The Colorado Rockies, our very own Major League Baseball team born in 1993, is a relatively new thing here. (The Cincinnati Reds, by comparison, go all the way back to 1866.) So, some Rockies fans can be forgiven for not knowing one of baseball’s commandments: “Thou shalt not interfere with a home-team player leaning into the stands to catch a foul ball.” Of course, this does not apply to a visiting team player leaning into the stands to catch a ball hit by one of our boys. By all means, it’s your duty to defend against that.
On Friday, June 14, a sin was committed against that commandment by a Rockies fan at Coors Field in a game against the San Diego Padres. I say, a Rockies fan because the man was wearing a Rockies jersey bearing the name and number (19) of Charlie Blackmon on the back.
Compounding the felony was the game situation. It was the top of ninth with one out, a man on first and the Rockies leading the Padres 11-7. Padres slugger Hunter Renfroe hit a high foul pop up beyond first base just past the Rockies dugout. First Baseman Daniel Murphy approached the stands to make the catch but was blocked by the so-called fan who caught the ball himself, right by the railing. I’ll give the guy credit for a nice catch, without a glove. And it seemed he made the play to impress his girlfriend sitting next to him.
But what happened right after that was tragic.
Instead of what would have been the second out, Renfroe blasted a 459-foot home run to left center off Rockies reliever Mike Dunn. Wade Davis then came in to replace Dunn, gave up two more runs, blew the save and the Rockies went on to lose, by the score of a slow-pitch softball game, 16-12 in extra innings.
It brought back bitter memories of the infamous 2003 “Steve Bartman incident” at Wrigley Field in Chicago during the National League Championship Series. The Cubs lead the Florida Marlins 3-0 with one out in the eighth inning and were ahead in games 3-2. Cubs outfielder Mosiés Alou was about to make a catch in foul territory near the fence down the left field line when a fan, Bartman, reached for the ball, deflected it and kept Alou from making the play.
Again, tragedy followed. The Marlins went on to score 8 runs in the inning, won the game and then eliminated the Cubs in game 7 the next day. It kept the Cubs from winning their first National League pennant since 1945 and going on to the World Series. Bartman had to be escorted out of the ballpark for his own safety and became a hated man in Chicago thereafter.
Growing up in New York City in the 1950’s as a Yankees fan, I learned early on that savvy fans are obliged to give a Yankee player ample space to catch a ball leaning into the stands and then cushion his safe landing in the first row seats. It would be unwise to bust up his catch and leave yourself at the mercy of enraged Bronx homeboys at Yankee Stadium.
For Rockies fans, what’s done is done in that Padres game. But let’s make this a teaching moment for the future. Sure, it’s nice to catch a ball at a baseball game, but they sell them at the souvenir store. If you’re a true fan, helping the team win the game is a higher priority. That’s why you cheer the boys on, isn’t it?
On the subject of cheering. Chicago Cubs fans that packed Coors Field when the Cubbies came to town a week ago painfully reminded me of Oakland fans during their glory days when the Raiders played the Broncos in Denver. They’d obnoxiously make a point of cheering and screaming too long and too loudly just to annoy Bronco fans. I thought Cubs fans had more class. The ones that sat behind me sure didn’t.
One more thing. Contrary to some faddish sportswriters and broadcasters, it’s still RBIs not RBI. That abbreviation is treated as a compound noun. That’s why when it’s more than one we say “ribbies.” Similarly, for multiple prisoners of war, it’s POWs, not POW. The plural for Attorneys General is AGs not AG. Your wife’s two parents are “in laws.” Likewise, it’s “two time outs left” or TOs, not “times out.”
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.