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Big League Stew

Listen: Umpire John Hirschbeck tells Mike Matheny he won’t win the argument

David Brown
Big League Stew

The St. Louis Cardinals appeared to catch a huge break in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night when umpire Dana DeMuth credited infielder Pete Kozma with a catch at second base on a flip from Matt Carpenter in the first inning. Only, Kozma never actually caught the ball, and DeMuth was giving him the benefit of the doubt on the transfer from glove to throwing hand, which umpires do from time to time.

Well, after Red Sox manager John Farrell pointed out that perhaps DeMuth was being hasty, five other umpires got together and decided it wasn't a catch. It was, indeed, the ol' hasty transfer assumption. It was the turn of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to argue. He was, like, "Where the heck did our huge break just go?" Good for all of us that Fox TV strapped a microphone to Hirschbeck, so we could hear how the conversation went down on the field:

Hirschbeck: "There's five of us out here. OK? And all five of us say we are 100 percent sure that that was not a catch."

Matheny: "— Well, how many ... ?!"

Hirschbeck: "Our job is to get it right."

Matheny: "— But ..."

And then the audio was cut off, sparing Matheny from any more indignity. Logic and reason prevailed over assumption (which you can never assume with umpires and managers). The umpire's mistake turned into Kozma's mistake — one of several the Cardinals made in Boston's 8-1 victory.

After the game, Matheny had settled down, and said it was just hard to take at the time.

"That's not a play I've ever seen before," Matheny told reporters. "And I'm pretty sure there were six umpires on the field that had never seen that play before either. It's a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series. Now, I get that trying to get the right call, I get that. Tough one to swallow."

It's rare to overturn a call in that way, but not unprecedented. DeMuth, Hirschbeck and MLB official Joe Torre were made available to talk about the ruling after the game — which also isn't unprecedented. DeMuth admitted fault, saying he focused for too long on Kozma's foot and whether it was touching the second-base bag.

"I was assuming" that Kozma caught the ball, said DeMuth, who added that he felt "awful" about making the mistake, but was glad he had a team backing him up to ensure the play was called correctly in the end. Aren't we all? (Except for the Cardinals.)

If umpires went about reviewing questionable calls like this more often, fans might not be as inclined to call for invasively expanded video replay or for cyber umps to replace the humans.

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David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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