Monday, January 7, 2019

Retro Teachable - Reversed Double-Triple Play

Hi all, we have several Retro Teachable Moments lined up, but since we're releasing the Jerry Crawford podcast later this week, why not take a look back to Game 4 of the 1980 NLCS and a reversed double-to-triple catch/trap play involving an all-time great crew with HP Umpire Doug Harvey, Ed Vargo at first base, Jerry at second, Bob Engel at third, Terry Tata in left field, and Bruce Froemming in right?

We'll talk about this play with Jerry during the show, and let's just say it was a mess that was cleaned up quite nicely. Here's the situation: With no score, the Phillies have runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out in the top of the 4th inning and there's a soft liner back to the pitcher who appears to trap the ball. Plate umpire Harvey initially signals no catch (he'll get help in a moment). The pitcher then throws to first to retire the batter and then, despite being a ruckus on the field R2 was off the bag and he was also retired, but there isn't any video to back that up. And then the fun begins.

As we'll learn on the podcast, Doug Harvey worked for a lot of years with Crawford, and his father Shag. The Hall of Fame Umpire legitimately didn't see the play—the batter blocked him—so he does the right thing and gets help.
Unfortunately, Crawford, working his first LCS was low man on the totem pole and didn't seem to have much of a say. Under the circumstances when you watch the camera from behind the plate, it's nearly impossible to tell whether the ball was caught or trapped. There were no HD cameras nor super slow mo replays at the time. When you look at the opposite angle, it appears the ball hit the ground. I think if there was replay (and if this was a reviewable play), this would have been overturned, but despite Crawford never officially calling an out the umpires get together and rule that because there was an erroneous initial call on the catch/trap that R2 should return to his base with two outs.

For what it's worth, here's Official Baseball Rule 8.02(c) regarding the reversal of an umpire's call:
If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call, disregarding interference or obstruction that may have occurred on the play; failures of runners to tag up based upon the initial call on the field; runners passing other runners or missing bases; etc., all in the discretion of the umpires.
In most of the leagues we work there isn't replay. And we certainly don't have Doug Harvey with us on the field. It's important to handle the aftermath as best we can and Harvey most certainly does that. Both teams ended up protesting the game and the NL President, Chub Feeney, had the back of his umpires—what a novel concept!

Even broadcaster Howard Cosell explained, "Umpires are only human, too."

It's amazing how well a game can run when we allow the umpires to run the game. The baseball Gods were with Harvey and company as the Phillies came back to win in what was Crawford's first postseason series ever.

This is the kind of play that can most definitely happen to us. When you get screened and you don't see a catch, don't call one. Let the players tell you what happened. Take your time. Much like it's tough to reverse a call foul to fair, but not as hard the other way around, it can be troubling to reverse a catch to a no catch. It's not fun to try to unring the bell.

We hope you enjoy our Crawford interview, it's jammed packed with stories as he reminisced about his father, his time with Harvey and much more. That episode of The Plate Meeting is coming up later in the week right here at

Until next time, Happy Umpiring Everyone!!

NOTE: We promised another "Sticky Situation" this week. That will be dropped next week. Video as follows:

Alternate Link: The infamous double/triple play on a reversed catch/trap call in infield (ABC)


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