Being a baseball fan for close to 30 years, I’m very familiar with the sacrifice fly rule. But there’s one scenario that I’m not sure about. I think that the best way to ask my question is to describe a hypothetical game situation…plus it’s more fun that way.
It’s Game 7 of the 2006 ALCS, and the New York Yankees are hosting the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox lead 1-0 as the Yankees bat in the bottom the 9th, after brilliant pitching performances by Chien-Ming Wang and Curt Schilling.
With Jonathan Papelbon unavailable due to injury, and the remainder of the Red Sox bullpen in shambles, Terry Francona elects to have Schilling close out the game and give the Sox the right to beat up on the NL “champion” New York Mets in the World Series. Of course, the Yankees would prefer to perform the Met-beating, and believe they have a good chance with the top of the order: Damon, Jeter, and Rodriguez due up.
Damon strikes out on a nasty splitter from Schilling. 1 out.
Jeter then takes a hanging splitter deep into the left-center field gap, and motors to 3rd base with a stand-up triple.
All Alex Rodriguez has to do is hit a fly ball to the outfield to tie the game, and keep the ungrateful Yankee “fans” off of his back for the moment. The real Yankee fans already understand his greatness and would never boo him.
A-Rod hits the first pitch, a 97 mph fastball, directly back at the forehead of Schilling. The ball bounces off of Schilling’s head with such velocity that it looks like it will drop into very short left field, just over the head of 3rd baseman Mike Lowell. Jeter begins to race home to score the tying run. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Lowell adjusts and runs quickly to make a diving over-the-shoulder grab at the edge of the outfield grass, and A-Rod is out.
But the Yankees have still tied the game up…or have they?
The Red Sox appeal to the 3rd base umpire, claiming that Jeter left 3rd base too early, prior to Lowell’s catch, in violation of the sacrifice fly rule.
But the Yankees argue that Jeter was free to go home once the ball hit Schilling on the forehead, even if Schilling isn’t the one who caught the ball.
What is the correct call for the 3rd base ump?