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MLB Umpire Joe West Awarded $500K in Defamation Lawsuit Against Paul Lo Duca

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 13, 2021

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The New York Supreme Court awarded veteran MLB umpire Joe West $500,000 as part of his defamation lawsuit against former catcher Paul Lo Duca, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

West originally filed suit in 2019 after Lo Duca said on a podcast that West afforded Billy Wagner a larger strike zone in a game between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies because Wagner would let him drive a 1957 Chevrolet the closer owned.

The game in question would have occurred during the 2006 or 2007 season.

Lo Duca said that during a visit on the mound, Wagner indicated he'd have a bit of cushion in terms of the strike zone and proceeded to strike out three batters. Lo Duca recounted that "eight out of the nine pitches were at least three to four inches, not even close."

Lo Duca said that Wagner then explained in the clubhouse that West loved vintage cars, so he made sure to get on West's good side by allowing him to drive his Chevy.

While West doesn't have a ton of fans around MLB, Lo Duca ran into one problem with his story. Per Nightengale, West was the home-plate umpire once when Wagner and Lo Duca played together for the Mets, and the southpaw didn't take the mound during the game in question.

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The court determined Lo Duca defamed West with his comments because they called into question the umpire's credibility, which would have effects beyond how West is able to do his job.

"The plaintiff expressed a legitimate concern that, if Hall of Fame voters credited Lo Duca's false assertion regarding his integrity and character he might not be elected for induction into the Hall of Fame for the same reasons as otherwise excellent players 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, and Barry Bonds had or have not been elected," the judges wrote.

West is one of the longest-tenured umpires in MLB history. He passed Bruce Froemming for the second-most appearances all time in 2018, with Nightengale noting he's on track to take the all-time record from Bill Klem in May.