It’s not worth re-hashing what happened in the 1996 ALCS between the Baltimore Orioles and New York regarding the Jeffrey Maier incident, or how that event could have changed those particular playoffs or even Orioles’ history. It’s not worth mentioning how Baltimore sports fans had to endure a 12-year old Maier being hailed as a hero in NY and by the Yankees. It’s not worth mentioning how the umpire in question (Rich Garcia) graciously admitted after seeing the replay when the game was over that he blew the call. It’s just not really worth bringing up again…other than for the fact that it happened again.
We all saw the play to which I’m referring in the Detroit/Oakland ALDS game on Tuesday night. Victor Martinez hit a ball that was initially ruled a home run, but was immediately challenged by the Oakland fielders and eventually upheld by the umpires after reviewing the play. (The ruling was that the fielder wouldn’t have caught the ball and it would have been a home run anyways.) MLB’s fan interference rule (rule 3.16) states:
If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.
So as was the case in the Maier situation, the official story is that they’re using a technicality to get out of the fact that the wrong call was made. The umpire felt at his own discretion that the fielder had no shot at catching the ball. However I would submit that we all know fan interference when we see it. In my mind, that’s fan interference, and it’s big-time fan interference. Folks who disagree will say that in fact the fan did not interfere with the fielder, therefore it’s not fan interference. But the fact is that fans are not a part of the game. They are in a certain sense, but not in that manner. Any play involving a spectator as such should be disallowed; pure and simple.
I suppose that speaking for myself, my frustration is that the umpires even reviewed this play…and still came to the same conclusion. I personally choose not to get into the whole the league wants Detroit to win instead of Oakland discussion, because I think we all know that’s not true. But that aside, in my mind there’s no excuse for this being allowed to stand as a home run. So with that said, Oakland A’s fans can take some solace in knowing that Orioles fans know how they feel. It’s always been a fair point that in the Maier case the Orioles still had a shot at winning that game and the series in the games that followed. However there’s no getting around the fact the series turned on that one play that never should have been allowed to stand.