Paul Molitor played a long time, a total of 2,683 games over 21 seasons. So the notion that Joe West has umpired nearly twice that many games struck the Twins’ manager as incredible.
“To still have the desire to be out there and do what he’s doing shows you how much passion he has for the game,” Molitor said.
West’s passion turned to humility Wednesday at Target Field, when the Twins paused their game with the Pirates between the fifth and sixth innings to honor baseball’s most senior umpire. Stationed at third base, West worked his 5,164th major league game, passing Bruce Froemming for second-most in baseball history. Only Bill Klem, who officiated 5,369 games from 1905 to 1941, has umpired more MLB games.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s been a long time,” said the 65-year-old West, who reached the majors in 1976. “I never dreamed when I started, I’d get this far.”
The Twins noted West’s achievement on the video scoreboard, the crowd of 26,191 gave him a standing ovation, and the other umpires and West’s family congratulated him at third base.
“It was very nice of the Twins. It was great,” West told a pool reporter after the game. “It’s humbling. An old minor league player once told me, ‘There are two kinds of people in baseball: those who are humble, and those who are about to be.' And this one is humbling.”
Humble is not a word often used to describe baseball’s “Cowboy Joe,” one of the most recognizable umpires in the game. But Molitor said the players appreciate him.
“I’ve seen him for many decades out there, and he’s always allowed the players to have some emotion because the game is about emotion when you play,” Molitor said. “And you know when you can’t cross the line.”
Will West some day pass Klem? “It’s two seasons to catch him,” West estimated. “Hopefully, my legs hold up and I can make it.”
Rehab for Grossman
Robbie Grossman will be spending the weekend in Toledo. After running the bases Wednesday morning to prove that his right hamstring gives him no problems, the Twins informed him that they’d like him to serve a rehab assignment with Class AAA Rochester during its series against the Mud Hens. “Hopefully the game conditions don’t change how he feels,” Molitor said.