Buzzworthy: Joe West, MLB umpire

By Jane Hudson

Major League Baseballl umpire Joe West, the man players and fans alike love to hate, called his 5,000th regular-season game on June 20, 2017

It's a milestone reached by only two other MLB umpires.

Joe, 64, began his major-league career in 1976 and has the longest tenure of any MLB umpire.

What do you need to know about "Cowboy Joe," who grew up in Greenville?

* He graduated at the top of his class in umpire school.

* He is president of the World Umpires Association.

* He told the Chicago Tribune, "My mother says it's a great job because I wear a mask and I don't scare the kids."

* He has worn uniform number 22 throughout his career.

* He helped negotiate the largest umpiring contract in baseball history, after a labor dispute resulted in a mass resignation of the Major League Umpires Association.

* He was a 15-year-old All-Star catcher for the Greenville Teener League team that finished second in the National Finals.

* He has umpired six World Series, two All-Star Games, nine League Championship Series, eight League Division Series and two Wild Card Games.

* He has worked games for 55 different Hall of Famers who were either players, coaches, or managers.

* He had a small acting role as the third-base umpire in the comedy film "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!"

* He graduated from Greenville's J.H. Rose High School.

* He worked Nolan Ryan's fifth career no-hitter.

* He played football at East Carolina University (he was a safety on the freshman team) and at Elon College (he quarterbacked the team to three conference titles and a second-place national ranking).

* He designed and patented the “West Vest,” the hard-shell chest protector endorsed by the MLB and used today by all Major League umpires.

* He has recorded a couple of country music albums and performed at the Grand Ole Opry.

* He was involved in a 1983 pushing incident with manager Joe Torre.

* He plays golf on the Celebrity Players Tour (he has a single-digit handicap). * He was on the field for Willie McCovey's 500th home run.

* In a 2004 playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, his crew made a controversial decision that necessitated police presence to calm the crowd.

* He was at first base when Pete Rose tied the National League record for most consecutive games with a hit, and he was the home plate umpire when Rose broke it the following day.

* A 2007 review of umpire strike zones by The Hardball Times determined that he was the most consistent umpire in the major leagues.

* In a 2011, he was named the worst umpire by 41 percent of players polled.

* He will be inducted in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame on May 4, 2018.

Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, is a former staff writer for The Daily Reflector, where she was editor of Her... magazine and Greenville: Life in the East and several other niche publications. Email her at