Missed call at first base negated tying run

Updated: August 4, 2003, 2:28 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Umpire Tim Welke admitted Sunday he probably missed a call at first base that cost the Colorado Rockies the tying run in a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates the day before.

Welke, the crew chief, called Colorado's Jay Payton out at first base to complete a game-ending double play in Pittsburgh's 1-0 victory Saturday. There were runners at first and third and one out when Payton came to the plate.

Replays appeared to show Payton beat the throw from second baseman Abraham Nunez. Welke said Payton probably was safe.

"Now I looked at the replays, and I know the replays aren't very good, but I don't get a second chance at it. It was a tough night sleeping last night," said Welke, a major league umpire for 21 years.

"Sure, I would have liked another whack at it. It was a close play, and I understand the situation. But every day you turn a new page. You have to."

The Rockies were livid Saturday, arguing that Payton was clearly safe. Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd said Sunday he filed a complaint with Major League Baseball.

"You hear people say that umpires don't care -- that was living proof," Rockies star Larry Walker said. "(Country singer) Ronnie Milsap could have made that call, and he's blind."

Welke, who was behind the plate Sunday, objected to Walker's comments.

"I totally disagree with that," Welke said. "Games are full of close plays and close pitches. As umpires, we get one shot at it, and you have to call it the way you see it. At the time, I thought absolutely it was the correct call. There was no doubt in my mind."

After the game, Colorado first-base coach Dave Collins said he could have made the correct call "from my hotel room."

"I don't know what happens when umpires make bad calls," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said, "but I know what happens to us: We get fired and sent to Triple-A."

Welke said he understood the Rockies' frustration. It was their third straight one-run loss, including a 12-11 defeat Friday in which the Pirates scored six runs in the ninth inning.

"Whatever happens out there, you want people to stay professional," Welke said. "I'm not going to answer a comment that maybe was made in the heat of the moment. I know sports are like that. I respect their will to win. I respect their effort.

"As an umpire -- and I can speak for my profession -- our goal is to have nothing to do with who wins or loses the game. Our goal is to judge the game fairly, to the best of our ability. As an umpire who's done this for a long time, I take a lot of pride in that."

None of that mattered to the Rockies.

"It was obviously predetermined that if we hit a groundball, it was going to be a double play, and everybody could watch the (postgame) fireworks show," pitcher Jason Jennings said Saturday. "It was probably the worst call I've seen all year."

The Rockies were still angry when they arrived Sunday at PNC Park.

"It wasn't even a bang-bang play," Jennings said. "It was obvious. I don't know how he could've missed the call."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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