Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baseball and Hockey

I love sports. That's putting it mildly.

Last night I was watching the 3rd game in the Stanley Cup finals when I got a text on my phone. My son, who was watching the game at a sports bar/restaurant, wanted to let me know that a Detroit Tigers pitcher had taken a perfect game through the 8th inning. Perfect games are rare -- only 20 in all over the 120+ years of major league baseball. Yet perfect game #19 came on Mother's Day and perfect game #20 came on May 29. That in itself is unuaual. Two in one year? And now we were 3 outs away from 3 perfect games in less than a month.

I flipped from the hockey game to MLB Network (greatest network ever) to watch the 9th inning. First batter, a solidly hit ball that was heading for the gap, surely a double until the center fielder came out of nowhere and caught it. Second batter, ground ball to an infielder, easy out. Third batter, ground ball to the gray area between the first and second basemen. First baseman fields it. Pitcher is cover the bag. He beats the runner. Out. Perfect Game!

Except the only person who didn't see an out was the person who counted. The umpire. Who for reasons totally unknown called the runner safe. This wasn't a bang-bang play where the call could have gone either way. This was obviously an out. The umpire blew it. The pitcher got the next batter out, game over, 1 hit shut out, pretty impressive. Except the Tiger personnel went ballistic on the umpire. Everyone but the pitcher who had a bemused smile on his face. Later, the umpire saw the replay, saw what he did, and apologized, in tears, to the pitcher.

Baseball fans everywhere cried out that the call should be overturned. I'm a baseball purist -- hate the DH, hate interleague, hate the goofy softball shirts teams wear on Sundays, not a fan of instant replay -- and I thought it should be overturned. The call didn't change the outcome of the game. That's the important thing and I'll repeat it. The call didn't change the outcome of the game. But Bud Selig, worst commissioner ever, said no, call stands. Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated agreed with Selig and said you can't change what happened in the past.

Verducci and Selig don't watch hockey. After that call, I turned the hockey game back on. The Flyers appeared to score a goal -- the puck clearly crossed the goal line -- but it was pulled back out and play continued. Hockey reviews goals and the fans in Philly (and the one on my couch and the one texting me) were screaming for the review. But the announcers reminded us that the goal wouldn't be reviewed until play stopped naturally. And sure enough, as soon as it did, the goal was reviewed and the official said that it was, indeed, a goal, point Flyers. Then the time that elapsed during that period of time was put back on the clock. It never happened. The past was changed.

The contrasts are quite remarkable, aren't they?

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