Rays benefit from first overturned call
Umps use replay to change fan interference call to home run
ST. PETERSBURG -- It's only fitting that Tropicana Field became the venue for the first overturned call via instant replay, since the first review in Major League history also occurred at The Trop.
Friday night's call in question occurred with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning and the Rays leading, 6-0. Rays slugger Carlos Pena hit the first pitch from Twins right-hander Boof Bonser toward the right-field stands, and a spectator could be seen reaching to catch the ball, which prompted first-base umpire Mike DiMuro to call fan interference and award Pena second base.
"The thought was that the fan reached over and definitely made contact with the ball," DiMuro said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon disagreed with the call and ran onto the field to dispute it.
"I just went out and said, 'Mike, I really believe that was a home run,'" Maddon said. "'Could you guys get together?' He said, 'Yes, of course.' I just went over to talk to the guys and I wanted to make sure that they took the walk over to the dugout, and they did."
The umpiring crew, headed by Gerry Davis, wasted little time in heading for the review monitor located inside the visitors' dugout along the third-base line.
When the crew reemerged four minutes and 10 seconds later, Davis gave the home run signal that the call had been reversed, and Pena had his 31st long ball of the season.
"We saw two angles," Davis said. "The first one was inconclusive. The second one was the one that shot it."
Davis was asked by a pool reporter if making the fan interference call was the safe call, knowing that they could go to instant replay.
"That's not how we umpire," Davis said. "We umpire to call them as we see them, and then the replay is obviously a tool we have at our disposal."
All televised MLB games are monitored and staffed by an expert technician and either an umpire supervisor or a former umpire at Major League Baseball Advanced Media headquarters in New York. A television monitor and a secure telephone link to MLBAM, placed next to the monitor, have been installed at all 30 ballparks.
If the crew chief determines that instant replay review is necessary on a particular disputed home run, he calls the MLB Advanced Media technician, who then transmits the most appropriate video footage to the crew chief and the umpire crew on site. The umpire supervisor or former umpire does not have direct communication with any of the umpires on site, and the decision to reverse a call is at the sole discretion of the crew chief. The standard used by the crew chief when reviewing a play is whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the umpire's decision on the field was incorrect and should be reversed. The use of replay is limited only to home runs: in or out, fair or foul and fan interference.
Pena said it "felt like a long time" for the call to be made.
"But I was glad they went and checked it," Pena said. "I appreciated the fact they were trying to get the call right. And I think they did. And that's what it's supposed to be like. I thought it was a home run. And they checked it and talking to them afterward, they were like, 'We went and looked at it, and we looked at it hard, and we think we made the right call.' And that's the idea."
Twins right fielder Denard Span described the play as happening "so quick."
"I don't know if somebody reached over," Span said. "Obviously, the umpires looked at the replay, and I'm pretty sure they got it right if they looked at the replay.
"I think that's a good addition to the game. I think sometimes it's impossible for the human eye to tell. Initially, they didn't think it was a home run and reviewed it over and over, and they realized they were wrong."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire could not find fault with the call.
"Boy that was fun, I really enjoyed the [heck] out of that one," Gardenhire said. "Four minutes and 10 seconds, but that's what they have to do. They have to get it right. The whole thing is getting it right."
This was the third such review to take place since instant replay monitors were installed at Major League parks.
Instant replay was first used on Sept. 3 during the ninth inning of a Yankees vs. Rays game at Tropicana Field, when a ball hit by Alex Rodriguez was called a home run. The review upheld the call.
On Sept. 9, at Houston, instant replay confirmed a call that Houston's Hunter Pence had a double as ruled, and not a home run, in a game against the Pirates.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.