Umpire Rich Garcia took the field last night at Camden Yards and took his medicine.
He said he knew when he arrived in Baltimore that he would get the Roberto Alomar treatment, so he was prepared for the worst when he trotted out to his position at third base for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Cheered wildly at Yankee Stadium one day, flip side at Oriole Park the next.
"Actually, the booing is going to feel better than the applause [in New York]," he said before the game. "We never get cheered. I was shocked."
ZTC Perhaps even a little embarrassed. The Yankees fans wouldn't have been cheering if they didn't think he had done them a favor. Orioles fans wouldn't be booing if they didn't feel he had stolen a golden opportunity for the club to win both games in New York.
Garcia long will be remembered in Baltimore as being the guy who gave Game 1 of the ALCS to the hated Yankees, turning a likely fly-ball out by rookie Derek Jeter into a disputed, game-tying home run in a game that the Yankees eventually won an extra-inning homer by Bernie Williams.
He failed to rule fan interference, then saw the video replay and realized -- along with a multitude of miserable Orioles fans -- that the ball would not have cleared the right-field fence on its own.
"Nobody feels worse than I do," said Garcia. "I had never had a controversial call in a postseason game. It hurts."
Orioles fans had to wonder how much it hurt when television cameras caught Garcia during Game 2 autographing newspaper photos of Jeff Maier, 12, reaching over the railing to pull Jeter's fly ball away from Orioles outfielder Tony Tarasco. But Garcia said it was a spur-of-the-moment thing that didn't indicate he was taking the situation lightly.
"Some kids asked me to sign their tickets, and one of them had a picture," he said. "Trust me, I took it seriously, and I still take it seriously. The last two days have not been the greatest days of my life, but I'm not going to walk out there with my head down. I'm a proud man. I've worked hard every day of the last 22 years, and I'm not going to put my head down after 22 years because of one play."
Some of the crowd's reactions last night were visceral. Some were clever. There was a group of fans wearing rainbow wigs who flashed signs that read "Garcia 3: 16," a humorous reference to the baseball rule governing fan interference and to that very visible sports fan who used to position himself in front of television cameras with a sign bearing a biblical citation.
Garcia took it all in stride, knowing that only time will heal what he felt was a positive relationship with the Orioles and their fans.
"I love Baltimore, I love the team and I love this stadium," he said. "I've just got to go out and do my job like I always do. I'm more accustomed to boos than cheers, so it won't bother me."
Pub Date: 10/12/96