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Asheville native Joe West poised to break MLB record

Major League Baseball umpire Joe West is scheduled to be behind home plate Tuesday night, working his 5,376th regular-season game. In doing so, “Country Joe” will break baseball’s umpiring record held by Hall of Famer Bill Klem, who died in 1951, the year before West was born in Asheville.

Besides calling balls and strikes, West is famous for his feuds and confrontations with players and managers. Although his eyesight has been questioned on occasion, he has exquisite hearing, and last year ejected a team’s general manager who was yelling criticisms from a luxury box high above the playing field. In April West won $500,000 in a defamation lawsuit he brought against former major league catcher Paul Lo Duca, who falsely accused West of expanding the strike zone for pitcher Billy Wagner in return for Wagner letting West drive his classic 1957 Chevy.

West, who moved to Greenville, NC, for high school, was a star quarterback at Elon College (now Elon University). He plans to retire at the end of this season. West is a singer-songwriter and has recorded two country music albums, and is an avid golfer. Baseball scribes say he is almost certain to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Good luck, Joe! The Watchdog regrets that it cannot print this story in Braille so that you can read it. — P.L.

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