On October 20, 1991, Game 2 of the World Series got underway at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Twins came into the game having won Game 1. The Braves came to the plate in the top of the third inning already trailing 2-1.
With a runner on first and two outs, Ron Gant laced a single to left field. Lonnie Smith advanced from first to third on the play, sliding in ahead of the throw. The throw came in from left field and skipped away from third baseman Scott Leius. But starting pitcher Kevin Tapani backed up the play and cleanly fielded the ball and threw back to first base, where Gant was retreating after an aggressive turn toward second.
What happened next depends on your perspective. It's possible that it was a terrific heads-up defensive play by Tapani and first baseman Kent Hrbek, all made possible by poor baserunning by Gant. But if you ask me, Hrbek is a dirty, cheating scoundrel and, holy Moses, that was one of the worst umpiring calls of all time.
Gant made it back to first base ahead of the throw but as Hrbek tagged him, his foot came off the bag and umpire Drew Coble called him out. Gant and first base coach Pat Corrales were livid. Gant clearly came off of the bag, either because he had too much momentum or else because Hrbek pulled him off while they were tangled up. This was the third out of the inning, and ended the Braves' early-scoring opportunity.
The Twins would go on to win the game 3-2 and would ultimately win Game 7 behind Jack Morris' historic performance, ending Atlanta's remarkable worst-to-first season.
With instant replay, things turn out a little differently. The out call is overturned, the Braves rally in the inning in support of Tom Glavine and win Game 2, sending the series back to Atlanta tied 1-1. The Braves proceed to win all three of their home games and win the city's first championship.
Even better, a portion of the heated debate every year over Hall of Fame voting is lost to a parallel universe, as Jack Morris supporters never get to use one of the brightest feathers in their caps. Seriously, that Game 7 pitching performance was incredible, and, without it, Jack Morris has a far less compelling Hall of Fame case.
Granted, this is a huge leap of faith. The play was strange enough that it may have stood as an out even after video review. And with an overturned call, the Braves would still have needed to capitalize, putting on-deck batter David Justice into a great "what if" scenario.
Plus, there's that whole butterfly effect theory. Maybe Gant's called safe on the play but as a result, an asteroid changes course and blows up the Metrodome. The point is, you would have to be pretty delusional to think that a changed call here could result in any predictable outcome.
But you can count me among the grudge-holding delusional. That call was awful. Expand replay now!
Patrick Richardson is a 22-year follower of the Atlanta Braves who started playing T-ball right as Atlanta's record-setting run of division titles began. He is an amateur but enthusiastic sabermetrician.
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