Inspired by Taylor Swift re-releasing her own songs as (Taylor’s version), Camden Chat writers will be spending the rest of 2023 re-releasing some Orioles game recaps and giving them better endings. Let’s imagine a world where instant replay did its job, and Nate McLouth rightfully received credit for a game-tying home run in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS. How might the game have unfolded from there?
Major League Baseball recognized early on that there is very little margin for error in the postseason. In an effort to strengthen the credibility of its officials, MLB placed two extra umpires in the outfield for the 1947 World Series. The six-man crew became a postseason staple designed to ensure the boys in blue get the call right.
Unfortunately, the human eye can still be deceived. When Nate McLouth sent a towering fly ball down the line at Yankee Stadium in tonight’s Game 5 of the ALDS, right-field umpire Fieldin Culbreth ruled the ball went foul.
Culbreth—placed in that position for moments just like this—made a mistake. Could he have been influenced by a traditionally hostile crowd at Yankee Stadium? Sure. Did Culbreth stand to receive a reward after the 2012 season if he earned MLB’s approval? Yes. (No, really. They promoted this guy after the series).
Fortunately for the Orioles, baseball knew it could not solely depend on guys like Culbreth. MLB instituted instant replay for boundary home run calls in 2008. O’s skipper Buck Showalter quickly shot out of the dugout after Culbreth botched the call, and the group called for a crew chief review.
The TBS broadcast initially showed an inconclusive replay. John Smoltz quickly admitted that he thought the ball was fair, but Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. bluntly stated “I thought it was foul.”
Could Ripken have been trying to avoid being labeled a homer early in his broadcast career? It’s possible. Could his blue eyes finally have failed him? It seems unlikely. Either way, it wasn’t up to Cal.
TBS eventually presented multiple enhanced replays that showed the ball changing direction when it contacted the pole. Crew chief Brian Gorman eventually rewarded McLouth with a game-tying home run.
The blast finally allowed the Orioles to break through against a dominant CC Sabathia. The 6-foot-6 lefty retired Baltimore’s lineup in order through the first three innings. McLouth managed a single in the fourth, but Sabathia appeared to have complete-game level stuff in a winner-take-all affair.
The Yankees struck first when Maryland native Mark Teixeira led off the fifth with a single, stole second, and scored on a knock to center by Game Three hero Raúl Ibañez. Still, Baltimore starter Jason Hammel kept the O’s in the game.
Sabathia appeared visibly rattled by the long replay delay and the call that followed. J.J. Hardy pounced on a first pitch fastball for a double to left-center, and Adam Jones stepped in with the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Jones got under the first pitch he saw and popped a ball to right. Baltimore’s center fielder stepped toward first base and began to blow a bubble in disgust. The ball continued to carry, and Jones allowed the gum to fall right from his mouth when the ball landed in the first row of the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore’s dugout exploded, and the Orioles suddenly held a 3-1 lead.
The Yankee bullpen began to warm, but Sabathia brushed off a conversation with catcher Russell Martin. Chris Davis followed Jones and dialed in on the heater right away. Davis launched a towering blast to secure a three-run advantage and chase Sabathia from the game.
Yankee fans, stunned by the overturned call and a quick unraveling from Sabathia, booed and even threw trash on the field in a scene that resembled the meltdown during the 2004 ALDS.
New York attempted a comeback with another run off Hammel and a solo shot against Baltimore reliever Troy Patton, but Jim Johnson slammed the door shut in the ninth inning. The Orioles defeated New York 4-3 and clinched a date with Detroit in the ALCS.
The victory provided the latest chapter in a Cinderella story for Showalter’s 2012 Birds.