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5 famous postseason plays that could have been changed by replay review

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... and in some cases, the results of the games or series might have also changed.

Sporting News via Getty Images

In Game 4 of this year’s ALCS, there was a controversial play involving Mookie Betts of the Red Sox and a ball hit by Jose Altuve of the Astros. We discussed that here the other day, and no matter what you think of that play, I think it’s good that we have a replay review system that gets things right... most of the time.

Before review was in place, though, there were a number of controversial calls in postseason games that resulted in nothing more than long arguments that changed nothing. In that sense, we’re better off with a review system, because even with reviews that take a while, in general they take less time than the arguments.

Here are five plays from pre-review postseasons that could have been changed if a video review system had been in place at the time, and what that change might have meant to that game or series. Granted that video technology in some of these cases wasn’t then what it is now, we still might have benefited from it back then.

October 9, 2009: Phil Cuzzi might have cost the Twins ALDS Game 2

I’ve written about this play before, but here it is again:

Oh, Phil Cuzzi, how did you blow that call? Cuzzi was maybe 30 feet from the ball; it was obviously fair. Joe Mauer should have been given second base, as the ball landed in the seats. As it was, after the ball was called foul, Mauer singled.

Effect on the game/series: It’s the top of the 11th of Game 2 of the ALDS between the Twins and Yankees at Yankee Stadium, tied 3-3. If Mauer is on second, he would have scored, as the next two Twins singled, giving the Twins the lead. But those singles only loaded the bases in reality, and the Twins never scored and the Yankees won on a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 11th by Mark Teixeira.

Now, if the Twins had been in front and Teixeira homers, the game’s tied again — maybe, because the Twins might have scored more than one run. Maybe the Twins wind up winning and sending the series back to Minnesota tied, instead of down two games to none. Since that game, the Twins are 19-47 against the Yankees (including 0-5 in the postseason).

I think this is one of the plays that helped push MLB into eventually adopting replay review.

October 9, 1996: Jeffrey Maier interferes with a ball in play in ALCS Game 1

You likely remember this, or have heard about it, even though this is now 22 years ago. There’s absolutely no doubt that 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and took the ball hit by Derek Jeter out of Tony Tarasco’s reach. Under the current review system, the call on the field (home run) would have been overturned and Jeter would have been ruled out.

Effect on the game/series: The Orioles were leading 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth. This was Game 1 of the ALCS. Jeter’s home run tied the game and the Yankees won in 11. If this call is overturned, the Orioles lead with four outs to go — it would have been the second out of the inning. Had Baltimore then hung on to win, they would have taken a two games to none lead in the series, as they won Game 2. Maybe they then win the ALCS and go to the World Series. That was the first year of that Yankee “dynasty,” winning the WS four of five years from 1996-2000. The Orioles had a winning year in 1997, then 14 straight losing seasons (nine with 90+ losses) before they next made the postseason in 2012. It might be a bit of a stretch, but this play could have changed the direction of two franchises.

October 26, 1985: The Don Denkinger blown call in World Series Game 6

This might be the worst call in World Series history. It’s clear from multiple angles that Jorge Orta was out on this play; it would absolutely have been overturned on review.

Effect on the game/series: This was the ninth inning of Game 6. The Cardinals led three games to two, and had a 1-0 lead at the time of this play, which led off the ninth. Thus St. Louis needed three outs to win the World Series.

They came completely unglued after this play. Another single put runners on first and second. An attempted sacrifice failed, with Orta forced at third, so runners were still at first and second with one out. A passed ball put the runners on second and third, and after an intentional walk, Dane Iorg singled in two runs to win the game for the Royals and tie the series. The Cardinals got blown out in Game 7 11-0 and the Royals were World Series champions.

Neither team did all that well after that. The Cardinals got back to the World Series in 1987, lost it, then missed the postseason for eight straight years. The Royals didn’t even make the postseason again until 2014.

There’s a high likelihood that the Cardinals win the game and the 1985 World Series if Denkinger’s call is overturned.

October 14, 1973: Bud Harrelson called out at the plate in World Series Game 2

It’s the top of the 10th inning of World Series Game 2, with the score tied 6-6. Bud Harrelson is on third base with one out when Felix Millan lofts a fly ball to left. Joe Rudi throws home, Harrelson doesn’t slide and was called out, but was pretty clearly safe. This play resulted in one of the more famous baseball photos in history, the next scheduled hitter, Willie Mays, on his knees pleading with plate umpire Augie Donatelli about the call, as you see at the top of this post.

Effect on the game/series: None, believe it or not. Had Donatelli’s call been overturned and Harrelson been allowed to score, the Mets would have taken the lead and possibly won the game in the 10th inning.

But the Mets won the game anyway in the 13th with a four-run rally that was keyed by an RBI single by Mays — the last hit he ever had.

Tug McGraw, the Mets’ top reliever, threw six innings in that game, but that didn’t seem to affect his usage the rest of the series (remember, pitcher usage in 1973 was far different than what it is now). The Mets had a three games to two lead in this series but wound up losing it in seven.

September 28, 1955: Jackie Robinson steals home in World Series Game 1

... or does he?

This one’s less clear than some of the others. It’s possible Yogi Berra tags Jackie Robinson before he gets his foot on the plate, but we have only one angle. Berra maintained for the rest of his life that Robinson was out:

Effect on the game/series: None. Absolutely none. This play happened in the top of the eighth with the Dodgers trailing 6-4. The steal of home made the score 6-5, but there was no further scoring in the game. So if Robinson had been called out, the Dodgers would have lost 6-4 instead of 6-5. They wound up winning the World Series anyway, the only one they won in Brooklyn.

I’m glad we have replay review now. It would have made significant changes in some of these memorable postseason moments, had it been available at the time.