Umpires confirm Victor Martinez home run with video replay despite fan interference

David Brown
Big League Stew

Jeffrey Maier didn't grow up to be a Detroit Tigers fan, did he?

In what surely will be one of the more intensely replayed moments of this postseason and for others to come, umpires used video to confirm a Victor Martinez home run disputed by the Oakland Athletics in Game 4 of the ALDS on Tuesday night. Martinez's drive to right field in the bottom of the seventh, hit just out of the range of leaping outfielder Josh Reddick, was interfered with by two fans in the front row who reached over a railing.

Umpire Gary Darling signaled home run at the moment of truth over the protestations of Reddick and Coco Crisp, and — after the group conferred for a video review — the homer was upheld. The solo drive tied the score against left-hander Sean Doolittle. An inning later, Detroit's offense opened up a four-run lead, and the Tigers won 8-4 to force Game 5 on Thursday at Oakland.

The dispute echoed what happened between the Yankees and Orioles in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS at Yankee Stadium, when Derek Jeter's fly ball to right was interfered with by 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier and prevented Tony Tarasco from making a catch. It's likely that replay, were it used at that time in Major League Baseball, would have overturned Jeter's infamous homer. But the set-up and ground rules at Comerica are different than at old Yankee Stadium.

The yellow line for home runs on the outfield fence at Comerica Park runs perhaps two feet below the top of the wrought-iron railing. In that part of the ballpark, the ball doesn't have to go over the railing for it to be a home run. Replays appeared to show that the ball cleared/would have cleared the yellow line had fans not reached over the railing.

Here's what the rule (3.16) book says about interference:

When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Umpires didn't think it was clear Reddick would have caught the ball. It's a reasonable conclusion. Reddick will argue, no doubt, that he would have.

The postseason marches on!
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