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Major League Baseball umpire Joe West is cashing in after winning a defamation lawsuit against former veteran catcher Paul Lo Duca.
West was awarded more than $500,000 by the New York Supreme Court on Monday.
The incident stems from Lo Duca’s appearance on a podcast in May 2019. During the podcast, Lo Duca said that former New York Mets teammate Billy Wagner, the team’s closer during his time in Flushing, bribed West by letting him borrow his 1957 Chevrolet in exchange for a strike zone more favorable for the Mets.
“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 said.
West argued that he never called a Mets-Phillies game with Wagner on the mound during that timeframe.
“The plaintiff expressed a legitimate concern that, if Hall of Fame voters credited Lo Duca’s false assertion regarding his integrity and character he might not be elected for induction into the Hall of Fame for the same reasons as otherwise excellent players ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, and Barry Bonds had or have not been elected,” the court ruled.
“He also expressed concern that it would be difficult to completely repair his reputation, particularly because a special committee of baseball executives and former players chosen by the directors of the Hall of Fame is responsible for selecting umpires for induction into the Hall of Fame.
“No member of this committee had told the plaintiff that Lo Duca’s statement would or would not have an effect on his chances for election. According to the plaintiff, at least one former player and an agent of a former player did express their belief to the plaintiff that the false statement would hurt his chances for election, but those witnesses did not testify at the inquest.’”
Lo Duca played for the Mets in 2006 until 2007 when he then left to play in Washington for the Nationals.