~ Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson
At 7:11pm Central Daylight-Saving Time on Tuesday the 25th of May 2021 the Cardinals / White Sox game began on the south-side of Chicago at Comiskey Park allowing “Country” Joe West to set a new baseball record. West ump’d his 5,376-game surpassing the legendary Bill Klem’s all-time mark.
My sincere congratulations to Joe West on his achievement! Officiating in any sport, you are expected to be perfect the first day and get better each ensuing day. Umps are constantly critiqued, second-guessed and downright hated, but Joe has weathered the storms. This ridiculous review / challenge nonsense doesn’t help the situation.
Joe may not be my favorite umpire (he sometimes seems to act like people buy tickets to the game to watch him ump - my opinion), but he’s his own man and has put in his time. He plans to retire at the end of this season. West will turn 69 years old on October 31st finishing up a career that began with his debut on September 14th, 1976. He became a full-time staff member in 1978. 43 seasons is a great run.
West earned his nickname as he performs as a country singer in the off-season. As a singer, I’d have to say Joe is a hell of an umpire, but he loves music and more power to him. He also earned the reputation as someone you aren’t going to win an argument with. If you have some time, check out some of the videos of West on YouTube. Some are funny and of course some point out his missed calls.
As mentioned, West surpassed Bill Klem, known as the “Old Arbitrator” who ump’d from 1905 to 1941, he holds the record for working 18 World Series. Klem was inducted in the Hall of Fame (posthumously) by the Veteran’s Committee in 1953 for his stellar work. His career 251 ejections are also an MLB record.
During his record-breaking game, Joe was surprised with a bouquet of flowers and a hug from the San Diego Chicken. He looked genuinely touched by the gesture. You can’t beat that!
Joe has spent his adult life in baseball and each game from now until his retirement he will continue to add to this record, which I doubt will be eclipsed. Thanks Joe, for the groans, the laughs, and for your work. All the best.
By the way, the White Sox won 8-3.
~ Coach Mike