You can scream at him, curse at him, and call him names, but if you attempt to discredit veteran umpire Joe West’s credibility, well, be ready to pay a lot bigger price than simply being thrown out of a game.
West, Major League Baseball’s senior umpire who’s scheduled in May to pass Hall of Famer Bill Klem for the most games umpired in history, was awarded $500,000 plus interest Monday by the New York Supreme Court in his defamation lawsuit against former player Paul Lo Duca.
West sued Paul Lo Duca for defamation in 2019 after Lo Duca said on a podcast that his former New York Mets teammate, reliever Billy Wagner, bribed West into giving him a bigger strike zone by letting him use his 1957 vintage Chevrolet car.
"We're playing like a really tight game against the Phillies and Billy Wagner comes in from the bullpen,’’ Lo Duca said April 18, 2019, on The Action Network. “I used to go to the mound every time and like, 'What's going on?' and he's like, 'Hey, Joe's behind the plate. Set up a couple more inches inside. I was like, 'Are you kidding me? Joe hates me.' He's like, 'No, no, no, no, no, no. Joe loves me.'
"I go, 'He hasn't given us the corner all day.' He's like, 'Don't worry about it.' He literally throws 10 pitches and strikes out three guys. Joe rings up all three guys. Eight out of the nine pitches were at least three to four inches inside, not even close. Guys were throwing bats and everything. Joe walks off the field …
"I get back into the clubhouse and I'm like, 'What the (expletive) just happened just right now?' And Wagner just winks at me. I'm like, 'What's the secret?' He's like, 'Eh, Joe loves antique cars so every time he comes into town I lend him my '57 Chevy so he can drive it around so then he opens up the strike zone for me.'"
West was incensed, saying the story was completely fabricated, and filed suit. West was only the home-plate umpire once when Wagner and Lo Duca played together in 2006-2007, and Wagner never pitched in the game.
West declared in his lawsuit that Lo Duca’s comments damaged his integrity and character, and threatened to severely damage his chances of being voted to the Hall of Fame.
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