Hey, New York, we can play by 'Bronx rules,' too


NEW YORK -- As the son of a Bronx native, allow your friendly local columnist to explain the meaning of the term, "Bronx rules."

When you knock down your opponent in a game of basketball, it's "Bronx rules."

When you drill a receiver in a game of touch football, it's "Bronx rules."

And when you reach over the wall to interfere with a potentially catchable fly ball in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, it's "Bronx rules."

The Orioles didn't get that call when a fan interfered with right fielder Mark McLemore on a controversial homer by Don Mattingly in 1993.

And they didn't get it last night when a 12-year-old New Jersey boy prevented Tony Tarasco from making a play on Derek Jeter's game-tying home run.

"I'd like to take him out somewhere," Jeter cracked after the Yankees' 5-4 victory over the Orioles in 11 innings.

The kid, Jeff Maier, will be on David Letterman any minute. He then will run for mayor of New York, and receive a ticker-tape parade.

Oh, NBC's Jim Gray couldn't wait to interview the little miscreant. Such an intrepid reporter, that Gray. TV critics no doubt will applaud his "hustle."

Way to go, Jim.

A kid who changed the outcome of a game is a hero.

"MVP! MVP!" fans in the lower deck chanted when they saw Maier appear on television monitors in an auxiliary press box.

"That's what you get for spitting on an umpire, Baltimore," one shouted.

The message?

Anything goes.

Bronx rules.

Frankly, the only suitable answer is for Orioles fans to respond in kind when the series moves to Camden Yards tomorrow night.

Drop your wine and cheese, and get dirty.

If your seats are in the front row in left field, make like young Jeff, and bring your fish nets and oversized gloves.

Better yet, donate your ticket to the nearest 7-footer you can find, and the first time the Orioles hit a long fly to left, watch him put Tim Raines in a headlock.

You want interference?

Baltimore can do interference.

Let's play by "Bronx rules."

The Orioles can complain all they want about the umpires and the security in right field, but it won't get them anywhere.

The only way to compete in this environment is to play near-perfect baseball. Get the clutch hits in the late innings. And stop giving away outs.

The Yankees' first two runs resulted from Orioles' misplays, which is why the score was only 4-3 when Jeter batted with one out in the eighth.

The Orioles went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. And Armando Benitez issued a two-out walk to Darryl Strawberry to force in a run.

"I always say that one play doesn't beat you in a ballgame, but this is about as close as you can come to one play beating you," manager Davey Johnson said.

Yet even Johnson had to admit the obvious. "It shouldn't have been that close," he said.

"We should have been up 7-3," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "We should have won the game early on."

Yes, right-field umpire Rich Garcia blew the call. He basically admitted it, too, saying Jeter should have been awarded only two bases.

The Orioles, of course, insisted that Garcia should have called Jeter out -- "a routine fly ball," Tarasco called it -- but how would the crowd have responded then?

"Do I have to answer that?" Garcia asked.

Laughter filled the packed interview room.

"That just goes to show you that we don't have time to think about that," Garcia said. "Those things happen. You would really like for the home team to lose on that. They're the ones that caused the situation."

But it didn't happen that way, did it?

Bronx rules.

"That's something that happens in a split second," Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson said. "I have no question that if he would have seen what happened, he would have called it."

But Garcia didn't see it, the game went to extra innings and Bernie Williams led off the 11th with his game-winning homer.

By then, Johnson was long gone -- Garcia ejected him in the prolonged argument that followed Jeter's homer.

Bench coach Andy Etchebarren argued another potential interference on a foul ball Tarasco attempted to catch in the ninth, also to no avail.

The Orioles announced they were playing the game under protest, but Johnson conceded he had "no hope" of winning.

"I didn't protest the call. I'm smart enough to know that you can't protest a judgment call," Johnson said.

"But we had a meeting before the game that because of people reaching around foul poles and reaching over fences, there would be security out there to prevent that.

"I could see from the dugout that he reached over the fence."

Still, Johnson had no way of knowing whether Maier was in his proper seat. What do the Orioles want, a police ring around the entire stadium?

They're not going to get it.

PTC They're not going to get any breaks here.

It's called home-field advantage, and the only way to fight back is with an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an extended arm for an extended arm.

The Yankees and their hoodlum fans would understand.

Approached by a reporter from The Sun after the game, young Jeff Maier looked at a family friend and said, "Oh no, Baltimore!"

You want interference?

Baltimore can do interference.

Let's play by Bronx rules.

Pub Date: 10/10/96

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