Work in Sports
(Not) taking one for the team
Updated: Sunday October 22, 2000 2:14 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Mets could have used a fan like Jeffrey Maier in the left-field seats at Yankee Stadium.
A smart Yankees fan sitting in the front row in left field knew better than to reach for a long drive hit by Todd Zeile in the sixth inning of Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night.
"We needed Jeffrey Maier," said Zeile, whose Baltimore Orioles were robbed by the boy. "Where was he when we needed him?"
With the game scoreless and Timo Perez on first base with two outs, Zeile hit a long fly into left field that looked as if it might be a home run.
Outfielder David Justice drifted back and watched as the ball hit the very top of the wall, right in front of Jack Nelson from Park Ridge, N.J. Nelson decided not to try to catch the ball and pull it into the stands.
"I saw the ball coming towards me and I just let it go so that it wouldn't be fan interference," Nelson said. "If I had touched it, my Yankees could have been down 2-0.
"An educated baseball fan knows not to touch that ball. I haven't missed a Yankees World Series game since 1976."
In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, 12-year-old Maier created a game-tying homer by Derek Jeter in the eighth when he reached out and grabbed a ball that was about to be caught by right fielder Tony Tarasco. The Yankees went on to win the game, the ALCS and the World Series.
After Zeile's double bounced back onto the field, Justice threw off line to shortstop Jeter. Jeter threw to catcher Jorge Posada, who tagged out Perez at the plate.
"When I hit it, I thought it had a chance," Zeile said. "In my line of sight, it disappeared. I thought the ball disappeared behind the fence. I thought it was gone. I was shocked when I looked up."
Perez looked as if he assumed the ball was a home run, and didn't run hard until halfway between second and third.
Stephen Kradjian of Houston grew up in New York as a Yankees fan and was sitting a few rows behind Nelson.
"We thought it was going out. It was like two feet from going out. But we all knew enough not to touch it all," Kradjian said.