Joe West becomes president of umpires' union

Monday, April 06, 2009

By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer



Joe West, who worked his first major league game in 1976 and later lost his job in a contract dispute with baseball, has become president of the World Umpires Association.

West beat out longtime head John Hirschbeck in the February election. They were the only candidates and the union did not publicly announce the results. West declined comment on the vote in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Monday.

Major league umpires are in the final season of a five-year contract they ratified in February 2005.

Hirschbeck was elected the WUA's first president before the 2000 season. He held that post until umpires voted in West.

The 54-year-old Hirschbeck did not umpire last year while recovering from a neck problem, and is scheduled to return to the field next week. He joined the big league staff in 1984, and his brother, Mark, also umpired in the majors.

West became a full-time member of the National League staff in 1978. He has worked three World Series, and was the crew chief in 2005.

The 56-year-old West was behind the plate for Monday's opener in St. Louis between Pittsburgh and the Cardinals.

In 1999, West joined other umpires in a mass resignation plan by their union that failed. He was among 22 umpires who found themselves out of work when that season ended.

West was rehired for the 2002 season. When he came back, the world of umpiring had changed _ umps had formed a new union and Major League Baseball had merged the AL and NL staffs.

West designed a chest protector called the "West Vest" and produces umpiring equipment that is endorsed by MLB. He is nicknamed "Cowboy Joe" for his singing and song writing in country music.

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