ATLANTA -- Shades of 1970.
The play that ended Game 4 of the World Series here last night created a flashback of the famed Elrod Hendricks-Bernie Carbo play at home plate in Game 3 of the 1970 World Series between Baltimore and Cincinnati -- but there is one difference.
In 1970, nobody was right. Last night, replays gave every indication that umpire Terry Tate saw the play exactly as it happened. Minnesota catcher Brian Harper fielded a throw from Shane Mack and made contact with runner Mark Lemke in front of home plate.
Instinctively, Harper was sure he had made the play and that Lemke should have been called out. Upon reflection, however, he admitted he was wrong.
"I knew we made contact," said Harper, "but I was concentrating on the ball and I really didn't know where I hit him. He definitely hit my left side, but whether my glove was there I don't know."
Later, after getting reports of the replays, Harper was gracious. "I got caught up in the emotion of the moment," he said. "I was angry we lost the game. In the heat of the moment, I thought I tagged him.
"But it looks like from the replay he [Tata] made a pretty good call -- a great call."
Tata, who immediately was surrounded by Twins' players, would probably best appreciate Harper's comments. "Obviously they thought he was safe," said the veteran National League umpire. "[Steve] Bedrosian asked what happened. I told him that Harper only got him with his elbow and that was the end of the conversation. Tom Kelly came out to get his players off the field. There was no doubt in my mind he was safe."
The same couldn't be said in 1970, because pictures showed the Reds' Carbo was neither safe nor out -- until the call was made. Umpire Ken Burkhart, who had been knocked off his feet on the play, ruled that Oriole catcher Hendricks had made a legitimate tag on the play.
Pictures later showed that Hendricks clearly had the ball in his right hand and tagged Carbo with his glove on the left hand. They also showed that Carbo never touched the plate -- which became academic once Burkhart had called the runner out.
Lemke, who had tripled with one out to set the stage for the final curtain, admitted he may have made this play closer than necessary.
"I wanted to make sure I didn't leave third base too soon, so I didn't get a real good jump," the Braves' second baseman admitted. "Our shoulders made contact and I think that's what might have enabled me to get around him and touch the plate with my hand."
The night before, on Lemke's game-winning hit, David Justice had executed an artful slide to score the game-winning run and in the fifth inning last night Lonnie Smith had tried to barrel his way to the plate -- with Harper involved both times.
Lemke admitted both plays entered his mind. "If I had tried to knock him over, there's no doubt in my mind I would've been out," he said. "I had to get around him if I was going to score."
Before the night was over, the general consensus was that Tata had made a very difficult but correct call. That wasn't the case in 1970, but the play was largely ignored because of the all-around brilliance of Brooks Robinson as the Orioles beat the Reds in five games.
* THE METRODOME FACTOR -- "It's a two-out-of-three Series now and we have to remember that two of the games are in the Metrodome," said Twins' manager Tom Kelly after last night's game.
Considering that the visiting team hasn't won yet, as was the case in Kelly's last trip to the World Series, that is an important factor. The home team has now won 21 of the last 27 World Series games.
"I don't think this will affect us," said Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. "I think we'll come in here tomorrow the same way we did when we came in with a 2-0 lead."
In wining the 1987 World Series, the Twins won all four games at the Metrodome, and lost all three in St. Louis.
"It's a different park, probably the toughest in baseball," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said of the Metrodome. "But you still have to play nine innings, pitch, hit and field. I think we can win there."