A look at the White Sox and Joe West, the MLB leader with 5,460 games umpired, whose retirement was announced on Friday:
*THE BEGINNINGS: The first time West worked a White Sox game was July 15, 1999 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. West was stationed at third base in the Cardinals 3-2 win in 13 innings.
“Country Joe’s” first Sox game behind the plate was a 7-0 loss at Cleveland on May 31, 2002. He called balls and strikes for Sox pitchers Gary Glover, Matt Ginter and Kelly Wunsch, who were throwing to Mark Johnson.
West’s first game at Guaranteed Rate Field came on June 30, 2003 when he worked second base in a 10-3 Sox win (the park was known as U.S. Cellular Field then).
Two days later, West was behind the plate for the first time in a Sox home game. He worked overtime going 12 innings in an 8-6 Sox win thanks to a two-run home run from Frank Thomas.
That was quite a notable game aside from West’s duties. The contest was the first for new Sox acquisitions Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett and featured Paul Konerko’s first career pinch-hit homer.
*HAPPY 100TH EJECTION! That game also featured the first Sox ejection by West, which was the 100th of his career according to @LFNJSinner who logged each of West’s tossings on Twitter https://twitter.com/lfnjsinner/status/1489684406851809288?s=21
Manager Jerry Manuel got the heave-ho for disputing a fair/foul call on a home run in the first inning. It was Manuel’s seventh ejection of the season and the 14th of his career.
Manuel was irked that the home run was not called fair until Twins manager Ron Gardenhire complained to umpires.
The Sox believed the home run hit the pad in foul territory and not the foul pole as was ruled.
“(Catcher) Sandy (Alomar) got me run,” said Manuel, who indicated the call was correct. “He told me it hit the pad (in foul territory).”
The ejection was one of a career-high 11 West would have that season.
*SOX EJECTIONS: West ejected Sox personnel 10 times (he finished his career with 196).
After Manuel, West sent Ozzie Guillen to the showers three times (June 24, 2007, June 23, 2009 and May 26, 2010), Tim Anderson (Sept. 22, 2018 and April 17, 2019), Rick Renteria (Sept. 22, 2018 and April 17, 2019) twice and Mark Buehrle (May 26, 2010) and Robin Ventura (Aug. 15, 2015) once.
West tossed Tony La Russa three times when he was manager of the Cardinals (July 5, 1998, July 18, 2002 and Sept. 25, 2010).
*THE MOMENT: West’s most celebrated incident with the White Sox came on May 26, 2010 in Cleveland when he ejected Guillen and Buehrle from his perch at first base for arguing.
At issue were the two balks West called on Buehrle.
Guillen was ejected after West’s first balk call in the opening inning. The call prompted an exchange between Buehrle and West during which Guillen approached West.
According to reports of the day, Guillen wanted to know why West was disrespecting his pitcher. When Guillen did not return to the dugout when West told him to, an animated Guillen was tossed.
“Ozzie came out to protect his pitcher, which was probably a good idea at the time, because Buehrle was drawing lines in dirt on the mound (to show he was within the rules of a legal throw to first), and he was about to get ejected then,” West told the ESPN 1000. “(Guillen) said he was out there not to argue the balk but to protect his pitcher, which he should come out in that situation.
“I said, ‘Everything is OK now, Ozzie, you can go back to the dugout.’ And he got mad because I told him you can go back. He used a few profanity-laced lines that got him ejected.”
Said Guillen: “I never criticized him about the call. I never did. That’s his call and I always respect that. I say what I feel about that particular moment. I think what I said was right.”
Ozzie was in the clubhouse when Buehrle was thrown out by West two innings later after a second balk call.
West’s thumb came when an increasingly agitated Buehrle threw his mitt to the ground.
“I think he’s too worried about promoting his CD and I think he likes seeing his name in the papers a little bit too much instead of worrying about the rules,” Buehrle said of West, who dabbles a country music singer.
West said he hated to see Buehrle leave the game.
“(That) is what’s kind of disheartening,” West said. “This is one of the fastest-working pitchers in the world. We’re not trying to get him out of the game. As soon as I kicked him out of the game, I was thinking, ‘This is great, now how long is this game going to take?’
“We’re not looking to pick on anybody. The simple fact of the matter is he balked. He didn’t like it, he threw his glove and that’s what happened. Things like that happen. I don’t hold any ill will toward him or Ozzie. I think it’s one of those things that just happened.”
West, Buehrle and Guillen were all fined by MLB over the incident.
“I didn’t say anything. I didn’t touch anybody. I didn’t do anything to cause anything,” Buehrle told the Associated Press upon learning of the fine. “I figured there was going to be a fine because no matter what, you get tossed from a game no matter what it is, there’s always a fine. That’s what I assumed I was getting. If I was getting suspended, I think I would have been surprised, yeah.”
Said West when asked of the fine:”I will say that’s none of your business.”
*PILING ON: Longtime White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson fashioned one of his best rants during these incidents, which were broadcast on WGN-TV.
“Joe just get over there and umpire.”
“Joe is looking for problems.”
“I’ll tell you the last couple of years Mr. West has had some problems with the White Sox.”
“He’s a joke. He’s becoming a joke is what he’s doing. He’s becoming a joke to the umpiring profession.”
“It’s getting to be that time for Mr. Joe West.”
“Joe West deserves a suspension. He needs a rest.”
“Joe West wanted to stick it up (Buehrle’s) behind and he did. He should be suspended. That is a flat out absolute disgrace to the umpiring profession what this guy has been doing.”
Here’s the rant: https://youtu.be/c2Nvy3SFs7M
Hard to believe that Hawk was effusive in his praise of West in West’s final season and said they had been friends for 10 years.
*STATS: Speaking of Buehrle, he was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in two starts with West behind the plate.
Other Sox pitchers’ performances with West calling balls and strikes:
–Freddy Garcia, 3-1 with a 4.91 ERA in five starts
–Jose Contreras, 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in six games (three starts). This does not include Game 1 of the 2005 World Series where he gave up three runs in seven innings with West behind the plate.
–John Danks, 3-1 with a 2.87 ERA in seven starts
–Jon Garland, 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA in five starts
–Lucas Giolito, 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts
–Bobby Jenks, four saves in six appearances with a 0.00 ERA (eight innings). Counting Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, Jenks was unscored upon in seven appearances covering 9.1 innings with five saves and 13 strikeouts with West behind the plate.
–Lance Lynn, 1-2 with a 4.84 ERA in six appearances
–Dallas Keuchel, 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in three starts
–Liam Hendriks, two saves with a 0.00 ERA in four appearances (one start)
*HE WAS THERE: Among the notable White Sox games West worked included …
–Harold Baines’ one win as White Sox temporary manager on Aug. 18, 2004 (Guillen was serving a suspension). West was behind the plate that day as he was on Harold Baines Day Aug. 11, 2019.
–seven games during the regular season of the White Sox 2005 World Series campaign
–the 2005 All-Star Game in Detroit where he called balls and strikes for Buehrle’s start and win
–Game 1 of the 2005 World Series at U.S. Cellular Field where he was behind the plate (also worked RF in Game 2; LF in Game 3 and 3B in Game 4)
–Game 4 of the 2008 American League Division Series (third base), which was the last Sox home playoff game prior to 2021. He also was also behind the plate for Game 1, in right field for Game 2 and in left field for Game 3).
–Tim Anderson’s “bat flip” game vs. Kansas City on Sept. 22, 2018 at Guaranteed Rate Field (second base) where he threw out (among others) Anderson and Renteria.
“I don’t have much to say about him,” Anderson told the AP at the time. “Everybody knows he’s terrible.”
*THE RECORD: The White Sox really did West right the night he set the record for most games umpired on May 25, 2021 at Guaranteed Rate Field..
There were graphics, video tributes, celebrities, flowers and, yes, boos, as West broke Hall-of-Famer Bill Klemm’s 80-year old record by working his 5,376th game.
“It was tough to hold back a tear or two, but Tom Hanks said (in a ‘A League of Their Own’) there is no crying in baseball, so you can’t do it,” West told the AP. “It was a very nice thing.”
The Oak Ridge Boys, friends of West, sang the national anthem and other West pals the San Diego Chicken, Emmylou Harris, Mark Eaton, Jim McMahon and Larry Gatlin were on hand as was Commissioner Rob Manfred.
The warm fuzzies didn’t last long.
The next day West ejected Cardinals manager Mike Schildt, who was yukking it up with West less than 24 hours earlier. Schildt was sent to the showers for protesting West’s decision to make incoming reliever Giovanny Gallegos change his hat after detecting a suspicious substance.
This was the last game West worked at Guaranteed Rate Field.