Legendary umpire Joe West has announced that he will retire after the season, which is excellent news for Houston Astros fans. In a career that has lasted 45 years, West has been a staple in Major League Baseball, but that warm and fuzzy feeling will never be there for Astros fans.
The Call That Changed Everything
The call that all Astros fans will remember West by the most occurred in the 2018 American League Championship Series. The Astros headed into the 2018 postseason as the defending World Series Champions. They were facing a Boston Red Sox team that was led by former Astros bench coach Alex Cora.
The Astros were trailing in the series 2-1, hoping to turn things around and tie the series up in game four. The Red Sox managed to get on the board with a single by Rafael Devers in the first inning that drove in two runs. The Astros were able to get out of the top of the first inning without giving up any more runs.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Astros were looking to tie the game. George Springer was able to get on base on a single to right field, which brought up the always clutch Jose Altuve. West was the crew chief in this series and happened to be the umpire along the right-field line. Altuve got ahold of a pitch to the opposite field for what looked like a home run. The ball appeared to bounce off the glove of then outfielder Mookie Betts.
The play was initially ruled a home run by West, but after going to New York for review, the play was overturned. West called Altuve out because of fan interference. Former Astros manager AJ Hinch tried to argue the call, but nothing could come out of it. There is always much speculation whether or not the fan interfered with the Betts’s glove or prevented Betts from making a play. After the game, Hinch commented on the athleticism of Betts but that the play was just out of reach for Betts.
It is probably safe to say that this play was the turning point in the series. The Red Sox would win the game, the series, and, of course, the World Series. If the call had been reversed, the Astros might have been looking at back-to-back World Series championships as the momentum seemingly was starting to turn in their favor.
As for West, he holds the record for the most games called at 5,375, which is an accomplishment that no other umpire will probably ever match.
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