Joe West Set to Break Umpiring Record

MLB Umpire Joe West has been in the league since 1976. Since entering the league that year, West has umpired 5,375 games in his MLB career. On Tuesday, May 25th, Joe West will umpire his 5,376th career game. This will break an 80-year-old record and give Cowboy Joe the most umpired games in baseball history. Spanning a career from 1976 to the present day, West has been a part of many great moments and altercations. Let’s take a quick peek at his illustrious umpiring career.

Historic Career

West has been one the most reliable umpires in MLB history for 43 years. He has called six World Series matchups, including the historic 2016 World Series that saw the Chicago Cubs end their 108-year championship drought. He has umpired three All-Star Games, his most recent coming back in 2017. West even has umpired one World Baseball Classic in 2009. May 25th, 2021 will be his most important feat in his historic umpiring career though.

When the first pitch is thrown between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox, Joe West will be the all-time record holder for games umpired, taking over the number one spot from Bill Klem. Klem holds more accolades than West, but there are two he will not have after Tuesday. Klem umpired for 37 years, West for 43, and now the all-time games record. There will no doubt be some fanfare for the long-time umpire.

Notable Moments

In his first full season as an umpire, West was on the crew during Willie McCovey’s 500th career home run. In the same year, he called both games where Pete Rose tied and broke the NL record for most consecutive games with a hit. Joe West in 1981 also got to call the fifth of Nolan Ryan’s record seven No-Hitters. 1983 saw West get suspended for three days and fined $500 for shoving Braves manager Joe Torre. He made his first All-Star game appearance in 1987. In 1999, West, along with 21 other umpires submitted their resignations during the Umpires labor dispute, which was accepted by the MLB. West was eventually re-hired by Major League Baseball in 2002. West also pioneered the “West Vest” which is a chest protector made of Lexan and has protected many an umpire from serious injury.

Joe West has had a career of longevity in a profession that is so tough to survive in. Night in and night out, West has been there calling games for 43 years. Bill Klem retired in 1940, and it has taken over 80 years for anyone to catch up to the mark that he had set. West might not match all of his accolades, but he has also umpired longer than Klem has (Klem umpired for 37 years, then was appointed Head of Umpires upon his retirement). Joe West is one of the best umpires in baseball history, solely based on his longevity in the league. He has successfully umpired four separate decades and will retire at the end of this season. Tuesday night we salute Joe West on breaking a long-standing record — just another notch on Cowboy Joe’s six-shooter belt.


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Players/Managers Mentioned:

Willie McCovey, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, Joe Torre