Yesterday was a day of infamy in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. On October 9, 1996 Derek Jeter hit what went down as a homer in game one of the ALCS. According to the box score, that is. As all Orioles fans know, it was only a home run because a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and took the ball out of the reach of Orioles’ right fielder Tony Tarasco.
For the record, modern instant replay would have overturned that very quickly. It wasn’t even a close call. It’s a moment that lives on, as I said in infamy. While Orioles fans have never forgotten, they yesterday received a stark reminder of it in the form of a tweet from MLB:
People often tease Baltimore because there’s a school of thought out there which says that the city has an inferiority complex. Well things such as this could be one of the reasons why. This didn’t have to happen.
First off, why would MLB be so ready to celebrate a moment which is based on a call that they got wrong? I mean this seriously – is there anyone out there who thought this was the appropriate call? Secondly, why was NBC’s Jim Gray on the scene interviewing the kid, thus raising him up as a cult hero, only minutes after the incident happened?
Similarly, why exactly did George Steinbrenner give the kid tickets to Game Two in a suite? There’s not one person who saw that play that didn’t think it was fan interference. That moment changed the course of both franchises involved for the next 15 years or so. And you can imagine who got the short end.
You can’t change history. This moment happened, and it’s set in stone. But what exactly does tweeting it out in a celebratory manner achieve for MLB? The Jeffrey Maier incident is memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Sure if you’re a Yankees fan perhaps you take the well nobody really got a great look at the play attitude. But again ask yourself, if that play happened today in the exact same manner, would replay not overturn it?
One more thing on this; the umpire on the spot who made the call that day was Rich Garcia. Obviously neither he nor the rest of the crew had the benefit of instant replay as umpires do today. After the game he saw a television replay of the home run, and immediately said that he had blown the call. He publicly admitted it in the news media.
It has to make Rich Garcia cringe everytime this replay is shown. However very little blame should fall on him in this. Sure he made the bad call, but keep in mind that these plays happen very quickly, and it’s easy to not see something along those lines. However to his credit, he admitted the mistake (much like umpire Jim Joyce, who a few years ago cost someone a perfect game with a bad call at first base).
To my knowledge, he’s the only person affiliated with MLB who’s every admitted that the call was incorrect. And he’s certainly not tweeting the play out to celebrate it on it’s anniversary. Rich Garcia is a stand-up guy. Can the powers that be in the league today say the same?