Umpires Make Mistakes: See Baseball History 101
Everyone is in an unnecessary uproar over the Dewayne Wise phantom catch of a baseball that disappeared into the crowd at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 2012 during a 6-4 Yankee victory over the Cleveland Indians.
The umpire, Mike DiMuro is human. He made a mistake and admitted it after the game. That was the right thing to do.
Do you want the game to stop every time there is a controversial play? Aren’t the games slow enough?
Mistakes similar to this have been happening since baseball began and have been forgotten unless they affect the pennant race or a World Series game.
One forgotten incident that occurred on August 1, 1920 was whether Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox actually caught a baseball Babe Ruth hit into an overflow crowd at Comiskey Park. The aftermath of that play is shown below.
Going into the game against the White Sox, Ruth was on a tear, having hit 37 home runs already, shattering his own record of 29 home runs set the previous year. Fans wanted to see the Bambino in the flesh, so they were showing up in record numbers when the Yankees came to their city. New single game attendance records had been set at five of the seven American League cities the Yankees had visited so far that year, primarily to see Ruth.
40,000 people packed Comiskey Park to the rafters, when the White Sox stopped selling tickets before the game began. To accommodate the extra crush, fans were allowed to watch the game on the field and soon there was a ring of fans standing in the outfield. This was not an uncommon occurrence during baseball games during the early part of the 20th century.
So how did the controversial play unfold? According to the New York Times this is what happened:
A hair-raising play by Joe Jackson in the fourth inning when he backed into the left field crowd to get Ruth’s fly furnished the basis of a protest by manager Huggins and he will ask President Johnson to have the game thrown out and played over again.
Shoeless Joe backed into the crowd and disappeared from view. When he was swallowed up in the surging mob his arms were raised on high and he was falling backward. Then he was lost from sight. Ruth had reached second base and remained there, being held up by the ground rule which provided that a hit into the crowd was limited to two bases.
Then half a dozen spectators carried Jackson out of the crowd and he walked in to umpire Nallin and informed his majesty he had caught the ball. Jackson didn’t have the ball with him when he came out of the crowd. Where was it? No one knows. Anyway there was a long wrangle at the plate between umpire Connolly and all the Yanks, including Ruth. After vocal energy to the amount of many horse power had been expended, Connolly stuck to his interpretation and agreed with Jackson that he made the catch and Ruth was out.
Manager Huggins made the protest on two grounds, first that the ground rules provided that that a hit into the crowd was limited to two bases and, second, that the ball was not put back into play after Jackson alleged that he caught it.
Toward the end of the game spectators brought a ball to the Yankee bench and gave it to the players, saying it was this ball that Ruth hit, and that Jackson had not caught it. Eye-witnesses in the mob in the (sic) left field also said Jackson didn’t get near the ball at all. From the grand stand it was impossible to see whether or not Jackson caught it. That argument didn’t exhaust Huggins, and in the seventh when umpire Connolly decided that Duffy Lewis had fanned when he took a half swing at a third strike, the Yank manager put up such a terrific howl that Connolly banished him from the lot.
The Yankees ended up losing the game 3-0 and Eddie Cicotte limited the Yankees to just five hits.
At the end of the 1920 season both Eddie Cicottte and Joe Jackson would be banned from baseball for life by Commissioner Landis for their participation in the “Black Sox” scandal , the throwing of the 1919 World Series.
Many years later in a newspaper interview, Jackson admitted that he had not caught the ball and Ruth should have been safe at second base.
Before the game Ruth was in a better mood and was photographed with the two White Sox stars, Cicotte and Jackson. (click to enlarge any photo)