time supporter of numerous animal protection organizations. He was an active member of the Catalina Island Men’s Golf Club and Majestic Golf Club, a long-time member of the Dalmation American Club of San Pedro and a supporter of the local Boys’ Club. In 1990, the San Pedro Boys’ Club honored Hendi with the Boys’ Club Alumni Award.

Hendi is survived by his loving wife Sharon of 61 years; son Gerald Ancich and his wife Cheryl; daughter Sharie Apodaca and her husband Michael; son Hendi Ancich Jr. and his wife Tracy; granddaughter Kristi Garrigan and her husband Brian; grandchildren Ava, Kyle, Stacey and Katie Ancich; great-grand children Grace, Grant and Macie Garrigan; step-grandchildren Joshua, Jeremy, Jacob and Jerad; brother Marijon Ancich and wife Jacquie; cousin Andrew Pesich and wife Katherine; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Private services will be held for Hendi at his request. To donate in his name, please send to: Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles, 4221 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"