Joe West and the 5 Most Shameless Self-Promoting Umpires in MLB
The job of baseball umpires is to call a fair game and let the players play. After all, the fans came to see their favorite athletes, not the anonymous men in black.
This saying applies more to basketball than any other sport, but it's an issue in baseball as well. An umpire can directly influence the game by ejecting a star player or missing an obvious strike call in a crucial situation. Most umpires try their best to stay out of the way.
Some umpires, however, love the limelight.
Here's a look at baseball's most shameless self-promoting umpires.
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Hernandez is an umpire who is short on temper and even shorter on rationality. He's widely regarded as one of the worst umpires in baseball, and has a habit of making enemies on the field.
Oh, and he works on the same crew as Joe West.
In 2001, Hernandez infamously ejected a guest singer of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at Wrigley Field after Steve McMichael, a former Chicago Bears player, made a wisecrack about Hernandez's umpiring.
Then, in 2006, Hernandez made headlines again by ejecting Dodgers first base coach Mariano Duncan while umpiring third base. After Duncan came out to argue and threw his cap on the ground, Hernandez simply picked it up and threw it in the stands.
This is clearly a man more concerned about saving face than he is about making friends. Maybe if he just called a better game he wouldn't have to argue with people so much.
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Joyce is regarded by players and coaches alike as one of the best umpires in the game. His unmistakable strike call is as much a hallmark of the game as the "Crackerjack" song, and he's worked on every conceivable stage in baseball since 1987.
Of course, the one thing he's best known for is screwing up the call on Armando Galarraga's perfect game. To Joyce's credit, he did later apologize to Galarraga in a tearful embrace that seemed heartfelt.
Then again, he did get a book deal out of it.
Something about publishing a book just screams self-promotion, even if it is a story that even the most casual baseball fan will find interesting.
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Hirschbeck has been umpiring since 1984 and is the president of the World Umpires Association, but he's best known for a certain incident involving Roberto Alomar.
Back in 1996, when Alomar was still with the Baltimore Orioles, Hirschbeck called a third strike that Alomar thought was outside. The two got into a heated exchange and Hirschbeck reportedly called Alomar a derogatory term (click the link if you want to know what the word is), and Alomar responded by spitting in Hirschbeck's face.
The two have since gotten over their differences and teamed up to raise money for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) research, a disease that took the life of Hirschbeck's son.
Nearly a decade later, Hirschbeck again made headlines by instructing fellow umpire Mark Carlson not to issue a warning to pitcher Gabe White for throwing a pitch that went over the head of Barry Bonds.
Whatever personal grudge Hirschbeck had towards Bonds, or Alomar, it should have stayed off the field. Luckily, both players are now retired.
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Winters is a well-respected umpire who's been working the game since 1988, but you wouldn't know it by the way he talks.
In 2007, Winters got into a vicious argument with Milton Bradley, playing for the San Diego Padres at the time, in which several expletives were exchanged. The exchange got so heated that Bradley lunged at Winters and tore his ACL in the process.
Later, Bradley called Winters' behavior "the most unprofessional and most ridiculous thing I've ever seen." Winters was suspended by MLB for the remainder of the season.
Bradley doesn't exactly have a great reputation when it comes to attitude, but Winters was clearly trying to instigate a confrontation. If I were him, I wouldn't mess with a professional athlete who is the closest thing baseball has to Ron Artest.
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West, believe it or not, is actually the president of the World Umpires Association and has been umpiring since 1976. He's worked in two All-Star games, four division series, seven league championship series and four World Series.
But when he's not crouched behind the plate, "Cowboy Joe" is a well-known singer/songwriter.
He's performed with many of the biggest names in country music and has released two full studio albums. He's also done a little bit of acting and designed and patented the chest protector worn by nearly every umpire.
You'd think West would be able to separate umpiring and music, but some players don't think so.
Back in 2010, Mark Buehrle, after being unfairly ejected by West, said "I think he's too worried about promoting his CD and I think he likes seeing his name in the papers a little bit too much instead of worrying about the rules."
Buehrle's manager, Ozzie Guillen, later backed his pitcher up when he said, "Sometimes he thinks people pay to watch him umpire."
West also made headlines last year by criticizing the Red Sox and Yankees for playing too slow, drawing the ire of players and MLB itself.
It's not West's place to comment on the quality of the game, but then again, how would he ever sell his albums?