The role of the MLB umpire has changed over time, from a game’s backup catcher to the main focus of one of the most exciting positions on the field. But there are a handful of umpires who have a reputation for being the best in the league, one of whom is umpire Joe West of the Athletics. His reputation goes back to his days as a catcher at the University of Arizona, where he was known for never missing a call.

You guys know that Joe West, the umpire who’s now officiating games in the World Series, is one of the best in the world. In the past, he’s made few mistakes in his long career, and even then, they’ve been few and far between. Now that he’s working in the biggest stage of them all, he is also one of the most accurate umpires in the game.

The number of umpires who make errors is always an issue when it comes to mixed sports. This is especially true for the big four sports in America: Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey. Although the quality of the umpires has improved over time, many people believe that the umpires in these leagues are often very bad at their jobs as well. Joe West, umpire for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the exception.

Editor’s comment: This article was added to our mailing list on the 16th. September 2020 published.

White Sox announcer Ken Hawk Harrelson was furious with umpire Joe West, as many have been over the past 44 years. On this day in 2010, West threw to Mark Buehrle for the second time in a game, and Hawk was so outraged that he said on the air: Joe West should resign!

Two years later, after West overcame throat cancer that forced him to miss 18 games, West said: Hawk storms into the referee’s room screaming after the match: Where is that son of a bitch? Then he’ll take a shower. I’m covered in soap. He said to me: Look, we can fight, we can hate each other, but don’t you dare stab me in the back, damn it!

We’ve been best friends ever since.

Monday through Friday, host Pablo Torre brings you ESPN’s most interesting stories, told by the world’s top reporters and insiders. Listening

Joe West told the story in February over unsweetened iced tea at his private club near Orlando, Florida. He just had a StemEx injection in his 67-year-old knees. His knees are bone, and this bi-annual surgery allows him to work without the pain of squatting behind a plate. He told many stories that day; he laughed tirelessly, mostly at himself, and most of his stories, like the exchange with Hawk Harrelson, had elements of love and hate.

If murder were legal, said one former player, I’d kill Joe on some days. I’m serious. One day he’s an arrogant, vindictive jerk who truly believes 50,000 people came to the park to see him. But every time you see him, he becomes a different person. The next day he’s joking with you on the field, he’s charming… you want to take him out for a beer.

Joe West drank beer with a lot of people. He’s a western cowboy in every sense of the word. He’s a former football player. He plays golf. He is a country music singer-songwriter and husband to Rita, a former national champion racquetball player. That day in February, she met him at a country club on a motorcycle. Joe West does not ride a motorcycle. When asked if he could ride a horse, given his nickname Cowboy Joe, he said the following:

I once rode a horse for a whole day. A professional photographer took a picture of me on a horse. He said: Look at the puddle on this horse. I said: She’s a mare. He said: I know. Look at the puddle on this horse.

Joe West had a good laugh about it.

He’s also a very serious man. He takes time off from the show to visit a sick friend. It helps the widows of former judges. He gives a lot to charity and loves children.

I always have a box of Rawlings baseballs in my truck in case I run into a small child, West says. I’m giving them away. I’m not signing them. These kids have no idea who I am. It really tickles her.

Basically the players and managers will argue, West is a good referee. No one remembers him losing control of an important game because the situation was too serious. However, there are always questions that go unanswered when it works.

Isn’t he too big to play with? Would his sharp personality, his arrogance, get in the way?

Managers and players will tell you he has a side that screams: How dare you doubt me? Who are you to speak in my presence? I’m Joe West!

An official said: Sometimes Joe loves the role of the bad guy too much.

West says he’s never missed a phone call.

In his fourth year, Dick Williams, the Padres’ manager at the time, came out of the dugout to discuss the game and said: Just tell me you missed it and I’ll go, West said. I said: I’ve never missed one. He said: You can’t be so arrogant. I said: It’s not arrogance. I can’t list them all, but I’ve seen them all. And it stunned him.

How does West respond to those who say he is arrogant ?

I don’t have to answer, he said. Most don’t have the courage to say it to your face.

It was less than two weeks ago that West threw Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo out of the game against the Braves. Rizzo was upstairs in the luxury suite when he was eliminated. No matter how far away he was, West and his team could hear Rizzo yelling at the referees. And West couldn’t handle it.

I wouldn’t take that from a player. I wouldn’t take it from a manager, West told The Associated Press. If it were Donald Trump, I’d fire him too. But I would still vote for him.

In 2017, he was suspended for three games for calling Adrian Beltre the biggest whiner in the majors.

That’s what Joe West is. He says what he thinks and doesn’t care how people see him or what problems he causes. West got a little heated over his comments in March about the coronavirus, saying the number of cases and deaths was exaggerated.

Those statistics don’t add up, I don’t care who calculates them, West told USA Today. When [singer] Joe Diffie died, they said he died of the coronavirus. He had stage four lung cancer. The coronavirus may have hastened his death, but let’s be honest.

Our system is so neglected that hospitals are abandoned because there are no paid operations. The government gives extra money to these hospitals if someone dies from the coronavirus. That’s why everyone who dies of the coronavirus dies. I don’t care if you get hit by a car, it’s the coronavirus.

What has attracted less attention is the following:

I’m as careful as anyone, West told USA Today. It’s not like I’m walking through a crowd. Baseball does the right thing by taking care of these guys and giving them options. If you don’t feel comfortable or engaged at all, do the right thing by walking away.

It’s not the kind of work you can do by worrying about everything going on around you.

He also talked about his worries and fears, and the fact that he doesn’t generally consider himself old.

The scariest part of all this is that a good athlete can get this virus, never get sick and pass it on without knowing it, West said in this interview. That’s why I’m concerned about seniors.

I don’t consider myself an old person.

Still, the reaction was serious.

What I said is taken out of context, West said it two weeks ago when we spoke again. I never said it didn’t matter. Health and safety are of paramount importance. I was just saying that some people could have died from something else. I got a little help from the union office. But I never said it wasn’t serious. This is very serious. I can handle it. I’m a big boy. People often shoot at me.

Earlier this week, he celebrated his 44th birthday. A year in the first division. And if he plays 29 more games, he surpasses Hall of Fame member Bill Clem, who died in 1951, for most games played by a major league umpire (5,259).

It was a big deal [in 2017] when I hit 5,000, West said. We were in Minneapolis. So we went to Manny’s [a famous steakhouse]. Four referees and these two guys [former footballers Dave Kasper and Paul Krause] and their wives. They’re giving us our menus. They have huge menus, but they bring me a spiral notebook. I’ll open it. All the waiters and waitresses are watching. This menu is written in Braille. I see what it is, and I say: I’ll have the rib eye, medium rare, with baked potatoes. I didn’t bat an eyelash. They all start laughing. So I sent the book to Paul Krause. His eyesight was so poor that he could not see the irregularities on the page.

Tell that to all the men in uniform: I write an essay about Joe West, and you get the same response.

First a sly smile, as if to say: Hey, good luck. Still, most players didn’t hesitate to talk about West.

Joe has his own style, A’s manager Bob Melvin said. Once you understand that, everything will be fine. He’s old school. Sometimes some guys just do what they’ve been doing their whole career. I respect him. When I was laid off in Arizona, Joe West was one of the first to call me. I didn’t expect that. This is the guy who threw me out of the game when I brought the ID to the plate. Joe is Joe. You can’t fight it.

Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright had this to say: His strike zone is as consistent as any in the game. There are a few judges who will make you think: What’s going on inside your head? But it’s not Joe. He deserves a lot of credit. And in the field, he constantly sees to it that all the rules are strictly observed.

But what about the claim that West thinks 50,000 people came to watch him?

That is absolutely not true, he said. That’s what the manager told me once. He said: Oh, you want everyone to know you’re here. I said: No, I’ve been here 40 years. They already knew I was there when I walked onto the field.

The manager said to me: Oh, you want everyone to know you’re here. I said: No, I’ve been here 40 years. They already knew I was there when I walked onto the field.

Joe West

Former manager Buck Showalter said of West: If he wants to judge, his judgment is really good. He’s a good judge. If it’s a big race, especially on the road, with a big crowd, and he’s behind the plate, I don’t mind. He’s going to put emotion aside and concentrate on the game on 60 feet.

But is West vindictive?

No, West insisted. I used to argue with [veteran judge] Paul Runge. If you want to be vindictive, cheat. If someone does something to you that makes you feel like you owe them something, you should kick them out. They are the official representatives of baseball on the field. And you’re the only official authority on baseball when the game starts.

Here’s another thing: I don’t put people in jail. The judge sits in the courtroom, makes a decision, and you say: You’re an asshole. The judge will put you in jail. I can’t put you in jail. But I can take you out of the game. And that’s part of the fabric of baseball. They have certain rules and regulations that you must follow. But being vindictive because you didn’t like what someone did is not fair to the game.

Does West mind if someone hates him?

No, he said, because if you are doing this work to please, you have chosen the wrong profession. The boys are talking: I hate Joe West. They want you to work on their playoff game because they know I don’t have a favorite. I’ll do what I think is right.

I say this to all young judges: As a judge, you have three responsibilities. First of all, it’s a baseball game. The second is your profession. Third: Make an appeal that is morally honest. If you do things in this order, nothing you do will be wrong.

That’s how Joe West works.

But does everyone agree with him?

Yet some people will hate you for what you do. There are those who say: I hate it. That’s a big shame. I don’t think [former player and manager] Buddy Bell and I ever got along. But on the other hand, Dick Williams and I…. I would throw him out of the game every year for something. When he retired, he was like my best friend.

What does Buddy Bell really think?

I don’t like him, Bell said. He doesn’t like me. He kicked me out three times during the season, and David [Buddy’s son and Reds manager], he did it twice. I think that’s my business.

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

In 1999, West was suspended for hitting pitcher Dennis Cook to the ground during a fight.

Cook beat a child lying on the ground to a pulp, West said. I took him away from the baby. I grabbed him from behind. He came to me. He didn’t know it was me. When he did, I dumped him. He was a head taller than the teapot. When he fell, I went to him and said: I’m the guy who knocked you down. Now, calm down. I should kick you out for what you did to the kid. And that’s it.

In 1982, West was suspended for shoving Joe Torre, then manager of the Braves.

He followed us off the field, West said. The young judge made the decision. Torre] and [Chris] Chambliss followed us off the field. When Joe came off the field, I gave him a shove and said: You can’t follow us here. He immediately turned and walked away, then told the media that I had pushed him. He didn’t know where to go.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, West ranks 94th out of 120 referees since 2010 with 87.7 percent correct decisions. In that time, he made 45,112 correct calls and missed 6,345. Despite these numbers, there are those who defend it.

On a good day, he’s one of the best referees in the league, Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Catcher Eric Kratz, for example, likes to have West behind the plate.

He says the nuances of catching, working with the umpire, and the nuances of judging, working with the catcher, are one and the same. His personality is such that he’s not someone you want to work with, but he’s not. He’s funny. I love his dry sense of humor. Some guys sound [sarcastic]: Oh, great, we got it today. But he knows what he’s doing, with all his experience. He knows how to slow down the game, not speed it up, to keep it from getting out of hand. What he does is very cool. He has judged in six different decades.

Said receiver Chris Iannetta: I have fun with him behind the plate. He has a lot of character. And he puts his personality into it. This creates an interaction between the referee, the player and the manager. It backfired. He’s old school. You know the rules with Joe. You know what you can and cannot say. If you don’t have much time in the office, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. But if you’re a veteran, you can take it away – respectfully.

It’s true, [West] loves to talk. It’s controversial. He shines in the biggest arena, for better or worse. But nobody thinks he’s a bad guy. He’s an honest guy. And he’s not out to get people.

West complained in 2015 that the Red Sox and Yankees were playing too long games.

The on-field umpire did not call a timeout for the Red Sox batter when he asked for it because the pitcher was about to pitch, West said. Then this writer came into the locker room and asked: Why don’t you give him a chance? Not to cause trouble for the young judge, I was the team leader, I said: Now, wait a minute. Both teams have been playing too long. And they refuse to comply with the commissioner’s order. In fact, it’s embarrassing. So don’t blame the judge for doing his job. You play too slow. It’s gone viral. The office called and said: We wish you wouldn’t say that, even though we agree with you.

Next up for the Nationals is Sean Doolittle: It takes some time for him to develop his ball throwing skills. And when the bang-bang-bang gets to first base, he gives it a shove. But he can do it because he’s been doing it for so long and he’s usually successful. What he’s doing is insane, given all the changes in baseball, all the progressive things the game has done. There aren’t many things in my life that I’ve done 5,000 times, so that’s pretty cool.

A former player said: If he chooses to be impartial, he is an excellent referee. But he threw players just to throw. My first year in the big leagues, he hit me with a pitch that was 3 feet away from me. I looked at him as if to say: This is a joke. My manager said to me: He’s just testing you to see how you react. I thought so: Why is he testing young players? Can’t he just call balls and strikes?

He’s a good umpire; he’s one of the best umpires on balls and strikes, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. It’s a fast game right now. I’ll say this as best I can. We expect our judges to be perfect, but they can’t be. If the referee doesn’t call it, the player does what all players do these days: He runs to the club to watch the video, then comes back and yells at the ref for missing the decision. But Joe doesn’t care. He will make the next call at his convenience.

Take Cubs pitcher John Lester, who doesn’t get taken out of the game when he’s so far [4 inches] from the plate and looks hard at the umpire. Some judges make some changes after that. Joe just looks at him. I appreciate that about Joe. He has a presence on the ground. It all starts with public opinion of him. That’s not what he, or any other judge, should be. But he is. I appreciate this opinion of Joe as well.

West threw out former Phillies reliever Jonathan Papelbon for touching his crotch after an out.

He made an obscene gesture to the fans, according to West. Somebody throw it in there. You can’t do that to an audience. It’s a lack of respect for the game. To sports. To the fans who come to see you play.

But West had contact with Papelbon and was suspended for one game for touching his shirt during an altercation.

Joe has excellent judgment, said former player Eduardo Perez. Joe would have been a better judge. He thinks you are guilty and even though you are a friend, he sentences you to 10 years because the crime demands it. He always follows the rules. He draws a line. He’s walking on his heels. But on the day you get out after 10 years, he comes to get you in prison.

Will West sleep if he makes the wrong decision?

This is what people don’t understand: If a judge has a bad night, he goes back and looks at it, he said. There must be a reason why you missed the call. Three ways to miss a call: lack of concentration, lack of positioning, lack of time. Denkinger played first base [in 1985, when] the Cardinals lost the World Series to the Royals. Don Denkinger is overwhelmed by this game. He stepped down from his position to watch this match. Is it bad enough that he got angry? No. But he has put himself in a bad position. He’s one of the best umpires in the American League. He remembered that phone call. It’s not fair. There is no average performance indicator for judges. They’re evaluating you, yes. But if you miss, you can’t hit a home run. You have no way of getting the money back.

Former pitcher Rick Sutcliffe said: His ears don’t work. People yell at him, call him an idiot, and he doesn’t hear them – and that’s a compliment. In a World Series game against the Yankees, if very strong, some umpires might be put off. Not Joe. He doesn’t care. He can’t hear the crowd. He’s a great referee. If you piss him off, he’ll fight back. That’s the mentality of a player, and he has it. If you hit a home run on me and stare at it instead of walking, I’ll stab you in the back.

If you show him, he’ll show you.

In 1976, West umpired his first major league game. Since then, he was on the field as Willie McCovey hit a .500 home run, Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect game and Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter. He was behind the plate when Eagle Hershiser broke Don Drysdale’s record for consecutive scoreless innings. In 1988, Dodgers pitcher Jay Howell was ejected from a playoff game by Wests team for having tar on his glove.

And the biggest misconception about judging?

People don’t understand that judges are people, West said. Their feelings are the same as those of normal people. When they fail in what they are trying to do, they suffer more than anyone else. Do you think Jimmy Joyce appreciated the decision at first base [in 2010] when he cost this guy [Armando Galarraga] a perfect game? It killed him. It broke his spirit. Every time I see a judge overlook something we can’t fix, I feel sorry for him. It hurt for him because we were all there.

There were many judges with personalities like West’s. Doug Harvey’s nickname as a Hall of Fame player was God.

West said Malcolm Sykes, his first supervisor, told me: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. It has left a lasting impression on me. It’s like you were… you were… you were… you were… you were… Sometimes it’s just your tone that determines what happens on the field.

And of course, the situation dictates everything.

Garth Brooks was with the Padres in spring training [1999], West said. They were playing against the Cubs. Padres manager Bruce Bochy put Garth on the trail. The left-handed pitcher took first. From there he went to television. Eddie Montague thinks it’s safe. Mark Grace laughed. Garth stood up and took Eddie in his arms. After the game, four or five reporters came to talk to Eddie. He said: I can call Barry Bonds. I can call Mark Grays. If I call Garth Brooks, I can’t go home.

West laughed and said: When [Carlos] Beltran was on the Yankees team, he slid to second base and I called him and he called me grandpa. I said to him: Well, Carlos, I was in Puerto Rico in 1976, so I could be your grandfather. I thought [Robinson] Cano and [Derek] Jeter would pee their pants. He’s called me grandpa ever since. I call him grandson.

According to West, the average fan doesn’t last 15 pitches behind the plate before giving up.

The average person thinks it’s easy to umpire a game behind the plate because umpires make it look easy, West said. It’s like golf. The first time I saw Ben Hogan or Sam Sneyd waving a golf club, I thought: It sounds simple. My father said: Don’t believe it. It’s just what people say: I can ride like Clint Eastwood. You can’t. He’s Clint Eastwood, and you’ll never ride a horse like Clint Eastwood, no matter who you are.

Joe West can’t read or write music. But he writes songs and sings. He has recorded two CDs – Blue Cowboy and Diamond Dreams – and made the single You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma with Julie Richardson. West sang at the Grand Ole Opry with the band Hee Haw behind him.

Singing is harder than judging, West said. They are all accomplished musicians. I can’t make a mistake. I wasn’t scared at the Grand Ole Opry. I was afraid to go to Nashville Now, which is a live television show. I finished the song, I sat down and I said: You know, I’ve been to the playoffs and the World Series before, but I’ve never been more nervous. I had to perform well.

Joe is a great guy, but he’s a lousy singer, Sutcliffe said.

It’s easy to say now that West isn’t behind the plate for Sutcliffe.

He said that because he doesn’t pitch anymore, West said.

Sutcliffe had heard enough to know.

We were together at the Lodge in Chicago, and Joe wanted his songs played on the jukebox, and I pushed the button to stop them, and we ended up fighting in the alley, Sutcliffe said.

Really?

No, we didn’t fight in the alley, West maintained.

West said he will focus more on his singing career after stepping down as a judge. More songs are written and sung – and more CDs are released. But first, the record must be broken: most games by an umpire in Major League history.

And once that record is broken, there will no doubt be more moments like the one he shared with Seattle’s Nelson Cruz in the 2017 All-Star Game in Miami.

He came to bat, said something in Spanish to Yadier Molina, and before I knew it he had his arm around me, West said. Molina turned around with his cell phone to take a picture. I had a microphone, so I can’t tell him to leave me alone. I don’t know if I was good, I just wasn’t trying to make a scene. I was afraid to say anything.

Kim Clement-USA TODAY Sports

So, what was it?

I respect Joe, Cruz said.

In 2006, Cruz went to second base during the game, and I think he was pulled, but there was no replay at the time, he said. [West] gave me a chance. He said: Hey, rookie, next time, slide! I love the way he runs the game. He makes a great move behind the plate. Many umpires have different strike zones, but with Joe, you know what to expect. You know he’ll do the right thing. He was a great ambassador for the game. He was a referee at many games, so I decided to take a picture of him. He looked at me and said: What are you doing? He was surprised.

This is one of the few times Joe West was afraid to say or do anything. He’s been doing it his way for 44 years.

When I look at everything I’ve done, I’ve worked with 150 umpires and for six different commissioners over six decades, and there have been ups and downs, things I’ve disagreed with, things I’ve done that they haven’t agreed with, but my first responsibility is to protect baseball, West said. And I think it always has been. And all the judges I’ve worked with will tell you that I’ve always cared for them, too. The fact that some people say if I want Joe West behind the plate, they know I’m going to do what’s fair and morally right in my heart. That’s all that matters.

And with those words, West left the golf club near Orlando with sore knees and headed for his truck. On the way were the father, his two sons aged 7 and 5, and their grandmother. They were from Philadelphia. West walked to his truck, got two baseballs, then sat down, as he does behind home plate, and handed out baseballs to the young men – unsigned. They were delighted, and so was Joe West.

The only three Philly fans I’ll love all year, he said, smiling and walking away.Joe West is one of the best umpires in all of baseball, and with his career just beginning, he remains as confident as ever. He made his major league debut in 2008 and since then has never once been accused of an error. So what makes him the best umpire?. Read more about joe west 1976 and let us know what you think.

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