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Only in New York: 12-Year-Old Sends the Yankees to World Series

By Martin Duke
sports columnist

Only in baseball and only in New York can a little kid change the complexion of an entire playoff series. I am, of course, referring to Jeff Maier, the 12-year-old from New Jersey who was celebrating his bar mitzvah in the Yankee Stadium right field stands that night.

In case you missed it, in game one, Maier reached over the wall to field a deep Derek Jeter shot, deflecting the ball from the glove of a waiting Tony Tarasco and into the stands. The umpire, despite being in pretty good position, blew the call and called it a home run.

The Orioles, quite justifiably, went ballistic, but the pseudo-homer tied the game to set up a Bernie Williams 11th-inning homer. It is fair to say that the Baltimore Orioles would have won the first game if the Jeter shot had been called correctly.

True, bad calls are a part of the game, but imagine how much the feeling of the series changes if it goes back to Baltimore with the Orioles up 20 instead of tied at 1. We might have had a different American League champion.

It's time for instant replay in baseball - it couldn't possibly take as much time as the argument they had last night.

A star is born

There were three stars born when Maier became the youngest person ever to win a game for the Yankees. One was Maier of course, who capped his 15 minutes of fame with an appearance on Regis and Kathie Lee. Of course, since it was New York, the man who came up with the ball wouldn't give it to the young hero.

Lost in all this is that Maier interfered with the ball, which is grounds for ejection from any stadium. They announce it every night.

The second star is umpire Rich Garcia, who is famous for all the wrong reasons. Although he refused to admit that Tarasco would have caught the ball - a clear sign of poor judgment - he at least had a sense of humor about his predicament, saying, "Only I could get in trouble in right field."

The only undeniably good thing to come out of this fiasco, though, is that it set the stage for heroics by Bernie Williams, who is the most underrated centerfielder in the game. This is surprising given that he plays in New York and he isn't in the shadow of some other star. Nevertheless, the Puerto Rico native, who turned 28 last month, has shown steady improvement over his six-year career.

With his solid defense in center, Williams had become the Yankees' MVP, always delivering the key hit or backbreaking catch, until Cecil Fielder arrived and changed the offense.

And the Emmy goes to

NBC for its announcers and Fox for its overall coverage. I can't remember a broadcast team better than Costas/Morgan/Uecker. With Morgan's knowledge of the game, Uecker's humor, and Costas's combination of both combined with his interesting opinions, they are the most complete team of the year.

They make every pitch interesting by pointing out the dynamics of the pitcher/hitter contest, opening up a facet of the game previously open only to the dedicated fan.

On the other hand, Fox's innovations in sports broadcasting continue. I just don't understand how the score window hasn't become universal in sports coverage. Sounds, statistics, and the game are best presented on the baby network. If they could get the NBC team for the World Series, I would be in heaven.

Monday night madness

Green Bay's 2320 overtime victory over San Francisco in Lambeau field was certainly the biggest game of the first half of the season. It was billed as a playoff preview, and it almost certainly is, but there are far greater implications for home field advantage in the playoffs.

Assuming the Redskins fade and Green Bay maintains its position in the standings, the Packers may have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since the 1967 Ice Bowl, when Bart Starr lunged over the goal line in the closing seconds produce a 2117 win over the Cowboys, catapulting them to Super Bowl II.

Monday's outcome is important because Green Bay would much rather play mid-January's NFC Championship in Lambeau Field - where the wind chill factor will be about -45F - than in sunny, mild San Francisco, or relatively tropical Dallas.

If the Packers can overcome the potentially devastating injury to receiver Robert Brooks and maintain home field advantage, nothing will stop them from going to the Super Bowl.