Joe West, MLB’s most famous and longest-serving umpire, won’t be opting out of MLB’s shortened season. West is 67 and considered high-risk for COVID-19, but he told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that he’s not scared of the coronavirus.
“If this game hasn’t gotten me by now, no virus is going to get me,” West told Rosenthal on Monday night. “I’ve weathered a bunch of storms in my life. I’ll weather another one.”
The 2020 season will be West’s 42nd as an umpire, which makes him the longest-serving umpire in MLB history by six years. There’s still one important record that West hasn’t beaten yet: total MLB games umpired. The record of 5,375 games is held by Bill Klem, and West is 65 games short of matching that. Beating that record is West’s ultimate goal, and he plans to stay around until he accomplishes it.
Umpires are typically only famous if they’re both egregiously bad and attention seekers (see also: CB Bucknor, Angel Hernandez), and that’s the case with West. He’s known for making terrible calls, never changing his mind, and doing it all in a way that makes him the center of attention. The fans pay to see the players and not the umpires, but West always seems to find a way to get all eyes on him.
West can apparently grab attention both on and off the field. When West told Rosenthal about a conversation he had with deputy commissioner Dan Halem, he gave this eye-popping COVID-19 take.
“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths. I said, ‘I’m not going to opt out. I’m going to work. And I’m going to work until you take me off the field or I get hurt, whatever. I’m working.’”
West didn’t offer any explanation or reasoning behind that opinion, which is completely incorrect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite not totally believing in the established facts about COVID-19, West told Rosenthal that he will be careful, but isn’t afraid of getting sick.
“If I get sick, I get sick, God forbid,” West said. “I’m going to be careful. I’m careful when I go to the golf course.”
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