Baltimore Orioles’ fans get asked often if they’re ever going to get over the 1996 ALCS game in which a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence and in essence created a home run. And the answer is probably never. The Orioles had by far the best team in baseball that year. And that one moment changed the course of history.
I won’t go into details because odds are most people saw the play and are familiar with it – but a similar situation occurred in last night’s ALCS when the umpiring crew ruled that fans (again in right field) in Houston interfered with Boston’s Mookie Betts as he tried to catch the ball. Was the fan’s glove over the wall? If it was, it certainly wasn’t as well-defined as over the wall as Maier’s was.
There’s no question that Betts’ progress in catching the ball was impeded by a fan. You can see a fan literally close Betts’ glove. The question is whether or not the fan’s arm was ever over the wall and in the field of play. I’ll let folks make that determination on their own.
Having said that, the big difference between the Maier case and this one is the fact that we now have instant replay. So one way or the other the umpire (Joe West in this case) had the ability to see the play again in slow motion. Rich Garcia never had that ability. And for the record while I’m on the topic, Garcia admitted later that he botched the call. It should have been fan interference. I always gave him a lot of credit for that. Fans should understand that bad calls are going to happen, and as quickly as things can unfold one can understand how something could get overlooked. But an umpire admitting that he botched a call like that is rare. To his credit, Garcia did just that.
But needless to say, if the Mookie Betts play was ruled fan interference, then the Jeffrey Maier play certainly had to be fan interference. So…the league’s all but indirectly admitting that the Orioles rightfully won the 1996 ALCS! (I recognize that’s not the case folks…but work with me!)