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MLB umpire Joe West wins $500K defamation suit against ex-player who accused him of rigging strike zone

Jason Owens
·3 min read
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Joe West is a regular butt of jokes about poor MLB umpiring.

One former player's story about the umpire cost the player six figures.

West sued four-time MLB All-Star Paul Lo Duca for defamation after Lo Duca accused him on a podcast of trading strike calls for off-field favors. A Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled in West's favor Monday and ordered Lo Duca to pay him $500,000 plus interest.

Lo Duca: West traded strikes for access to '57 Chevy

Lo Duca accused West of changing the strike zone in favor of former New York Mets pitcher Billy Wagner in exchange for use of Wagner's 1957 Chevy. West accused Lo Duca of fabricating the story and consequently harming his chances of making the Hall of Fame. 

Judge John Kelley agreed with West and ruled in his favor Monday after Lo Duca declined to appear in court or to address the allegations, according to the New York Daily News.

Umpire Joe West is seen during a spring training baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Paul Lo Duca accused Joe West of trading strike calls for access to a classic car. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Lo Duca's six-figure story

Lo Duca made the accusation on a 2019 appearance on "The Favorites" sports betting podcast, claiming that West altered his strike zone when Wagner made a relief appearance during a Mets-Phillies game. Lo Duca said he was catching for Wagner at the time of the allegation:

"We're playing like a really tight game against the Phillies, and Billy Wagner comes in from the bullpen,’’ Lo Duca said, per USA Today. “I used to go to the mound every time and like, 'What's going on?' and he's like, 'Hey, Joe's behind the plate. Set up a couple more inches inside. I was like, 'Are you kidding me? Joe hates me.' He's like, 'No, no, no, no, no, no. Joe loves me.'

"I go, 'He hasn't given us the corner all day.' He's like, 'Don't worry about it.' He literally throws 10 pitches and strikes out three guys. Joe rings up all three guys. Eight out of the nine pitches were at least three to four inches inside, not even close. Guys were throwing bats and everything. Joe walks off the field. ...

"I get back into the clubhouse and I'm like, 'What the [expletive] just happened just right now?' And Wagner just winks at me. I'm like, 'What's the secret?' He's like, 'Eh, Joe loves antique cars, so every time he comes into town I lend him my '57 Chevy so he can drive it around, so then he opens up the strike zone for me.'"

Lo Duca played for the Mets from 2006-07. West argued that he never called a Mets-Phillies game with Wagner on the mound during that timeframe. Wagner has not publicly addressed the story.

'Joe is very pleased with this result'

West, 68, is due to retire at the end of this season. He didn't respond publicly to Monday's ruling. His attorney Kevin Murphy did.

“Joe is very pleased with this result, and we are glad that Mr. Lo Duca is being held accountable for his actions,” Murphy said.

Lo Duca has not responded publicly to the ruling. 

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