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Who needs instant replay? Call gives baseball a buzz again

The best thing about instant replay is that it’s so, well, instant.

If baseball had it, the Los Angeles Angels more than likely would have been up at the plate once again Wednesday night before Doug Eddings ever had a chance to make another clenched fist.

Why bother, though, when one low pitch may become the most watched, most debated – and most overanalyzed – third strike in the history of the game?

Mistakes happen. Sometimes they seem to happen for a reason.

Before Eddings gave fans a reason to care, all the squeeze plays and sacrifice bunts weren’t enough to entice them to pay attention to this snoozer of a playoff series.

Throw in some controversy, though, and watch the ratings soar.

There’s no instant replay in baseball, but there’s plenty of replays everywhere else. By now, surely every living American has watched A.J. Pierzynski’s dash to first base.

Manager Ozzie Guillen wasn’t about to let anyone know he secretly appreciated the gift from umpire Eddings.

&#8221I don’t need the controversy thing,“ he said.

Guillen might not, but baseball surely does. Last year at this time the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were in the middle of a pennant series for the ages. They had history on their side and they had stars to watch.

This year all the American League had was one team with an identity crisis against another with a severe inferiority complex. The Angels couldn’t figure out what town they were playing in, while the White Sox were constantly reminded they weren’t the lovable Cubbies.

On the field they were two teams with personalities that mirrored each other, clubs built on small ball and pitching and kept together by strong-willed managers. Take away a couple of stars and they could switch uniforms and nobody would notice.

That all changed when the unlikely trio of Eddings, Pierzynski and Josh Paul met around home plate in the ninth inning of a 1-1 game. There were 41,013 fans in the stands in Chicago and 40,000 of them likely didn’t know who Paul was, couldn’t spell Pierzynski if they were spotted the &#8221z“ and the &#8221y“ and wouldn’t recognize Eddings without his ball and strike clicker.

Now the three names will likely become a part of baseball lore.

Sure, the argument can be made that instant replay would have solved this one. But it’s a lot more fun to put humans out there, take your chances and, hopefully, live to play another day.

And that comes from the losing manager.

&#8221I don’t think the replay is anything that we should bring into the game,“ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

The key, of course, is whether the pitch thrown to Pierzynski bounced before finding its way into Paul’s glove. Replays seem to show Paul caught it, and the backup catcher must have thought he did because he rolled the ball back toward the mound.

Behind the plate, though, Eddings wasn’t so sure. He stuck out his right arm then clenched a fist in what seemed to everyone who has ever played or watched the game to be an out call.

Turned out it was something else. &#8221My strike three mechanic,“ is how Eddings explained it.

Baseball players know a lot about mechanics. They talk about them all the time. Some even have their own to fix their Escalades and Mercedes.

This is probably the first time any of them cared about an umpire’s mechanic.

&#8221Customarily, if the ball is in the dirt, say if we block a ball for strike three, they usually say, ‘No catch, no catch, no catch,“’ Paul said. &#8221And I didn’t hear any of that. That’s why I was headed back to the dugout.“

While Paul headed toward the dugout, Pierzynski headed for first. Eddings’ five colleagues, meanwhile, quickly moved in to take his back.

A stolen base and a hit later and the White Sox had won Game 2, guaranteeing that Eddings the ignominy of becoming the most infamous umpire since Don Denkinger’s blown first base call allowed Kansas City to come from behind in the ninth inning of Game 6 and eventually beat the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series.

Eddings probably didn’t sleep well after the game, and he likely had to make sure he checked his cell phone and didn’t take any late night calls from anyone with a 714 area code.

Commissioner Bud Selig, though, had to be ecstatic. Selig has resisted instant replay, insisting the game needs a human element even if the calls go bad.

Turns out he was right. Twenty years after Denkinger gave the Royals a second chance, another blown call gives the Angels and White Sox another chance to impress.

Instant replay works. No replay works even better.

Fans were talking about it Thursday in offices and workplaces around the country. Talk radio was full of it, and TV kept showing it. Hollywood celebs were on the phone with agents trying to line up tickets to Friday night’s Game 3 just down Interstate 5 in Anaheim.

Because of a call that wasn’t, baseball has a buzz once again.

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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