Indians get even Yankees get mad

Umpires' no-call is key in 12th-inning rally, dealing N.Y. 4-1 loss

'It was a terrible call'

Indians add chapter to bizarre playoff wins

October 08, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The 1998 season had been one fine moment after another for the New York Yankees. Everything had gone so right for so long that the possibility of a dramatic reversal in the postseason must have been difficult to comprehend.

Maybe that's why second baseman Chuck Knoblauch stood dumbfounded last night while the Cleveland Indians ran off with Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.

The Indians took advantage of a controversial play -- and Knoblauch's apparent brain freeze -- to score a 12-inning, 4-1 victory last night at Yankee Stadium, squaring the best-of-seven series at a game apiece.

It took about 4 1/2 hours, but the Indians finally found a way to beat a Yankees team that had looked all but invincible in their first four postseason games. All that was required was a little creative base running by third baseman Travis Fryman, who turned a sacrifice bunt into the equivalent of a game-winning triple when he inadvertently stepped in front of an errant throw by Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez.

The ball rolled away and Knoblauch stood waiting for first base umpire John Shulock to call interference when he should have been pursuing it. By the time he figured out what to do, pinch runner Enrique Wilson was motoring home from first base and Fryman was chugging into third. The Indians would score two more runs on a bases-loaded single by Kenny Lofton and wrest the home-field advantage in the series, which now moves to Cleveland for three games this weekend.

The Yankees cried foul because Fryman was in fair territory when the ball hit him in the back. He ran down the inside of the base line and never set foot in the base running lane, which is delineated by the second chalk stripe that runs parallel to the foul line for the final 45 feet from home to first base.

The replay clearly showed he was not in the running lane, but umpire crew chief Jim Evans said after the game that it didn't matter. The ball hit Fryman as he crossed first base, and he was entitled to be inside the base line at that point because that's where the base is.

That explanation did not satisfy Yankees manager Joe Torre, who blasted the umpiring crew for the call and sharply criticized plate umpire Ted Hendry for his performance calling balls and strikes.

"He was on the grass," Torre said of Fryman. "It was so blatant, I don't know what to say. It was a terrible call. Just for one guy to say what he saw and the other guys to swear by it, and meanwhile you have it on videotape."

Even in his anger, however, he stopped short of calling for the use of video replays to sort out controversial split-second decisions by the umpires.

"We don't expect that," he said. "We've won games that have been in violation [of the rules], too. It's just when it happens in a game like this, you would have liked for the thing to be clean. To their credit, they got the base hit [that would have brought home the go-ahead run anyway], but you've got to have better umpiring than that.

"I'm not saying we would have won the game, but you hate to have it happen like that."

The controversy was reminiscent of a similar play during the 1996 Division Series between the Indians and Orioles, when B. J. Surhoff ran inside the base line and was hit by a throw from Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar. That time, the umpires also ruled in favor of the runner, but Indians manager Mike Hargrove -- who argued for an out in that situation -- didn't see the parallel.

"I didn't think it was similar at all," he said. "I thought Surhoff ran inside and forced Alomar to make a bad throw. What impressed me about this was, they [the umpires] talked about it. The umpires' job is to get it right, and I think they made the right call."

Knoblauch's moment of indecision was not lost on the sellout crowd of 57,128, which booed him heavily when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 12th, but he defended his actions after the game.

"It was a bad call," he said. "If I had it to do over again, I'd do it the same way. I didn't know where the ball was. What was I supposed to do?"

Well, looking for it would have been a start.

Torre, who is reluctant to criticize his players, did not hesitate when asked if Knoblauch had blown the play.

"I watched the replay before I came in here, and he was yelling at the umpire, and you can't do that," Torre said. "You have got to make the play and then go back and argue with the umpire. But I think he was just shocked that they didn't make the call."

The controversy overshadowed a taut, well-played game that featured two outstanding pitching performances. Right-hander David Cone gave up just a fourth-inning home run to outfielder David Justice in a strong eight-inning performance, and Indians starter Charles Nagy carried a shutout into the seventh before third baseman Scott Brosius tied the game with a two-out double.

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