Cano HR conjures Jeffrey Maier
NEW YORK -- When Robinson Cano's second-inning homer landed in the seats at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Jeffrey Maier -- who was involved in the most famous fan interference play in Yankee history -- sat on a bar stool in La Guardia airport chuckling with his brother and sister.
"It was pretty funny," Maier told ESPNNewYork.com.
Fourteen years after Maier's moment in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, a 20-year-old fan named Jared Macchirole was involved in a similar, if not as memorable, play during the second inning of the Texas Rangers' 10-3 win over the Yankees in Tuesday night's ALCS Game 4.
Macchirole said he didn't touch the ball until after the ball hit the cement. He also said he did not make contact with Cruz's glove. Replays seemed to indicate otherwise, but it appeared he never reached over the fence, which would make it fan interference.
"[Cruz] was yelling at me but I wasn't going to say anything," said Macchirole, who is a Penn State student from Middle Village, Queens. "It was a home run. I was celebrating the home run."
Right-field umpire Jim Reynolds called it a home run and stayed with the call after a brief argument by Rangers manager Ron Washington. Curiously, umpires did not go to a video replay to review the play.
During a television interview later in the game, Washington told TBS broadcasters that the umpires thought the fan hadn't "impeded" Cruz.
Two batters later, Lance Berkman hit a long shot down the right-field line that Reynolds originally ruled a home run. Washington argued and a group of umps went inside to look at replays, which clearly showed the ball hooked foul.
Moments later, the umpires returned to the field and reversed the call.
The now 27-year-old Maier's athletic career did not end as a 12-year-old in Yankee Stadium. He went on to play baseball and became Wesleyan University's all-time hits leader. After trying to break into professional baseball for a year, he sounded very satisfied at his current job as a middle school teacher and baseball and basketball coach in Massachusetts.
"Red Sox country," Maier said.
Maier, who gained national fame, credited his parents for keeping him grounded after all the publicity.
"It was clearly a defining moment in my life that could have not been particularly good for a 12-year-old boy," Maier said.
On Tuesday he was watching the game with brother Brian and sister Alison at Skip Mahoney's Bar & Grill at La Guardia Airport while waiting for a flight to North Carolina, when TBS analyst Ron Darling mentioned his name. They all laughed.
As for the controversial play in this ALCS, Maier thought the call was an easy one.
"It seemed pretty clear to me," Maier said. "I thought it was a home run."
As for Macchirole, he said he didn't have Cano's home run ball -- though reporters could see a ball stashed in his pocket. He said he and a friend left their seats and headed for the concourse for fear of getting kicked out of the ballpark.
Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.