Today is a day most Baltimore Orioles’ fans won’t forget. It’s the anniversary of the famous “Jeffrey Maier home run” against the Birds in the 1996 MLB playoffs. It vaulted the New York Yankees to victory over the O’s, and an eventual victory in the series.
I’ve always said that if not for that botched home run/fan interference call, the Orioles would have won the World Series that year. The ‘96 team was that good, and they had that sort of synergy. Furthermore, I’ve always said that Orioles’ manager Davey Johnson should have played the game under protest. Let the league handle the matter – you just never know what would have happened.
I remember watching the game with my Dad and my sister that day. It was a late afternoon game, and my Dad came home to watch it with us; I was in high school. When Maier reached over the wall and gave Derek Jeter a home run, my Dad jumped off the sofa screaming right along with Orioles’ outfielder Tony Tarasco. I did something similar. It was a terrible call and it should have never been allowed to stand. But it did, and it cost the Orioles a World Series (in my view).
However the next day something happened which softened my view of umpire Al Garcia, who made the call: he apologized. He flat out admitted that he botched it. He said that if he could do it over again, he would have ruled fan interference.
Umpires don’t do that – for the most part. They didn’t do it then, and they don’t do it now. I’m sure that the stakes in the game played a role as to why Garcia came out and said that, but he said it. And that’s to his undying credit.
It doesn’t change what happened. And Garcia knew that. But for a guy to do that in a field of work whereby it’s expected that you don’t have to address your mistakes, I always felt that spoke volumes about Al Garcia as a person. And as an umpire.
Quite frankly, it’s that sort of integrity that Orioles fans should expect out of today’s umpires. I use the word integrity because Garcia proved he was fair by calling himself out like that. And that’s all anyone wants in officiating: FAIRNESS.