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The 1996 ALCS, Game 1 (Camden Chat’s version)

A tight series opener was nearly ruined by some shoddy umpire work, but fortunately the newly-introduced review system helped the Orioles to a deserved win.

Baltimore Orioles’ right-fielder Tony Tarasco(L) d Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

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 come up with a more pleasant outcome for Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, because how it actually ended was far less enjoyable.


It doesn’t get much closer than that. The Orioles were able to outlast the Yankees, thanks in large part to MLB’s swift implementation of replay review prior to the playoffs, and take control of the ALCS with a 4-3 win in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium.

The win would require a modest comeback on the Orioles’ part as it was the Yankees that got on the board first this evening in the Bronx. Tim Raines led off the bottom of the first inning with a double off of O’s starter Scott Erickson. A groundout from Wade Boggs moved him to third before Bernie Williams knocked him in with a groundout of his own.

RBI ground outs would be something of a theme early on. The Orioles knotted the score at one run apiece in the bottom of the second. Cecil Fielder opened the frame with a walk. A fielding error from second baseman Roberto Alomar gave the Yanks two runners on with no outs. But Erickson battled back. He got a fielder’s choice off the bat of Mariano Duncan to put runners on the corners with one out. A Jim Leyritz groundout scored Fielder but prevented a big rally, and eventually Raines flew out to end the inning with the home team back up by just a run.

That lead wouldn’t last long as Brady Anderson did what he’s been doing all summer long and smacked a home run in the top of the third to even the game back up at 2-2.

The Orioles would grab their first lead of the day in the top of the fourth inning, when Rafael Palmeiro led off the frame with a solo homer of his own to right field, making it 3-2 in favor of the Birds.

Erickson started to cruise a bit for the Orioles. Between the third and sixth innings he didn’t allow any runner beyond second base. It wasn’t a dominant performance as the Yankees were still managing to sprinkle in singles here and there, but they weren’t hitting the O’s starter particularly hard either.

Meanwhile, the O’s were able to add to their lead against Andy Pettitte. A lead off walk for Palmeiro in the top of the sixth inning set the stage for an important insurance run. Cal Ripken Jr. moved him to second with a one-out single. A walk for Eddie Murray loaded the bases, and then B.J. Surhoff knocked in Palmeiro with a sac fly to center field. The 4-2 advantage for the O’s felt huge.

New York was finally able to get Erickson out of the game in the seventh. A walk for Boggs and a double for Bernie Williams was enough for O’s manager Davey Johnson to pull the plug on his starter. First he turned to lefty Jesse Orosco. He did his job by striking out Tino Martinez and then intentionally walking Fielder to load the bases ahead of Charlie Hayes. That’s where the chess match started.

Johnson once again went to his bullpen, calling on Armando Benitez to face Hayes. Joe Torre countered by pinch hitting Darryl Strawberry. But ultimately the hitter may not have mattered too much as Benitez couldn’t find the strike zone enough and walked Strawberry to score Boggs and inch the Bombers within a run.

Then...the drama!

By far the most consequential portion of the game came in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out and the O’s clinging to a one-run lead, Derek Jeter took a Benitez offering deep to right field. O’s outfielder Tony Tarasco, who had just been brought into the game as a defensive replacement for Bobby Bonilla, made his way to the warning track and camped under the long fly ball. But before he could record the out, a glove came from the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. Some kid—surely, we will never know his name because why would we—got a little too eager and swiped the ball away.

Since this is the playoffs, MLB places umpires on each foul line. The man assigned to the right field job for this game was Rich Garcia. He immediately indicated that it was, in fact, a home run. That ruling sent Tarasco into a rage and led to a handful of Orioles, including Benitez and Johnson, to descend on Garcia and (loudly!) question the call.

Luckily, these are modern times and we have technology that makes this circumstance much easier to rectify. It’s almost the 21st Century, folks! We are doing the Macarena, our economy is Beanie Baby-based, and the Nintendo 64 is a technological wonder. There is no need to argue! So instead, Johnson and the Orioles issued a challenge, part of the new system MLB implemented for these sorts of “boundary calls” just ahead of the playoffs. It was somewhat inspired by the system used by the defunct USFL that allowed appeals by each team.

Fortunately, the broadcast on NBC had a great angle of the incident. It made it clear that this unknown young fan had reached well into the field of play and taken away what would have been a straightforward catch for Tarasco. The review process took just a minute or two before the umpires ruled Jeter out and the Orioles regained their one-run lead.

Benitez stayed in the game, allowed a single to Raines but then retired Boggs on an easy groundout to escape the inning without damage and bringing all of the momentum into the Orioles dugout.

The O’s were unable to score again in the top of the ninth, but that was of little concern. Johnson opted for his closer, Randy Myers, to wrap up a Game 1 win, and that’s exactly what he did. After a Williams single he would get Fielder to ground into a double play and then induce a fly ball from Strawberry to send the Yankee Stadium crowd home disappointed and the Orioles up 1-0 in the ALCS.

Chalk this one up as a win for technology. The replay of the Jeter home-run-that-wasn’t was quick and obvious. No party can be upset as the determined outcome was faithful to reality rather than the oddities of angles and perspective. The Orioles won this game because they deserved to, and that entirely random young man in the Yankee Stadium bleachers can now recede into obscurity as he should.

Game 2 is tomorrow, a matchup of veteran hurlers: David Wells vs. David Cone. First pitch is set for 3:07 in the Bronx. A win for the Orioles would be quite the coup as they then head to the friendly confines of Camden Yards for Game 3-5. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


Who is the Most Birdland Player of Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS (Camden Chat’s version)?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Scott Erickson (W, 6.1 IP, 2 ER)
    (18 votes)
  • 58%
    Rafael Palmeiro (3-for-3, HR, 3 R, 2 BB)
    (44 votes)
  • 5%
    Armando Benitez (1.1 scoreless innings)
    (4 votes)
  • 12%
    Brady Anderson (2-for-5, HR, 1 BB)
    (9 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now