Paul Lo Duca spent 11 seasons in Major League Baseball catching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Washington Nationals.
He has a lot of stories to tell. And he loves telling them.
Lo Duca, 47, is now a horse racing analyst and part of “The Favorites Podcast.” During a recent episode he shared a story — we’ll note, an unverified one — about umpire Joe West that surprisingly didn’t end in an ejection, but rather a twist involving a 1957 Chevy
The tale Lo Duca told, if one wants to believe it’s true, is recounted by Bob McManaman at the Arizona Republic. It happened some time in the late 2000s during a game between the Mets and the Phillies.
Lo Duca sets up inside
Lo Duca was catching with West behind the plate when Billy Wagner entered the game in relief. The two met on the mound and Wagner gave his catcher a directive that left him incredulous.
The conversation, per Lo Duca:
“[Wagner’s] like, ‘Hey, Joe’s behind the plate. Set up a couple more inches inside. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Joe hates me.’ He’s like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no. Joe loves me.’
“I go, ‘He hasn’t given us the corner all day.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He literally throws 10 pitches and strikes out three guys. Joe rings up all three guys. Eight out of the nine pitches were at least 3 to 4 inches inside, not even close. Guys were throwing bats and everything. Joe walks off the field.”
Lo Duca was amazed West was so lenient on the zone suddenly. This was the ump Lo Duca said tallied up eight or nine of his 15 career ejections.He is a controversial figure who players have called “terrible” and managers have roasted.
Wagner gives up the secret
Lo Duca demanded answers after the game and here’s where the largest bit of skepticism resides. Stories are known to change as time goes on, growing in detail and outlandish outcomes. This particular tale has aged more than 10 years by now.
Per Lo Duca, via The Arizona Republic:
“I get back into the clubhouse and I’m like, ‘What the [expletive] just happened just right now?’ And Wagner just winks at me. I’m like, ‘What’s the secret?’ He’s like, ‘Eh, 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.’
“I’m like, ‘This guy’s been throwing me out for the last 10 years of my life and all I needed to do was rent him a ’57 Chevy?’ ”
If true, props for doing whatever it takes to get the win. If not, it’s at least a fun idea.
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