Umpires from historic Red Sox postseasons on HOF ballot

Joe West and Ed Montague, two umpires who were on the field for some of the most important moments in Red Sox history, are on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Contemporary Era ballot this year.

Though not exactly popular with players throughout his 44-season career and often criticized for his tendency to inflame, rather than deescalate tense situations on the field, West is likely to be inducted on the basis that he holds the all-time record, with 5,460 games umpired. He’s the only umpire to surpass Hall of Famer Bill “Old Arbiter” Klem, who set the previous record working games between 1904-41.

In 1981, West made history as the youngest umpire to work a League Championship Series. It ended up being the first of 10, including the ALCS in ‘03, ‘04, ‘13, and ‘18. He famously declared Dave Roberts safe at second in Game 4 of ‘04, and when Alex Rodriguez infamously swatted the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in Game 6, it was West’s crew that ruled the Yankee slugger out for interference. In ‘18, he was umpiring right field for Game 4 and ruled spectator interference on what might otherwise have been a two-run homer for Astros star José Altuve. West was also behind the plate for several no-hitters, including when a rookie named Clay Buchholz threw one in the second game of his big-league career in ‘07.

While West’s career was longer than that of any other umpire, it was far from perfect. In 2018, Boston University found that he was among the worst callers in the game, with 512 incorrect home-plate calls, or an average of 16.5 errors per game. At the time, he’d averaged 21 incorrect calls per game (2.3 per inning) over the previous 11 seasons. And though few things can unite the Red Sox and Yankees, but ever the lightning rod, West managed to earn the ire of both sides of the rivalry in 2010, when he called a slow-paced series between the rivals “pathetic and embarrassing.”

Montague umpired six World Series, and his Fall Classic work was bookended by the Red Sox. He made his World Series debut in ‘86, and served as the crew chief in ‘04 and ‘07. When Mookie Wilson’s grounder went between Bill Buckner’s legs, it was Montague who picked up the baseball and marked it with an ‘X’ to make sure it was distinguishable.

The Contemporary Era ballot, which considers figures who impacted the game from 1980 on, is actually two separate ballots. The next Contemporary Era player ballot will take place in December 2025, for the class of 2026.

This year’s round of voting is for managers, executives, and umpires. Former managers Jim Leyland, Lou Piniella, Cito Gaston, Davey Johnson, player-turned-National League president Bill White, and the late Hank Peters, longtime Orioles general manager and president of Minor League Baseball, are also on this year’s ballot. Voting results will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

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