Fan reached for ball at foul pole

Updated: October 9, 2003, 1:44 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A fan said he touched the ball hit by Boston's Todd Walker and disagreed with the home run call in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the AL championship series between the Red Sox and New York on Wednesday night.

Boston manager Grady Little was sure it was fair, and New York manager Joe Torre gave in after a brief discussion with the umpires.

Walker, meanwhile, praised the eyesight of home plate umpire Tim McClelland, who overruled the foul call by right-field umpire Angel Hernandez.

"McClelland obviously has better eyes than anybody on the field, including myself," Walker said. "He made a great call, from what I understand on the replays."

As Walker's drive headed toward the foul pole, the fan reached toward the ball, and right-field umpire Angel Hernandez signaled it was foul.

He was quickly overruled by home plate umpire McClelland after Boston manager Grady Little ran out of the dugout to argue and the Red Sox had a 3-0 lead.

"It was a foul ball by at least six inches," said Josh Mandelbaum, an 18-year-old from Fair Lawn, N.J. He said that after the ball hit his right palm, which was red, it dropped straight down and didn't hit the pole.

Then, he added, he was "almost" certain the ball would have been foul if he hadn't touched it.

It was Walker's fourth homer of the postseason.

"I didn't see exactly how it could be controversial at all," Little said. "We felt it was fair all the way and on my way out there Tim McClelland saw it the same way."

But some Yankees disagreed.

"I thought it was foul. The ball didn't make it to the pole," catcher Jorge Posada said. "There was a fan reaching over. That's what I saw from the plate."

Other New York players felt the same.

"A couple of my players said somebody reached out and touched it or it hit the railing," Torre said. "And when Tim McClelland tells me that three other umpires saw it the same way as he did, well, I said, I've got to walk away because I'm overruled at that point."

Josh said he was in the front row of the upper deck and simply reacted.

"A ball's coming my way, I reached out," he said.

His father, Phil, said he and Josh are diehard Yankees fans. But Phil said he didn't feel bad that his son may have contributed to a Boston run.

"No," he said. "Mussina's been pitching horrible."

Josh's involvement was reminiscent of the 1996 AL championship series opener, also in Yankee Stadium, when Jeffrey Maier, a 12-year-old fan, leaned over the right-field wall, above Baltimore right fielder Tony Tarasco and caught a fly ball in the eighth inning.

Derek Jeter was given a tying home run on the play, and New York went on to win on Bernie Williams' home run in the 11th.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press