Bobby Braddock’s love affair with baseball began in his boyhood and continued until the day he died — which happened suddenly, after a day on the diamond.
A standout infielder at Palmetto High School, class of 1974, Braddock went on to play at Georgia Southwestern University.
As an adult, he coached high school teams, umpired youth-league baseball ball and women’s softball, and taught physical education in the Miami-Dade schools for three decades.
At one time, he umpired University of Miami baseball games, and remained an ardent fan of the team.
He worked four games on July 7 and was due to work again the next day, but that evening he began having leg and stomach cramps, said his father, former Miami-Dade School Board member G. Holmes Braddock.
Shortly after calling in sick for the next day’s game, Bobby Braddock suffered a heart attack at the Pinecrest home he shared with his mother and one of his four children.
Miami native Robert Arthur Braddock, born Dec. 19, 1955, at North Shore Medical Center, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Jackson South Hospital. The grandfather of two was 56.
“I must have thrown 10,000 pitches to him,’’ said his father, who 50 years ago co-founded what’s now the Howard Palmetto Baseball and Softball Association.
Compounding the family’s grief: George Braddock, 61, one of Bobby’s three siblings, was seriously injured in a car accident on South Dixie Highway the night of his brother’s death. Their father said the brakes failed, and another car broadsided him in an intersection.
George Braddock has been released from the hospital will likely attend his brother’s funeral Saturday on a walker.
“He was pretty banged up,’’ Holmes Braddock said.
The family was already coping with sadness when tragedy struck. Another son, Jim Braddock, 60, who lives in Tennessee, has been undergoing cancer treatment.
When friends heard that one of the Braddock boys had died, they figured it was Jim, not the healthy, athletic Bobby, said Holmes Braddock, after whom a Miami-Dade high school is named.
“The Lord works in strange ways,’’ he added.
Bobby Braddock umpired for the Greater Miami Athletic Conference, the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, and the Amateur Softball Association of America.
Grant Miller, incoming president of the Howard palmetto league, said that Braddock “always kept the game interesting. He was there solely for the kids.’’
Umpires seldom win popularity contests, but Miller said that “nobody disliked Bobby.’’
Mark Ghezzi, a childhood friend who schedules umpires for the Palmetto Bay Fastpitch Softball Association, was one of the last to hear Braddock’s voice. He’s the person Braddock called about 7 p.m. on July 7 to say he wouldn’t make it the next day.
“This was a man who everyone liked and admired,’’ said Ghezzi.
In addition to his father, and brothers Jim and George, Braddock is survived by sister Rebecca Nimmer, sons Kristopher Braddock and Thomas Braddock, daughters Alexandra Braddock and Amelia Braddock and his mother, Ruth Fenner Braddock.
He was divorced from the former Janet Marie Clark.
A celebration of his life will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at Old Cutler Presbyterian Church, 14401 Old Cutler Rd. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Bobby’s name to any charity.