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Honoring a friend

Honoring a friend

CHICAGO -- When veteran umpire Joe West set up behind home plate for Saturday's Game 1 of the World Series, his good friend Charlie Williams wasn't there with him but he was very close to West's heart.

The "CW" on his chest was all you needed to see to know that.

Williams, who became the first black umpire to work behind home plate for a World Series game in 1993, died of complications from diabetes on Sept. 10 in Chicago, and West lost a friend he'd had before either one became a Major League umpire.

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In Williams' honor, the umpiring crew is wearing a "CW" patch for this World Series -- and West made sure his was very visible, wearing his right in the middle of his chest protector for Game 1.

"I stuck that sticker right there where everybody could see it," West said Sunday, pointing to his chest. "I was real proud to wear Charlie's patch to honor him."

Williams was an umpire in the Majors from 1982-2000, first in the National League and then his final season in 2000 as part of the consolidated Major League Baseball crew.

Williams worked Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, which at 4 hours, 14 minutes is the longest regulation game in World Series history, a 15-14 victory for the Blue Jays over the Phillies. Aside from his groundbreaking assignment in that World Series, Williams also worked the 1985 and '95 All-Star Games, as well as the National League Championship Series in 1989 and 1997.

"I'm real pleased that baseball took it upon itself to honor him," West said. "He was a pioneer in this sport. He was a wonderful person and a wonderful umpire."

For West, the honor of wearing the "CW" patch is even more poignant because he lost not only a fellow umpire but a close friend.

"I started with Charlie in Instructional League in 1977," West said. "We worked together in Sarasota, [Fla.], and we were roommates there. He was a great partner and he was always a good umpire. When we got to the big leagues, he was always one to help the young kids."

On Saturday night, Charlie Williams' wife, Diana, was on hand for Game 1, bringing a cake she'd baked for the crew.

West said that made working Game 1 of this World Series even more special.

"It was a touching thing," West said. "She was really proud. I think it really made her day. She's had a tough month or so, but she was a real proud lady last night."

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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