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This Day in Yankee History: The Jeffrey Maier Game

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A 12-year-old became the unwitting star of a postseason series

Jeffrey Maier leaves Yankee Stadium as fans cheer him on aft Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The 2020 postseason is under way! The Pinstripe Alley team is going to continue to keep these daily posts that highlight a few key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

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Game One of the ALCS was always going to be a notable one. The Yankees and Orioles squared off in a matchup of division rivals, with New York on the first leg of what would become one of the sport’s great dynasties. The series opener was pushed back a day after torrential rains, and first pitch came just after four in the afternoon.

You know what game I’m talking about, and you can probably replay in your mind the entire, famous sequence. Derek Jeter hits a flyball just short of the right field wall. Tony Tarasco settles under it, and it’s just another out late in a critical ball game. Only, of course, that’s not quite what happened.

Maier, a 12-year-old Yankee fan, reaches over the wall. He doesn’t actually catch the ball outright - more proof of the fallibility of memory - but the deflection carries the ball over the fence, and the game is tied.

Tarasco immediately indicts Maier for interference, and proceeds to absolutely lose it on umpire Rich Garcia:

Despite a mob of Orioles rushing out to the warning track to continue to protest the call, the home run stood, and a preteen became Public Enemy #1 in Baltimore.

The funny thing about that home run is the Orioles still could have won the game! They played three more innings, as this game wasn’t decided until the eleventh. In each inning, they put men on base, including two on with only one out against an as-yet-mortal Mariano Rivera. The Yankees would take advantage of Baltimore’s stagnation, and end the game on a Bernie Williams walkoff home run:

The Orioles would win Game Two, before dropping three straight back home to bow out of the series. It’s one of baseball’s great what-ifs: how much would a dynasty have changed if Maier’s seats were one section over?

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We thank Baseball-Reference and Nationalpastime.com for providing background information for these posts.