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Play at first key in tense Game 610/19/2004 11:36 PM ET
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- You can slide or you can stop. You just can't swipe at a fielder's glove. That much is clear from the rule book, which explains the ruling on a controversial play involving Alex Rodriguez in Tuesday night's game.
New York's third baseman was part of a contact play at first base in the eighth inning, and the umpires appeared to correctly interpret it as part of Section 6.1 of the Umpire's Manual, which details examples of offensive interference, which are covered by Section 2.00 of the Official Rules.
"While contact may occur between a fielder and runner during a tag attempt, a runner is not allowed to use his hands or arms to commit an obviously malicious or unsportsmanlike act," states the rule. "Such as grabbing, tackling, intentionally slapping at the baseball, punching, kicking, flagrantly using his arms or forearms ... to commit an intentional act of interference unrelated to running the bases."
The play in question came with one on and one out in the eighth inning, when the Yankees trailed Boston by two runs. Rodriguez hit a routine bouncer up the first-base line, but Bronson Arroyo fielded the ball cleanly and clearly had the runner cut off along the baseline.
Instead of breaking stride, A-Rod seemed to swing his arm at the fielder's outstretched glove, a move that jarred the ball loose and allowed Derek Jeter to score from first. A-Rod was initially called safe, but the umpires reversed their decision and sent Jeter back to first.
"I don't want those umpires meeting any more," said Rodriguez. "Every time they have a meeting, they make a call against the Yankees. No more meetings."
Earlier in the game, a Mark Bellhorn home run was initially ruled a double off the wall. An umpire conference overturned that call as well. After the game, the men in black explained their rationale for both rulings.
"In this day and age, we try everything we can to get the play correct," said Randy Marsh, first base umpire and crew chief. "What would've happened if we didn't get together and get the play correct? You'd have a lot to write about if we didn't, but we did get together."
The interference ruling was the right call, but it still caused an angry reaction from some of Yankee Stadium's most unruly fans. Bottles rained down on the playing surface, causing the umps to call for reinforcements.
Policemen in riot gear arranged along both foul lines, working to calm the scene down as quickly as possible. That worked on the fans, but not the managers -- the head men for both teams addressed the call after the game.
"On the play at first, you could see Alex take a swipe at the ball," said Boston manager Terry Francona. "You just couldn't get on the field to say anything until the play was over, because the guys were circling the bases."
"There were a lot of bodies in front of me, so I can't give you first-hand what I saw," said Joe Torre, New York's manager. "I was upset that it turned out the way it did for a couple of reasons. First off, they said that Arroyo was in motion, too. It's not like he was standing there. And there was also a player on the Red Sox who was in the line that didn't have the ball, which can be an obstruction play."
Torre's right about that part. Doug Mientkiewicz helped complicate the play, but he didn't obstruct the runner. He blocked the umpire's vision, which led to the initial confusion. Marsh said that he didn't see the swipe at the glove, and he only heard about it from the home plate umpire.
"Joe West did some outstanding umpiring. He was coming down the line and he could see it clearly," he said. "In that situation, the runner is called out for interference and no runs could be scored. All runners return to the last base they occupied at the time of the interference, so Jeter went back to first base."
That wiped a run off the board, which in turn caused the crowd reaction. In the 18 years since Bill Buckner's miscue, there's never been a late-season chopper to first base that caused so much turmoil. The players involved had an interesting perspective, though, and they shared it after the game.
"No, there was no doubt at all," Arroyo said. "I haven't watched the replay, but it's got to be plain as day."
"They said I should have ran him over, kind of like a catcher," Rodriguez said. "I can't go out of my way to knock the ball out of his hand. I was perplexed by the whole situation.
"I don't know what I tried to do. I knew he was coming, and I know that the line belongs to me. Looking back, maybe I should have run him over."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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