Today is October 11, 2017. This is the month of October and coinciding with the MLB playoffs leading up to the World Series. Let’s step back in time for a moment to 1996, October 9th to be exact. There was a baseball game that took place in New York between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. A 12-year old boy had the biggest influence on this baseball game played by professional athletes. The beneficiary of Jeffrey Maier’s interference was Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees franchise. On this particular day, Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball near the top of the outfield wall. Orioles’ outfielder Tony Tarasco tracked the ball’s trajectory and settled under the spot the ball was descending towards. Mr. Tarasco reached up to secure the ball, for the catch, for an out…but uh, oh. The ball never reached his glove.
As a 12-year old boy in 1996, Jeffrey Maier was not able to drive a car, legally vote, walk into a reputable store and purchase cigarettes or a myriad of other things adults can do. But on this day, Jeffrey Maier was able to change the course of a Major League Baseball game. With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees were trailing by a score of 4-3. Jeter and the Yankees had karma or fate or whatever cosmic force, smile down on them. This kid reached over the railing and deflected Jeter’s ball over the fence for a game tying home run. The score went from 4-3 and potentially two outs, to 4-4 and only one out. After the buzz around the ‘home run’ died down and the umpires allowed the home run to stand, the game resumed but no further scoring happened this inning. Try as they may, the Orioles could not score in the ninth, tenth or eleventh innings and the Yankees would go on to win the game in the bottom of the eleventh inning. The Orioles would rebound and win the next night but eventually bow out of the series in five games. Hypothetically, if the Orioles were not derailed in game one and if game two plays out the same as it did (in theory), the Orioles could have possibly knocked the Yankees from the playoffs and represented the American League in the World Series that year (the Yankees won that series too).
So what does this rehash of events from twenty-one years ago have to do with anything from the here and now? Well, if there had been some other over-zealous kid with a glove above Aaron Judge three nights ago when Francisco Lindor hit his deep fly ball to the wall, then maybe the Indians would have won the series in three games and be moving on to play the Houston Astros in the American League Championship series. But instead there is a game five matchup between my Cleveland Indians and the ‘nothing to lose’ New York Yankees tonight in Cleveland, Ohio. Aside from the home run saving catch by Judge, game three was well played and unfortunately someone had to lose (the Indians). Game four was just a mess and deeply disappointing to any Indians fan who watched them play this year.
All I’m saying is, modern day Jeffrey Maier, thanks for nothing. However, I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that tonight’s game is played clean and my Indians can find a way to push across some early runs and get that series clinching third win. I am trepidatious of the prospect of a close game with Aroldis Chapman waiting in the wings in the late innings for the Yankee bullpen. For the most part over the last twelve months, the Indians have had minimal success against him and the stakes are too high right now to chance it.
Deep breath. Now exhale. Let’s go Tribe!