Joe West ’74 breaks umpiring record with 5,376th game

West is regarded as one of the most famous umpires in Major League Baseball and began his career as an umpire during the 1976 season.

Major League Baseball Umpire Joe West ’74 broke Major League Baseball’s umpiring record on May 25, working home plate as the St. Louis Cardinals visited the Chicago White Sox.

The previous night, West, a standout quarterback while at Elon and a member of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, had tied the record set by Hall of Famer Bill Klem. Klem umpired in the National League for 37 years before retiring in 1941.

West called his first games in the major leagues toward the close of the 1976 season, and in his first game saw Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro throw to Braves catcher Dale Murphy. Since that game he has worked the World Series six times and the League Championship Series 10 times as well as three All-Star Games.

A native of Asheville, N.C., he grew up in Greenville, N.C., and played baseball and football at Elon. During his three seasons at Elon, the football team won three conference championships and played for the national championship.

West was inducted into the Elon University Sports Hall of Fame in 1986 and into the North Carolina Sports Hall of fame in 2018.