Game 2 gets caught up in dirt and who said what


October 13, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY

CHICAGO — Chicago-- --The umpires said they looked at the replays.

A befuddled Josh Paul said he did, too, but it wasn't needed. He knows what happened.

If you didn't see it, you will soon.

About 1,000 times in the next week. Probably a couple times a year until baseball ceases to exist.

Add Josh Paul's and umpire Doug Eddings' names to the infamous list with Jeffrey Maier and umpire Richie Garcia or umpire Don Denkinger and Todd Worrell.

The second game of the 2005 AL Championship Series, the 2-1 Chicago White Sox victory over the Los Angeles Angels, will forever be known for the catch in the dirt.

Or the catch not in the dirt.

Depends on whom you ask, but this one will never be forgotten by baseball fans. Especially Angels fans.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the score tied 1-1, the Angels' Kelvim Escobar threw a full-count pitch to Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski.

Pierzynski swung. Eddings, the home plate umpire, lifted his hand signaling a third strike. Paul, the Angels catcher, grasped the ball.

That much is fact.

The rest needed to be filmed on the grassy knoll.

Pierzynski took a step toward the home dugout and then raced to first - an indication that he thought the ball was dropped by Paul.

"I thought for sure the ball hit the dirt. Third strike hits the dirt, you're taught to run," Pierzynski said. "I was going back to the dugout and I realized that he didn't tag me."

He reached there safely - on what should have been the end of the inning. Pierzynski was replaced by pinch runner Pablo Ozuna, who stole second and then scored the winning run when Joe Crede followed with a game-winning double to left.

The sold-out crowd at U.S. Cellular Field exploded with the realization that the game had ended and their White Sox had drawn even 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Meanwhile, a stunned group of Angels stewed.

"It was a swing, our catcher caught it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Doug Eddings called him out and somewhere along the line, because the guy ran to first base, he altered the call. ... That's what's disappointing."

Eddings later said Paul trapped it in the home plate dirt.

But Paul didn't know that. He just rolled the ball to the mound and jogged off the field. He checked the ball later and said there were no scuff marks, no dirt.

"I was on my way to the dugout, I figured I caught it, so the inning is over," said Paul, who entered the game in the eighth. "Usually if there is a ball in the dirt on strike three [the umpires] usually say, `No catch, no catch.' And I didn't hear that."

Eddings agreed he never uttered, "No catch."

If he had, there would be no controversy. Instead, this is one for the bad call annals. TV replays showed nothing conclusive. With that, Eddings disagrees.

"We saw it on a couple different angles," Eddings said after the game. "And if you watch it the ball changes direction, so I don't see how you guys can say it was a caught ball."

Anyone in Baltimore feel a flashback to Oct. 9, 1996 - the first game of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium?

Watch Paul's reaction on replays and you can almost see Tony Tarasco standing in the Yankee Stadium outfield dumbfounded as Derek Jeter ran the bases and Maier, that little kid from New Jersey, hugged his new souvenir.

Now Eddings replaces Garcia, who replaced Denkinger, who blew the tag call at first base in the 1985 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals.

Baseball has no replays. And shouldn't.

The umpires get almost all of their calls right. And the games - already often three-plus hours - would be almost unwatchable if they were delayed for more rulings on the field.

Even Scioscia, wounded by Eddings' call, can't stump for instant replay.

"I'm not in favor of replay at all, not certainly on something like that," he said.

So the play will stand. The White Sox win and now have the momentum going to Anaheim.

Paul and Eddings forever will be linked on a controversial call that will go down in infamy.

In a game that will never be forgotten.

Just ask Orioles fans where they were when Tarasco looked upwards.

They know. They know just how Angels fans feel.

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