Joe West's Sox run-ins exist alongside record-setting night

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

White Sox fans remember what Joe West did to Mark Buehrle.

More so, they remember how Hawk Harrelson reacted to it.

A couple balk calls in a 2010 contest in Cleveland led to the stuff of franchise legend, Buehrle and then-manager Ozzie Guillén getting tossed from the game and Harrelson going off on the infamous umpire, saying, among other things, that West was "becoming a joke to the umpiring profession."

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The White Sox — and Harrelson, too — struck a different tone Tuesday night.

For all the negative feelings fans still have thanks to West's moments over the decades, the White Sox were kind hosts for West's record-breaking game, his 5,376 contests umpired the most in major league history.

There was a graphic, a tribute video — featuring Garth Brooks, of all people — a special performance of the national anthem by The Oak Ridge Boys and ... the San Diego Chicken?

West got the treatment the record deserved. It stood for eight decades prior to Tuesday.

But certainly fans weren't in on the "be nice" planning, booing West over and over, every time the Guaranteed Rate Field video board lit up with another message for the singing umpire.

Harrelson, too, was nice. The announcer long ago changed his attitude toward West and spent his media session Tuesday retelling old tales of how the two have become unlikely pals, a far cry from his on-air rant toward him more than a decade ago.


"We were doing a game down in Texas," he recounted. "And Joe and I, we had problems there for about 30 years. All of a sudden, (Steve Stone) says, 'This will be Joe's first game back.' And I said, 'First game back from what?' And he said he had some throat cancer. I had not heard about that. Nobody had told me anything about it. As soon as the game was over, I ran down the stairs and I went to the umpires room, knocked on the door.

"I ran back into the shower there, and he was soaping his face up and everything. He said, 'Hawk.' I said, 'Joe, let me tell you something. I don't mind arguing with you. I don't mind fighting you. But one thing I cannot have you do is getting sick on me.'

"We get along well. We have become good buddies. I know one thing, if I had to have one umpire behind the plate in a big ballgame, seventh game of the World Series, I want it to be Joe West."

Though West seemed to have himself a cheering section — Harrelson said he would have been among West's boosters Tuesday if not for side effects from his COVID-19 vaccination — it didn't sound like the majority of those in attendance agreed with the Hawkeroo.

In addition to the unforgettable pair of Buehrle balk calls, White Sox of a more recent vintage have had their own run-ins with West. Tim Anderson was ejected from a 2018 game against the Cubs by the umpire, saying afterward that "everybody knows he's terrible."

But for one night, it was all niceties from the White Sox toward the game's most talked about umpire.

"Very consistent, man. He took control of the game, and that’s what an umpire is supposed to do," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "Joe was going to make sure the game was played correctly. And he had a flair, and I think he’s the perfect guy to set the record because he represents a lot of what an umpire should be."

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