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Controversy adds to playoff intrigue

Controversy adds to playoff intrigue

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As the World Series moves to a new location, the memories that sustain the postseason are certainly created by terrific efforts -- Toronto's Joe Carter and Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski hitting series-winning homers in 1993 and 1960, respectively.

Kirk Gibson hobbling off the bench to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers over Oakland with a solitary swing, Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 for the Yankees over the then Brooklyn Dodgers.

But controversial plays have also left marks on the postseason landscape, making particular games and incidents stand out among the rest.

"Any time there's room for discussion, it's always going to heighten the attention of the game or the attention to that particular game," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, whose club has been involved in two such incidents already this postseason. "So it's not drawn up. I think the beauty of it is it just happens. You can never tell when it's going to happen or where it's going to happen. That's what makes games special and why you remember some more than others."

The Rockies, who entered the Fall Classic on an unparalleled run of 21 wins in 22 games but now find themselves in an 0-2 hole, have already placed their stamp on that historic legacy.

The National League Wild Card tiebreaker between the Padres and the Rockies at Coors Field on Oct. 1 ended in the bottom of the 13th with Matt Holliday sliding by catcher Michael Barrett to score the winning run in a 7-6 Colorado victory that clinched a playoff berth. Jamey Carroll hit the sacrifice fly to right. Brian Giles made the throw. Plate umpire Tim McClelland called Holliday safe as the ball bounced away.

But the question will long linger whether Holliday actually touched the plate. Even Holliday, who scraped his chin and was spiked by Barrett on the left hand, wasn't sure.

"I think so," Holliday said at the time. "I mean, the umpire called me safe so I must have touched the plate. I was just trying to get in there and score the run."

In Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Diamondbacks at Arizona on Oct. 11, second-base umpire Larry Vanover called interference on Justin Upton after the Diamondbacks right fielder came in with a high slide to upend Rockies second baseman Kaz Matsui on the front end of a double play. Augie Ojeda, who had grounded to third, was automatically deemed out at first base.

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The play ultimately took the D-backs out of a potential rally and the game had to be stopped for eight minutes when some fans became unruly and threw garbage on the field. Colorado won the game, 5-1.

"I thought they handled it professionally," said Hurdle, whose team was waved into the dugout by the umpires as the situation was quickly controlled. "The play happened and then the crowd reaction happened and they gave it a little time. We we're trying to get it working, and it wasn't working and the water bottles were flying on the field."

Who knows what the World Series will bring?

What follows are some of the well-remembered controversial plays in recent postseasons. It's by no means an exhaustive list, but we tried.


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The game: Game 3, 1975 World Series, Reds 6, Red Sox 5, 10 innings at Riverfront Stadium.

The incident: Boston scored a pair in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 5, sending the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, with nobody out and a runner on first base, pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt up the first-base line. Coming out of the box, he became tangled with Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, who then threw wildly into center field, allowing runners to advance to second and third. Fisk claimed interference, but plate umpire Larry Barnett let the play stand. After an intentional walk and a strikeout, Joe Morgan ended the game with an RBI single.

The aftermath: Fisk atoned by hitting that famous homer down the left-field line at Fenway to win Game 6, but the Reds went on to win the series in seven games.

Quote, unquote: "The ball bounced high and I just stood there for a moment watching it," Armbrister was quoted as saying by the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Then [Fisk] came up from behind me and bumped me as he took the ball. As I broke for first base, [Fisk] hit me in the back and reached over my head for the ball before I could continue on to first base. I stood there because he hit me in the back and I couldn't move."


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The game: Game 4, 1978 World Series, Yankees 4, Dodgers 3, 10 innings at Yankee Stadium.

The incident: The key play came in the sixth inning when Lou Piniella hit a pop toward short with Reggie Jackson on first and the Dodgers leading, 3-0. Jackson had to stop between bases, not knowing if the ball would be caught. It was not, and Dodger shortstop Bill Russell stepped on second to force Jackson before throwing to first. The ball hit Jackson on the right hip and caromed away while Piniella advanced to second, with Thurman Munson scoring. Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda argued with the umpires, saying that Jackson intentionally interfered and that Piniella should also be declared out.

The aftermath: The umpires did not change their call, and the Yankees went on to win the game in 11 innings to tie the series, 2-2. They won it in six games.

Quote, unquote: "The interference issue with Reggie Jackson was the one that pulled the rug right out from under us and that's still my biggest nightmare in baseball," Dodgers third baseman Ron Cey told MLB.com recently. "If the call is made properly and if they huddled together like they should have, we would have walked off the field with a 3-0 lead. We end up losing that game. The next day we were flat, deflated. And so I feel legitimately that '78 was the one that got away and it's still hard to talk about."


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The game: Game 6, 1985 World Series, Royals 2, Cardinals 1 at Royals Stadium.

The incident: The Cardinals had taken a 1-0 lead on an eighth-inning single by Brian Harper and led the series, 3-2. Todd Worrell, trying to close the game for Cardinals in the ninth inning, faced Jorge Orta, the leadoff hitter. Orta hit a slow roller to first baseman Jack Clark, who tossed to Worrell covering first base. First-base umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe, but instant replays and photographs clearly showed that he was out by half a step. The Cards unraveled like a cheap suit after that.

The aftermath: The Royals scored twice immediately after the call to win the game. They won, 11-0, the next night to take the series.

Quote, unquote: "The Cardinals were three outs away from winning the World Series when Orta lead off the bottom of the ninth with a soft grounder to the right side of the infield," Royals second baseman Frank White recalled to Baseball Digest back in 2003. "Clark fielded the ball and threw to Worrell, covering first. The throw beat Orta, but the umpire ruled him safe. That call did something to the Cardinals. After a heated argument, Clark dropped a foul popup by Steve Balboni, who then got a single on a 1-2 pitch. With the bases loaded, Dane Iorg singled home two runs for the victory. During a long career a lot of games stand out, but when you are part of a World Series-winning team, that experience is remembered forever."


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The game: Game 1, 1996 ALCS, Yankees 5, Orioles 4, 12 innings at Yankee Stadium.

The incident: The Yankees trailed the Orioles, 4-3, in the bottom of the eighth inning when Derek Jeter hit a deep fly to right field where Tony Tarasco leapt, but couldn't reach the ball. The then-12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence, deflecting it into the stands. Baseball fans are permitted to catch and keep balls hit into the stands, but if a fan reaches out of the stands and touches a live ball, interference can be called. Right-field umpire Rich Garcia opted to immediately call it a home run, tying the game at 4.

The aftermath: The Yanks won the game in the 12th, the series in five games and then defeated the Braves in the World Series, winning four straight after losing the first two games at home.

Quote, unquote: "I guess it's an interesting story that I'm no longer 12, and that I've done something for myself, both scholastically and athletically," Maier told the Washington Post last year after playing baseball in college and graduating with a degree in government and economics. "And I'm proud of what I've done. If anything, I've tried to get out of the shadow of what happened when I was 12, and in a way I've been able to use this attention to showcase what I am now and what I've done with my life since then."


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The game: Game 2, 1998 ALCS, Indians 4, Yankees 1, 12 innings at Yankee Stadium.

The incident: In the 12th, umpires did not call Travis Fryman out for interfering with Tino Martinez's throw as he ran inside the line on his bunt attempt. Enrique Wilson broke a 1-1 tie by scoring all the way from first base as Chuck Knoblauch stood at the bag pointing and arguing with umpire John Shulock instead of picking up the ball. Wilson scored the winning run on the play.

The aftermath: The Yanks won the series in six games after falling behind 2-1. They then swept the Padres in the World Series.

Quote, unquote: "After right now, I'm not going to talk about it," said Knoblauch, whose career ultimately ended when he could no longer make throws from second base. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to see humor in it."


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The game: Game 6, 2003 NLCS, Marlins 8, Cubs 3 at Wrigley Field.

The incident: The Marlins' Luis Castillo hit a pop fly down the left-field line with one out, a runner on second, the Cubs leading the game, 3-0, and the series, 3-2. As left-fielder Moises Alou drifted toward the stands, a fan, Steve Bartman, went after the ball, which never got to Alou. Alou argued for an interference call, but to no avail, umpire Mike Everitt ruling that the ball was out of play. The Cubs subsequently collapsed behind Mark Prior as the Marlins scored eight times in the inning.

The aftermath: The Cubs still haven't won the World Series since 1908 or been there since 1945. The Marlins went on to win the series the next night and defeated the Yankees in a six-game World Series.

Quote, unquote: "I was there, I was in the middle of the play and I saw everything that happened," Alou said. "I got there and I kept my eyes on the ball, and all I felt was a hand under my glove and a hand right under the ball. Fans, they don't go to school to be taught what balls to touch and what balls not to touch. Things like that happen."


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The game: Game 6, 2004 ALCS, Red Sox, 4 Yankees 2 at Yankee Stadium.

The incident: Alex Rodriguez was called out for interference when he swatted at Boston pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove and knocked the ball loose during a play near first base in the eighth inning. Rodriguez knocked Arroyo's glove off his hand and the ball rolled down the right-field line. Jeter came all the way around from first to score what would have been his team's third run as first-base umpire Randy Marsh originally ruled Rodriguez safe. The umpires convened, though, and over-turned the ruling.

The aftermath: The Yanks were in the process of decomposing, having blown a 3-0 lead in the series. Boston completed the comeback the next night and swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years. It's the only time a Major League team has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

Quote, unquote: "They said I should have run him over, kind of like a catcher, that I can't go out of my way to knock the ball out of his hand," Rodriguez said. "I was perplexed by the whole situation. I don't know what I tried do. I knew he was coming, and I know that the [base] line belongs to me. Looking back, maybe I should have run him over."


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The game: Game 2, 2005 ALCS, White Sox, 2 Angels 1 at U.S. Cellular Field.

The incident: With the game tied, 1-1, in the ninth and Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar pitching, A.J. Pierzynski appeared to swing and miss for the third out. Replays showed that plate umpire Doug Eddings made a motion to the side with his right arm for the swing, and then pumped his hand as if to signify the third out. But Pierzynski never heard the call and raced down to first base. Angels catcher Josh Paul rolled the ball back toward the mound, allowing Pierzynski to reach first without a play. Joe Crede knocked in a pinch-runner with the winning double.

The aftermath: The White Sox went on to take the series in five games and sweep the Astros to win their first World Series in 88 years.

Quote, unquote: "I thought for sure the ball hit the ground," Pierzynski said. "I watched the replay 50 times and I still don't know. The third strike is in the dirt, you run. I didn't hear him say out, Josh didn't tag me. I didn't do anything. I struck out."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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