Umpire Joe West sues former MLB All-Star for claiming he took bribes

Ruben Hill
October 25, 2019

Everyone's favorite umpire, Joe West, is suing former big league catcher Paul Lo Duca for defamation. The beef comes in the wake of Lo Duca appearing on a podcast in May in which he claimed that his Mets teammate, Billy Wagner, used to bribe West with the use of vintage vehicle in order to get a larger strike zone.

"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".

The complaint says West has suffered unspecified damages as a result of Lo Duca's comments.

"I get back into the clubhouse and I'm like, 'What just happened just right now?' And Wagner just winks at me", the former four-time All-Star said. Joe rings up all three guys.

'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, ' Lo Duca recalled Wagner telling him at the time, according to USA Today.

At another point in the podcast, Lo Duca said that he had been ejected 15 times in his career and "eight or nine" of those occasions were with West as an umpire. "Guys were throwing bats and everything". Lo Duca cracked on the podcast.

Lo Duca said that in a game around 2006 or 2007, he saw that West was being very lenient with the strike zone when Wagner was pitching. "Joe West never "opened up the strike zone" for Billy Wagner in exchange for the use of a vehicle or any other favor".

Lo Duca would have run into West behind hte plate frequently in his MLB career as a catcher, playing for four different National League teams between 1998 and 2008.

He accused Lo Duca of knowingly making false statements on the air, which "had the effect of defaming and disparaging the Plaintiff in his professional capacity".

The audience of the podcast - I'm told it's a gambling podcast not a baseball podcast - and the full context of the conversation from the podcast might make a difference here.

Several MLB umpires have made a name for themselves over the years for both good and bad calls, but perhaps no one has done so more than Joe West.

Raised in Greenville, North Carolina, he's best known as "Cowboy Joe" or "Country Joe" for his southern accent.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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