Ugly History Repeats Itself

October 21, 2010 | Erich Hawbaker

In last night’s Yankees-Rangers game, the Orioles faithful had a flashback. In an eerily similar play to Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, the visiting team’s outfielder backed up the wall, didn’t make the catch, and then immediately pointed up at the stands above to signify fan interference. I watched the replay at least 10 times (isn’t DVR great?), and one could make the argument that this ball really may not have been caught even if it had gone untouched. But one can also clearly see that a fan is pushing Nelson Cruz’s glove away while another one is grabbing the ball and then giving Cruz the middle finger.

I was actually pulling for Texas going into this year’s postseason. This may be a big deviation from my staunchly capitalist philosophy on life, but I think it’s nice for everybody to win sometimes, and when my team is out of it, I’ll typically support the one that has never won a championship before or has not done so in a long time (the Rangers are the only team of the 8 in this year’s playoffs who have never won a World Series). And I respect fans who have remained true to their colors thru years of losing and frustration, and who never gave in to the temptation to jump on someone else’s bandwagon. I can even admit that I was happy for the Red Sox when they finally won it in 2004, but that was short-lived as their fans then proceeded to become even more obnoxious than their counterparts from New York.

We all know that what happened in 1996 was absolutely the wrong call. What happened last night may or may not have been. But baseball wasn’t using replay back then, and now they supposedly are at the umpires’ discretion. If you’re the ump in that situation, you have to at least look at it. Have to. Calling the game correctly is your job, and you were recently given a wonderful new tool to help you do that in case you’re not really sure what you just saw. The refusal to utilize replay in that instance was inexcusable. But I don’t expect Bud Selig will do anything about it; we wouldn’t want to jeopardize baseball’s “human element” now, would we?

I posted a rant about this and good old Jeffrey Maier on Facebook last night as it was happening, but my angst subsided rather quickly as it became clear that karma in the form of Bengie Molina was going to take care of this one on its own. This drew a reply from my stepbrother, who is also a diehard O’s fan. He told me that I need to just get over Jeffrey Maier, and I think he’s right. I will be adding that to my list of New Years resolutions, along with losing some more weight (35 lbs lost so far!), reading more, getting back to my drawing, and practicing my German.

I can’t forget what happened in 1996, but I guess I can stop being so pissed about it. Maybe the real reason that it still stirs so much anger in me after 14 years (and if you’re reading this I don’t need to tell you) is that the Orioles have been sitting in the basement of the AL East ever since. The last time they made the playoffs or even broke .500, I was in middle school, Bill Clinton was President, and the Nintendo 64 was the most advanced video game system on the market. Plenty of other bad teams have gotten their acts together between then and now, but the Orioles under Peter The Terrible have only gotten worse. There is a whole generation of kids out there now who have never seen a winning Orioles team, and unfortunately I don’t see that changing any time soon. But while I’m waiting, I can at least find a little solace in the evil empire being behind 3 games to 2 and having to go the rest of the way without their newest million dollar baby Mark Teixeira. As my ancestors would say, “Schadenfreude ist die schönste Freude.”