Matt Holliday scored the winning run in Game 163 of the Colorado Rockies’ 2007 season. This would launch them into the National League Division Series, and then the National League Championship Series, and then even the World Series, where the Red Sox would halt their title aspirations in a mere four games. And none of that should have happened the way it did.
Matt Holliday scored the winning run in Game 163 of the Colorado Rockies’ 2007, but only because the umpire, Tim McClelland, blew the call. Back in 2007, where the HD television quality isn’t quite as wonderful as you remember it being, MLB wasn’t using video review. So, what the umpire said went as the call on the field, and McClelland eventually got to calling Matt Holliday safe for his slide into home plate in extra innings.
If you’re a Rockies’ fan (hi, Russ!) reading this, you’re probably pretty upset right now, but only because you know that there is no definitive proof that Holliday touched home plate 10 years ago, and having to face this guilt when you’re just trying to enjoy the 2017 Rockies is more than you want to handle.
Sure, the call went your way, but somewhere deep down, you know the Red Sox sweeping the Rockies was retribution from the baseball gods, a punishment for benefiting from the interference of an umpire who ended a game that seemed like it was never going to end, that would probably still be being played right now if not for that botched call because dear lord this game had everything but also was great mostly because it was terrible.
Enough about all that, I’m getting off track. Here’s a video of Holliday sliding toward home:
There is no camera angle included there that clearly shows Holliday touching the plate, and in fact, there is dirt thrown onto the plate where Holliday would have touched it — either dirt pushed up by Holliday’s body as it slid by instead of on the plate, or dirt kicked up by Michael Barrett’s aggressive leg plant prior to the play. You have to look fast to see it happen at around 54-56 seconds. Maybe Holliday got a hand in there! But it’s honestly impossible to tell from this angle.
And also from this angle, which was part of the TBS broadcast, but is also closer to definitive than the previous one:
It turns out that Holliday could not touch the plate, because catcher Michael Barrett is blocking it with his leg: that was still legal back then, and the video above even has Holliday thinking about colliding with Barrett just to open up a route for him to score. In motion, it’s even more obvious that Barrett had cut Holliday off from touching the plate:
Barrett planted his leg emphatically, and it’s convenient he did so because we can see that it’s blocking the plate. The plate Holliday allegedly touched with his hand, but instead, just got leg guard or cleat if anything. Holliday’s face got more of the ground than his hand did of the plate, and for some reason, that was enough for the home plate ump.
Well, really, the umpire paused because he didn’t know what happened: he wouldn’t call Holliday safe for another three or four seconds after the play, and you can tell based on that pause that he made his decision solely based on the ball being loose and Barrett scrambling for it since there had not yet been a call.
The problem is that Holliday not being tagged doesn’t mean he’s safe at the plate: he still needed to touch it for that to be the case. He avoided a collision with Barrett, who picked up the ball after Holliday slid by home with the intent to tag him before the ump could make a call, but finally, McClelland raised his arms to signify Holliday safe: all without anyone knowing if he actually did touch the plate.
You know where that above gif came from? It was footage TBS showed after Holliday scored, while the Rockies were all celebrating, and it included Don Orsillo — then the Red Sox play-by-play announcer taking a turn on the national scene for TBS — and Joe Simpson, known for his work calling Braves’ games. Those two neutral parties spent a significant chunk of the celebration and post-game discussing how it didn’t look like Holliday even touched the plate.
You can listen to that audio below in this YouTube video, but I’m also going to transcribe it in case that vanishes into the ether at some point. Jump to 1:15:37 for the audio in question (I don’t know why it won’t embed there, I tried OK).
Simpson: Let’s take a look and see if Holliday got the plate, Don. It looked like Barrett stuck his foot out there, and the bare hand [of Holliday]... right there... and the hand never got home plate!
Orsillo: It looked like [Barrett] went back to get [the ball] so he could tag [Holliday] out. McClelland... did not make the sign right away.
Simpson: No, he didn’t! He still hasn’t! He waited. Finally he said safe, but not until after Barrett got the baseball.
Simpson: Usually when that play occurs the umpire makes an instant call, so everybody knows. But when he didn’t, when he hesitated, it gave Barrett a chance to get the ball thinking he had a chance and had blocked him off the plate.
Orsillo: Absolutely correct, no sign until very late. None.
Simpson: I don’t know why the hesitation, but there definitely was one... and the Rockies have won 14 of their last 15 games to get to the postseason.
The reason Orsillo and Simpson went back to replay to try to explain the play, too, is that Orsillo’s initial reaction to the first replay was, “I’m not sure he ever got the plate,” to which Simpson replied, “I don’t know that he did, either. Barrett looked like he blocked him off the plate.” See, it’s not just me! I honestly didn’t even remember this part, likely because I was too busy storming around my living room yelling at Tim McClelland, but there it is.
This play is one of the reasons video review exists. It didn’t exactly push MLB towards review by itself, of course, but MLB and the Rockies don’t showcase the angles where it looks like Holliday might have been out because he never touched the plate in their celebratory look backs for a reason. It’s not a good look when your national announcers are concluding your big exciting Game 163 with, “Yeah? If you say so.”
Avoiding another one of these plays is why review exists now. Sadly, it also comes with weird call reversals on players who leave the bag at second for 1/16th of a second, but that’s a story for another day and writer because I don’t feel like covering that, I can’t do everything, you know.
Holliday’s slide would have been reviewed if the game were played in 2017 instead of 2007. It’s possible the call would have stood because there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it, but MLB’s review headquarters also has access to more cameras than TBS (or any station airing a game), so who knows: maybe there would have been a perfect overhead view out there that would have clearly showed Holliday did or did not touch the plate.
It would have been the latter, obviously, since Holliday did not touch home plate and the 2007 postseason is a lie, but hey.