Monday, April 12, 2010

A chance meeting with Joe West at a World Umpires annual gala yields a clue

4/12/10: "While I don't disagree with Mo at all, I found it highly uncharacteristic of him to speak out like that. Then I thought back to a story told to me a couple years ago.
  • The morning after the Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, I boarded a plane to Phoenix. I was a day late and several hundred (thousand?) dollars short for the feature event, but had a business trip planned nonetheless.
I was staying at a resort in Scottsdale, and one night upon returning there, I decided to hit up the hotel bar for a night cap. As I entered the lobby, I observed several signs adorned with the MLB logo, reading "Welcome Umpires". As it turned out,
  • the World Umpires Association was holding their annual meeting there.
Entering the bar, I met Marty Springstead, a long time American League umpire who retired in 1985 but worked as an umpiring supervisor until his termination this past off-season. Springstead was a friendly guy, and introduced me to a few of the other men in blue who were in the room: Richie Garcia, who made the infamous call on the Jeffrey Maier home run and later lost his job as part of the mass umpire resignations of 1999; Jim Wolf, brother of Brewers' pitcher Randy Wolf; Derryl Cousins,
  • and Joe West.
Now, my recollection of that evening isn't exactly airtight, and it was a brief conversation. But in light of the comments made by West and Rivera last week, I think it's worth recounting here. I spent a few moments speaking with West and Cousins. When it came up that I am a Yankee fan, Apparently, Mo squeezed in a couple extra warm up tosses in the pen after he had been waved in. So when he got to the mound, West indicated to Mariano that he was only allowed six warm up tosses, rather than the customary eight. When Mariano protested, West informed Mo that he was docking him the two extra pitches thrown in the pen. West also made a comment indicating that such gamesmanship was common practice with Mariano.
  • Clearly, this is just one story, about one game. But why would Joe West, upon meeting a complete stranger, at the mere mention of the Yankees, amongst all the stories he had accumulated in twenty nine years of umpiring,
  • choose that story to tell?
And why would Mariano Rivera, after fifteen years in the daily cauldron of the New York media, with all the various issues and controversies that have surrounded the Yankees during that time, choose Joe West's comments about the pace of play as the one issue about which to speak out? Could it be that there's more history between these two than meets the eye? "
  • A commenter wrote:
"Jason from The Heartland said...

Utterly fascinating Matt and, while anecdotal, I would hope that this gets picked up for further consideration and speculation. I'm glad you recalled it and, considering how you treated your own account problematically (acknowledging the possibility of inaccuracy), that actually lends credence to your story--what you said but crucially how you said it. West has a history of being unbelievably petty, a prima donna of an umpire. Players and managers get fined for criticizing umpiring, yet umpires like West get to not only share their opinions, but do so noxiously without reproach. There are ways to speed up the game without resorting to be a zero. I'm glad that Mariano, Jeter, and to a degree Pettite had something in response to say in order not to kowtow to West (or any umpire). Also, West's comments might have had the effect of prior restraint had the Yankees not voiced their objections. Good for them."


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