MLB umpire Joe West sues ex-catcher Paul Lo Duca over bribery claims

Major League Baseball umpire Joe West reportedly filed a lawsuit against former catcher Paul Lo Duca over comments the backstop made on a podcast alleging West took bribes.

Lo Duca said on a podcast in May 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 favorable strike zone. West is suing Lo Duca for defamation, USA Today reported Tuesday.

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Lo Duca, who was teammates with Wagner during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, recalled Wagner telling him: “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.”

West is suing for unspecified damages in the complaint. He denies Wagner ever let him use his vehicle and denied a situation such as the one Lo Duca described ever occurred.

“These statements impugn the integrity, honesty and professional fitness of Mr. West and affect his profession as a Major League Baseball umpire,” the lawsuit says, according to USA Today.

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“In reality, during 2006 and 2007, the two years that Lo Duca played for the New York Mets with Billy Wagner, Joe West was the home plate umpire for a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Mets only once, Billy Wagner did not pitch at all, and the game ended on a home run, not on called strikes.”

West also disputed Lo Duca’s claim that he had ejected the catcher 15 times during his career.

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“In reality, Lo Duca was ejected eight times in his Major League Baseball career and only once by Joe West,” the lawsuit states.

In 11 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals and Mets, Lo Duca hit .286 with a .337 on-base percentage and made four All-Star teams.