Angel Hernandez calls a game. GETTY IMAGES

Cuban-born Angel Hernandez was often criticised by players, fans and media members alike in Major League ballparks because many of his decisions left most dumfounded. After 33 years, some memorable games and an unsuccessful lawsuit, he leaves the sport with little regrets.

Hernandez decided to abruptly retire from baseball and announced his departure in a statement released through Major League Baseball on Tuesday. "Starting with my first Major League game in 1991, I have had the very good experience of living out my childhood dream of umpiring in the Major Leagues," the now former umpire wrote. "There is nothing better than working at a profession that you enjoy. I treasured the camaraderie of my colleagues and the friendships I have made along the way, including our locker room attendants in all the various cities."

Hernandez, who was described as “a nice guy” by many after hearing the news, frequently found himself in the crosshairs of baseball players and fans given a long record of questionable calls. This season he angered Texas Rangers fans after making a series of dubious calls at the plate against rookie hitter Wyatt Langford last month. After calling a strike on a pitch which sailed well wide of the plate, an exasperated commentator remarked: "You have got to be kidding me. What in the world?"

It was the latest entry into an extensive catalogue of calls that were often hard to fathom and harshly criticised on social media. Last season, Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper slammed Hernandez after being ruled out on a questionable checked swing. An incensed Harper argued against the call and was tossed. "It's Angel in the middle of something again," Harper fumed after the game. "It's just, every year, it's the same story. The same thing over and over and over and over again. It's just not right."

Harper's fury was matched by New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia following a playoff defeat to the Boston Red Sox in 2018. Sabathia branded Hernandez "absolutely terrible" and said the official "shouldn't be anywhere near a playoff game." US media reports said Tuesday that Hernandez, now 62, had negotiated a settlement from Major League Baseball to secure his departure from the sport. He alleged he left “for family reasons”.

Hernandez had a tense relationship with the league in recent years, suing Major League Baseball in 2017 for racial discrimination claiming he had been excluded from officiating at the World Series because he was Cuban, even though he umpired both the 2002 and 2005 Fall Classics. A federal judge later dismissed his case, accusing Hernandez of providing a "handful of cherry-picked examples". Hernandez's appeal against that decision was dismissed last year.

Some Major Leaguers did share goodwill farewell messages for Hernandez. “Whether he’s good, bad or indifferent, I know that a lot of people have a very strong opinion of Ángel,” Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told The Associated Press. “We don’t have to worry about that anymore. He was a good human being, he treated me well. I always had great conversations with him, and that’s what I’ll remember most.”

Miami Marlins manager Skip Schumaker considered the former umpire “a really good guy” and whished him well. “He did a lot of stuff in the community, especially in Florida. If you talk to a lot of guys, they’ll say he was one of the nicest guys of the umpire crews. There are also worse umpires than Ángel. He got a lot of criticism for some calls and obviously a lot of umpires are going to get criticism for calls,” he said. “Umpiring is not easy. It’s hard. I don’t know why he retired so quick, there’s probably something behind that. I think the game tells you when you should retire. The game told me when I should retire. I hope he has a really good retirement and enjoys himself.”

It was the irreverent fan account on X, Umpire Auditor, which exists to showcase “the worst calls of the day, every day" by its own description. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you Angel Hernandez," the account said in a post. "You gave me more content than I could have possibly dreamed of. I didn't deserve you. Enjoy your retirement, king."