CARLTON FISK STOOD transfixed, gazing high and shuffling toward first base as his drive in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series soared into the Boston night. He began waving, trying to will the ball fair.
And then ...
Well, he had to wait. The ball that would send the Series to a decisive seventh game soared over the foul pole, and nobody — not the packed house at Fenway Park, not the millions watching on TV, not the umpires — could tell if it was fair.
Time to go to the replay booth.
OK, so it really didn't happen that way.
But can you imagine if it did? One of baseball's most memorable moments, a season and a championship all riding on what respective angles revealed from modern technology?
So much for the human element.
Such a scenario — no matter how unlikely — is now entirely possible, because Major League Baseball officials and the World Umpires Association ratified an agreement Wednesday for the use of instant replay. When it goes into effect still needs to be determined, but replay likely will be a part of baseball's landscape by Sept. 1.
Now, this is not a cry against instant replay. It's futile to stop progress, and the spate of missed home run calls this season indicates there is some help needed in getting some calls right.
What it is, though, is an observation of sadness. One of the game's great charms is how it symbolizes life, and one of
After all, reviewing home runs is only the beginning.
"It's like Pandora's box," Los Angeles Angels outfielder Garret Anderson told the Los Angeles Times. "Be careful what you wish for."
Couldn't have been summed up any better. It may be that a key moment in a key game might come down to a home run. And it may well be that the next time a Jeffrey Maier sticks his glove over the wall and turns an out into a home run — as a 12-year-old Maier did on Derek Jeter's tone-setting home run in the 1996 American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles — replay will right a wrong.
But what about the next time a Steve Bartman interferes with a catch in foul territory, as he did to Moises Alou and the Chicago Cubs in the 2003 National League Championship Series. Or what if a Don Denkinger egregiously blows a safe-or-out call to cost a team a title, as he did to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series?
Such calls are not subject to replay yet, but inevitably they will be. It's only a matter of time.
"That's just getting the foot in the door," Anderson told the Times. "Just like this happened with some questionable home run calls, something else will happen, a play at first, a play at second. It's not going to end."
For the record, most players and managers have indicated they are on-board with the use of replay in this limited fashion. And that's easy for them to say, because as A's manager Bob Geren intimated Friday, "how many calls are you really going to have? And the thing about our umps is they get most of the calls right anyway."
Indeed, they do. But one of the game's other fundamental realities is that it's steeped in failure, and umpires should not be immune. Blown calls, while more rare in this sport than any other, are as much a part of the game's tradition as peanuts and Cracker Jack.
Apparently, though, that's not a tradition worthy of being preserved. The drive to make an imperfect art impeccable is on with such force that an institution as pastoral as Little League already caters to replay.
At least those kids will be well-schooled in the thinking of the 21st century: When life's bad calls come your way, simply wait for replay to make things OK.