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Joe West Breaks MLB Record After Umpiring 5,376th Career Game

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIMay 26, 2021

Home plate umpire Joe West throws a new ball to the mound after the St. Louis Cardinals batted in the second inning of a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and Cardinals on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Joe West set an MLB record Tuesday, umpiring his 5,376th regular-season game.  

Appearing behind the plate as the Chicago White Sox hosted the St. Louis Cardinals, the 68-year-old surpassed Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem's record that stood since 1941.

To celebrate, he bought 116 tickets for family and friends, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers. MLB officials were also in attendance.

Among West's guests was the San Diego Chicken, who presented him with flowers in the sixth inning after the game was ruled official. 

Bally Sports Midwest @BallySportsMW

Jimmy Ballgame is really excited about a particular fan in the stands at tonight's game: "There he is! If you don't like the San Diego chicken you just don't like baseball."<br><br>TV: Bally Sports Midwest<br>App: Bally Sports app#STLFLY pic.twitter.com/9ks326VmPh

James Fegan @JRFegan

Joe West, and we understand that this is by his request, was presented a bouquet of flowers by the San Diego chicken to recognize him breaking the all-time record for games umpired.<br><br>While this happened, Lucas Giolito warmed up for the sixth a few feet away

In addition to his guest of honor in the San Diego Chicken, West selected the Country Hall of Fame group Oak Ridge Boys to sing the national anthem pregame.

On his resume are Willie McCovey's 500th home run (1978), Nolan Ryan's fifth no-hitter (1981), Felix Hernandez's perfect game (2012) and Albert Pujols' 400th home run (2013).

He is the longest-tenured umpire, having covered the National League for 23 seasons before adding American League games to his repertoire in 2002 (h/t Katherine Acquavella and R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports). 

White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who got his start as a manager three years after West began his career, spoke highly of the umpire, calling him "the perfect guy to set the record because he represents what a lot of umpires should be."

For all the praise La Russa piled on, West was booed when a celebratory graphic appeared on the Jumbotron at Guaranteed Rate Field. 

Jeff Jones @jmjones

The Oak Ridge Boys sang the national anthem and it was wrapped up with a hearty โ€œcongratulations, Joe West!โ€<br><br>Then this graphic went up on the scoreboard, and people booed. pic.twitter.com/I6HDYpiMIG

While he's certainly not popular with fans (though how many other umpires can fans realistically pick out in a crowd?), he's had his moments with players, too. Former MLB catcher Paul Lo Duca was ordered by a New York judge to pay West $500,000 after alleging he took bribes