Last night, a close and exciting Game #3 of the baseball’s World Series ended in the most unsatisfying manner possible, especially for Boston Red Sox fans. The winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning scored because of an obstruction call at third base, made by umpire Jim Joyce, giving the victory in a tense battle to the St. Louis Cardinals. Although fans saw baserunner Allen Craig tagged out at home for the final out of the frame, sending the game into extra-innings, or so they thought, Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks was ruled to have obstructed Craig from getting up and scoring from third on an errant throw, though both runner and fielder were caught in a tangle after a collision at third due to no fault of their own. The relevant rule says that if in the umpire’s judgement a fielder, regardless of fault or intent, impedes a runner trying to reach the next base, and that the umpire also concludes that the runner would have reached the base safely without the fielder’s impediment, then the runner will be awarded the base. This meant that Craig was awarded home plate, his team was awarded the winning run, and the game was over.
The obstruction was clear and undeniable, but in many sports, such a technical call would never be permitted to decide a crucial or championship game, and even in baseball, there are umpires who might not have the courage to make such an unpopular call. Rules, however, are rules, and a sport that suspends or alters its rules for entertainment value lacks integrity.
Baseball was fortunate to have an umpire at third base who has proved his integrity before, veteran Jim Joyce. Millions of Boston fans hate him ( though not quite as much as they hated umpire Larry Burnett, whose failure to make an interference call in Boston’s favor cost the Red Sox Game #3 of the 1975 Series) this morning, but the game they care about so passionately, in my view, has never looked better.
Pointer: Craig Calcaterra
Facts: NBC Sports