CLEVELAND -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson still hadn't seen a replay when he was whisked into the interview room after Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. All he could do was speculate and offer some "wishful hearing."
Did Cleveland's Omar Vizquel get a piece of the ball on his attempted suicide-squeeze bunt, or did catcher Lenny Webster simply get crossed up on a slider from Randy Myers, allowing Marquis Grissom to score the winning run in the 12th inning?
From Johnson's vantage point, who could tell? "I thought I heard a tick and I thought I saw the ball from my angle change direction," he said.
He thought. Yesterday, sitting in that same interview room before Game 4, Johnson still wasn't sure. That's because he still hadn't seen a replay.
So much for studying every angle as if he were looking for a second shooter and a grassy knoll.
"I'm postponing it. I don't want to know. It wouldn't do any good," he said. "I felt like it was deflected, but obviously it wasn't, so it's a moot point."
"I've seen it a bunch of times," said assistant general manager Kevin Malone, "and it's inconclusive. You can't tell anything. All I know is Lenny Webster's been catching for at least 25 years, and his instincts indicate to me that the ball was tipped. I don't think there's anything we could have done about it. It's just a bad break. But I believe Lenny."
The teams had battled to a standstill through 11 innings when Grissom drew a one-out walk against Myers in the 12th. Tony Fernandez, who started the game on the bench, looped a single to right, putting runners on the corners and the Orioles on the ropes.
They got tagged. Grissom didn't.
The former Atlanta Brave, who earlier was being fitted for horns after striking out four times and losing Brady Anderson's high fly to center that brought in the tying run in the ninth, broke for the plate on an attempted suicide squeeze.
What happened next remains open to debate. Vizquel either bunted the ball foul, or missed it completely, as umpire John Hirschbeck ruled. Either way, it ended up behind Webster, and Grissom went in standing to touch off a wild celebration at Jacobs Field.
"It's tough to see from full motion," Webster said yesterday. "If you slow it down, you see the ball deflect off the bat and carom off my glove. Look man, would I have reacted that way, with the squeeze on, if I just missed the ball? I would have dashed for it and tried to get back.
"It was hard for Hirschbeck to see. I understand that. I end up looking like the goat, but I know in my heart what happened."
At least Webster could take solace in the official scorer reversing his decision yesterday, in compliance with an interpretation of Rule 10.08 (A), and taking away the passed ball, awarding Grissom a stolen base and charging Myers with an earned run. It became the second steal of home in the ALCS, the other by Oakland's Reggie Jackson on Oct. 12, 1972.
Webster said the pitch was a "basic Randy Myers slider." Indians manager Mike Hargrove will have to take the catcher's word for it because, like Johnson, he hasn't looked at the replay.
It's come down to a matter of trust for the managers. Johnson believes what Webster says, and Hargrove is sticking to Vizquel's story.
"Omar said he didn't foul the ball off, and everybody who's seen the replay has said it looked like [Webster] missed the ball," Hargrove said. "I think John Hirschbeck was very emphatic about the way he made the call. He wasn't wishy-washy at all. I understand Baltimore being upset about it. If it happened to us, I'd be upset also. But that's the way the game is sometimes."
Pub Date: 10/13/97