The 5 Most Infamous Fan Interferences in MLB History
Major League Baseball has long prided itself on its accessibility to the fans. Not only are stadium events and autographs huge parts of the fan experience, but having the opportunity to catch a home-run or foul ball can draw larger audiences who even bring gloves to grab a stray hit. Of course, some fans abuse this privilege and interfere with the game as the action is still taking place–occasionally even changing the outcome of matches. Here are the most egregious instances of fans taking liberties with their ability to influence the game.
During Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier saw an opportunity to snag a homer hit by New York Yankee great Derek Jeter, so he took it. The problem was that Baltimore Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco also believed that he had a play on the ball, and by all rights it sure looked like he may have been able to make the play. But right field umpire Rich Garcia disagreed and ruled the ball uncatchable, letting the young fan take the ball home with him to New Jersey. The Yanks went on to win the game 5-4, and the series, going on to defeat the Atlanta Braves for their first championship in 18 years.
Punchy Red Sox Fan
2005 Red Sox vs. Yankees
Though this one didn’t impact the outcome of a postseason game directly, it was still an infamous event in New York Yankee history. Occasionally hot-tempered outfielder Gary Sheffield was attempting to field a triple off the bat of Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek when a Boston fan leaned over the field and clocked him square in the face. Sheffield shoved the dude out of the way and tossed the ball back into play before wheeling around with a closed fist. He pulled back before swinging on the clown, but he gave him an earful as the fan was ejected from the game. The fan was never identified by police, and the Red Sox and Yankees would go on to many more years of just punching each other in the face.
2015 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs
What would you do if you were holding an infant and a speeding projectile came flying your direction? If you are a Cubs fan, your answer may be to slip the baby under your arm and snag the ball right out of Dodgers’ first baseman Adrian Gonzalez glove as he reaches for it. The dude even gives a smug little smirk, holding the ball up in triumph as Gonzalez immediately moves to challenge the play. Because replay rules were in place at this time it was overturned, and the baby would go on to have a great story when it gets older about its first souvenir.
10 Cents Beer Night
1974 Texas Rangers vs. Cleveland Indians
This one may go down in history as the worst idea in the history of sports promotions. On a warm June night in 1974, Cleveland decided to offer 10 cent beers–with no limitations whatsoever. To make matters worse, Rangers Manager Billy Martin had called out Indians’ fans prior to the game for not showing up. Fans became belligerent very quickly, starting brawls and dancing on the dugouts. Hot dogs and other projectiles flew onto the field, and one fan even ran onto the field to steal the hat from a player. Said player then kicked the fan, which inflamed passions even further. A full scale riot broke out and had to be broken up by SWAT, and no team ever held a similar promotion again.
The most notorious instance of fan interference has to be the Steve Bartman Incident. In Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs were hoping to finally lose the moniker of being the biggest losers in modern sports history. With two runners on, one out, and a 3-0 deficit, Florida Marlin Luis Castillo drilled a long foul down the third base line. As left fielder Moises Alou went up to make the snag, Steve Bartman reached down and took it right out of his glove. The Cubs would go on to lose the game, the series, and every subsequent season until 2016. Bartman quickly became the most hated man in the Windy City and beyond, though the team forgave him with a ring upon their own redemption 12 years later.