Umpires and players argue all the time, but this one went to court and resulted in a $500,000 payday for the ump. The strange dispute involves veteran Major League Baseball umpire Joe West and former catcher Paul Lo Duca, explains the New York Daily News. In 2019, the retired Lo Duca went on a podcast and told a tale about West—that he gave a pitcher favorable calls because the pitcher had let him drive his classic car. West sued for defamation, and USA Today notes that his case was pretty strong. Lo Duca alleged that the game in question involved him catching for the Mets, Billy Wagner pitching, and West umping the contest against the Phillies. However, no such game ever happened. In the podcast, Lo Duca said that Wagner came in as a reliever and started getting all kinds of favorable strike calls.
"I get back into the clubhouse and I'm like, 'What the (expletive) just happened just right now?'" he said. "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.'" The 68-year-old West, who is on the cusp of breaking the record for the most games umped in history, made the case that the story not only damaged his reputation as a working umpire but could hurt his chances of being elected to baseball's Hall of Fame—and cost him lucrative speaking engagements as a result. New York State Supreme Court Judge John Kelley agreed, awarding him $250,000 for emotional distress and another $250,000 to pay for a PR campaign to fix his reputation. Lo Duca has not commented. (Read more umpire stories.)