It was a crisp October night in 1996 when 12-year-old Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier attended his very first playoff game at Yankee Stadium. Like any optimistic Little Leaguer, he made sure to bring his glove [source: Maier].
It was game one of the Yankees' best-of-seven American League Champion Series against the Baltimore Orioles, and none other than rookie sensation Derek Jeter — Maier's hero — was at the plate. Jeter swung hard at the first pitch, sending it soaring toward the right field wall.
Remembering the moment 18 years later, Maier says that he scrambled to the wall and stuck his glove out among a gaggle of other fans. The next thing he knew, the ball was rolling around at his feet, the crowd was roaring, and he lost the souvenir ball in the scrum. Upset over his missed opportunity, Maier was unaware of the explosive controversy playing out on the field.
Maier, as the instant replays clearly showed, had deflected Jeter's home run ball over the wall, essentially snatching it away from the waiting glove of Orioles' right fielder Tony Tarasco. Maier's fan interference should have waved off the homer, but umpire Rich Garcia ignored the in-your-face "explanations" of Tarasco, his teammates, and livid Orioles manager Davey Johnson, and stuck with one of the worst calls in Major League history.
Maier instantly became the most famous 12-year-old in America, beloved by Yankees fans and hated by just about everyone else. For diehard Orioles fans, his infamy never faded. A decade later, while playing college baseball, some serious grudge-holders pelted Maier with rocks [source: Maier].