During game 1 of baseball’s 1996 American League Championship series between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, a fan impacted the result of the game.
The Yankees were trailing the Orioles 4-3, going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a high fly ball to right field. Oriole right-fielder Tony Tarasco moved back toward the fence and waited to catch the towering ball.
Just as Tarasco was about to catch the ball, a glove from the stands appeared over the fence and snatched the ball, before it came down into Tarasco’s glove and the field of play.
The play was ruled a home run instead of fan interference. OK… I can tell that you think that I am just a bitter Orioles’ fan. Here’s another angle.
Now do you believe me? The baseball rule that applied states that if “a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field and touches a live ball” spectator interference is to be called.
Right field umpire Rich Garcia immediately ruled the play as a home run, which tied the score at 4-4. The Yankees ended up winning the game in the 11th inning, showing the impact of that call. The 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier had changed the game and and the series.
The umpire later admitted that there was spectator interference, but he maintained that the ball was not catchable anyway. According to the rules, had the umpire determined at the time that there was fan interference, he would have then used his own judgment to determine the likely outcome of the way… whether it be an out or awarding Jeter a hit such as a double.
Here’s the transcript of the announcer for Orioles baseball as he called it in real time:
There’s a high fly ball to right, deep…Going back is Tarasco, to the warning track, to the wall, he’s under it now…AND IT’S TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM BY A FAN, AND THEY’RE GONNA CALL IT…A HOME RUN! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! Richie Garcia is calling it a home run, and Tarasco is out to argue! A terrible call by Richie Garcia! IT’S ALL TIED UP! —Jon Miller Orioles radio.
The next day, that umpire was shown along the Yankee sidelines as he signed autographs for the fans. That just added insult to injury for O’s fans. Umpire Garcia instantaneously became a New York celebrity. Meanwhile Jeffrey Maier also became a celebrity. A local newspaper gave him tickets behind the Yankee dugout for other playoff games and he appeared on national talk shows.
In February of this year, the Maier glove was auctioned by Heritage Auctions. An anonymous buyer paid $22,705 for the cowhide glove that interfered.
Going back to that 1996 game, at the time, Orioles manager Davey Johnson came racing out to argue the call. He was ultimately ejected for arguing. A Baltimore reporter for MASN recently asked him about that call and getting ejected in light of the glove’s reported sale.
“You need breaks and that was a big one for the Yankees. And I don’t know how I could see it from about 300 feet and Richie was right next to it, looking up, and couldn’t see that. That got me thrown out,” Johnson said.
Did Johnson consider bidding on the glove?
“No, I don’t want anything to do with that glove, before or now,” he said. “It cost me money, so why would I pay for it?”
When I read about this, I was reminded of what usually transpires at the end of cases that I handle. I will ask my client whether they want their file; or more specifically, do they want the photographs and various drawings that might have been part of the evidence. Almost always, clients will express similar sentiment as manager Davey Johnson was about that glove. They will tell me that they just want to put it behind them and want no reminders of their claim.
Now… I just wish I could forget about that cowhide glove!
And for pic o’ day, a bit of toothbrush sampling!