Japanese fans upset by call that helped USA win
TOKYO -- Japanese baseball fans were outraged over a controversial call in the World Baseball Classic that helped the United States beat Japan on Sunday.
With the score tied 3-3, Japan appeared to score the go-ahead run against Joe Nathan in the eighth when Akinori Iwamura flied to left with one out and the bases loaded. Tsuyoshi Nishioka tagged up from third and beat Randy Winn's throw home to give Japan a 4-3 lead.
Second base umpire Brian Knight ruled Nishioka safe but Team USA appealed the play, contending Nishioka left the base before the ball was caught, and plate umpire Bob Davidson overruled the call following a brief discussion with the other umpires.
It didn't appear Nishioka left before Winn made the catch on the television replay.
"It was a terrible call," office worker Shoichi Enomoto said a day after the game. "When you have the best players in the world competing, you should have better umpires. We were robbed."
Even Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi weighed in on the call.
"It clearly looked like we were going to win," Koizumi said. "It's a shame to lose on such a strange call."
Davidson is one of 22 major league umpires who lost their jobs in the 1999 labor dispute. He's now a minor league ump who fills in at the big-league level.
In the bottom of the ninth, Alex Rodriguez hit a bases-loaded, two-out single to give the United States a 4-3 victory in the opener of Round 2.
Several Japanese baseball commentators pointed out that Nishioka was shifting his weight to his front foot before the ball reached Winn's glove but that his back foot was still on the bag and Davidson might have been fooled by this.
Former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who manages Nishioka on the Japan Series champion Chiba Lotte Marines, was quoted in the Nikkansports newspaper as saying, "It was a bad call."
"I wanted to cry," former Hanshin Tigers manager Senichi Hoshin said. "[Sadaharu] Oh and his players did such a good job and to lose like that is devastating."
Japan will play Mexico on Tuesday before facing South Korea the following day in Anaheim.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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