On Tuesday night a little history occurred as ‘Country’ Joe West umpired his 5,376th record game. Obviously this is the most in baseball history.
While we don’t spend a ton of time talking about or appreciating men of his craft, we like Joe West. Indeed, one of the first clues that we were dealing with a good ol’ red blooded American came during the pandemic last season. Not only did we love the comments – he was spot on and we agreed with him.
Now, he’s umpiring games since 1976, and managed to not make everyone hate him for his calls despite being one of differing temperament.
Jayson Stark wrote about West’s career over at The Athletic MLB.
Joe West makes umpire history as only he can.
A little quick perspective from me on an astonishing record.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) May 26, 2021
As he often does, Stark puts into perspective just how long West has been at it:
Jayson Stark, senior MLB writer: Think about it: With 5,376 games (not counting that game in “Naked Gun”), West has appeared in more big-league games than Derek Jeter and Ozzie Smith combined. He’s been part of as many big-league seasons (41) as Cal Ripken Jr. and Bartolo Colon combined.
He’s worked games in 51 ballparks, and games involving 67 Hall of Famers. When West debuted in the big leagues, Henry Aaron was still playing. He umpired over 2,000 games before Fernando Tatis Jr. debuted on planet Earth. And love him or hate him, on Tuesday, he set a record more unbreakable than Ripken’s.
In a world where men are frowned upon for being men, West is about as close to it gets to the real article. We are fans of his, and we are glad he holds this record. Now forever, he’s the symbolic umpire many should think of when they talk about umpiring.