October 9, 2012

Talkin' Jeffrey Maier with the Ballhawks

Sixteen years ago, Jeffrey Maier became a household name in both New York and Baltimore.

Alright, it might be a stretch to call dude a "household name", but the 12-year-old did, at the very least, get his fifteen minutes of fame.

You see, on October 9, 1996, Maier stuck his glove over the rightfield fence at Yankee Stadium and snared what would be a Derek Jeter home run ball.  It was that home run that tied up the game between the Yankees and Orioles and, ultimately, led to the Bombers having the chance to win the contest in extra innings.

And, as is customary when you're reminded of an incident like this (the Steve Bartman fiasco also comes to mind), you've gotta track down those who have "been there" and "done that" and no one epitomizes that more than baseball's premier ballhawk, New York native Zack Hample and Charm City's finest, fellow ballhawk, Tim Anderson.

HOVG:  Gentlemen, as guys spend part of your time at the ballpark trying to get your hands on baseballs...do you agree or disagree with what Jeffrey Maier did 16 years ago?

HAMPLE:  I totally disagree with what Jeffrey Maier did.

ANDERSON:  Do I agree with what he did...interfering with a ball that was in play? Absolutely not. I have never been presented with that exact situation during a game, but there have been a few times where I tracked a ball down the aisle and, as I realized it would be close to wall, made a conscious effort to make sure I was behind the wall.

HOVG:  But can you blame the kid?

ANDERSON:  Do I blame Maier for, at 12 years old, reaching out to catch a ball hit toward him? Not really. He was twelve and he didn't know; as much as I hate to say it.

HAMPLE:  I can't really blame him for interfering, though, because he was pretty young at the time, and it's only natural to reach for a ball in that situation. What bothers me about the whole thing is that (a) the ball clanked off his wrist and he has always been credited with "catching" it and (b) he has been glorified for breaking a rule that I've obeyed countless times over the years.

HOVG:  You've had something similar happen to you, Zack, have you not?

HAMPLE:  I was nearly ejected from Yankee Stadium in 1992 for ALMOST interfering. I was sitting in that exact same spot and reached over the wall for a deep fly ball off the bat of Joe Orsulak that I easily could've caught. At the very last second, I yanked my glove back, enabling Yankees right fielder Dion James to jump and make the catch...and I was STILL berated by security. As they were walking me out of the section, the highlight was shown on the jumbotron; I made them stop and watch it, and they saw for themselves that I pulled my glove back before the ball reached me. Only then did they allow me to return to my seat, so yeah, I'm pretty annoyed by the whole thing.

HOVG:  Tim, you're a fixture at Camden Yards.  Is Jeffrey Maier still a topic of conversation among Orioles fans?

ANDERSON:  Of course Maier is mentioned here around Baltimore and at Camden Yards, mostly to describe how a catch was made, or as a joke when something like it happens during the game. But it still hurts because who knows what the Orioles could have done if that call is overturned? Thank God we have redemption in 2012; this time with replay.

HOVG:  Is there anything teams can do to prevent something like what happened with Jeffrey Maier from happening again?

HAMPLE:  Ultimately, stadiums should just be built better to prevent fans from interfering. Just separate the stands from the outfield wall by a few feet a la Turner Field. That's all it takes. It's so easy. But it's rarely done.
Zack Hample has snagged 6452 baseballs at 50 different Major League stadiums since 1990. You can check out his website (The Baseball Collector) or follow him on Twitter at @zack_hample.

When Tim Anderson is not at Camden Yards, he is online contributing to both The Diamonds Edge and Baseball and Things.  You can find "Mr. Shagtastic" on Twitter at @TimmyWade94.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What bothers Zack is that Maier is gven credit for catching the ball when he really didn't ...yet Zack is given credit for 6400 baseballs ... over 3k of which were begged for ...not even hit ...lol . This year alone he boasts totals of over 600 of which only 1/3 were actually hit .