Dustin Pedroia was out at second base. Forced out by a David Ortiz grounder in the first inning. Second base umpire Dana DeMuth was sure of it, the veteran arbiter hoisting his right arm to make the emphatic ‘out’ sign.
Trouble was, most of the 38,345 umpires in Fenway’s stands felt different, as did the five other umpires working with DeMuth. In the seconds immediately following the play, with Pedroia dusting himself off and heading back to the Sox dugout, the other five umpires began circling ‘round DeMuth.
“Oh, it’s awful,’’ said DeMuth, talking with a Globe reporter, the designated pool reporter Wednesday night, about the convergence of his fellow umps. “It’s an awful feeling, yeah. Especially when I’m sure I have the right call.
“But I’ve got to be part of a team here and get the right call . . . you know, definitely get the right call. When I see that [fellow umps coming over], it’s like, ‘O.K.’ But, yeah, it’s an awful feeling.’’
And so they came, headed by crew chief John Hirschbeck, along with Mark Wegner from first base, Paul Emmel from third, Bill Miller from the left field line and Jim Joyce from right. They wanted to talk. They had to talk.
The other umps saw it the way everyone else in the park saw it, the way a worldwide viewing audience witnessed it on Fox. Second baseman Matt Carpenter fielded the ball cleanly, tossed the ball toward Pete Kozma at second, where the ball glanced off Kozma’s glove and dropped straight to the ground. No doubt about it. The replay clearly showed Kozma never had possession of the ball.
“I stayed with the foot too long,’’ said DeMuth, explaining that he fixed his focus principally on Kozma’s foot “That’s how I ended up getting in trouble. My vision was on the foot. And when I was coming up, all I could see was a hand coming out and the ball on the ground. All right? So I was assuming . . .”
Had sound played a factor? Often umps tune their ear to hear the ball hitting a player’s glove in such force-out situations or plays at first base. Watch the foot, listen for the ball hitting glove.
“I am focused on the bag and I use my peripheral vision to see the ball go in the glove . . . or hit the glove,’’ DeMuth explained. ”When the ball hit the glove, then in my peripheral vision, then I am looking up and the ball is down.’’
At which point DeMuth was convinced of his call: runner out.
“Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely,’’ he said. “As I was saying, it was in the exchange, and he was out . . . and then with our crew signals, our crew signals . . . I had crewmates that were giving me the signal that they were 100 percent sure that I had the wrong call.”
John Farrell was convinced, too. The Sox skipper didn’t bolt straight from the dugout, all Earl-Weaver-bent-for-leather-like. But the stately manager soon enough made his way out to DeMuth to make his case.
“Yeah, I thought from the dugout view it was pretty clear that the ball just tipped off the fingertips of his glove,’’ said Farrell. “I think we are fully accepting of the neighborhood play, but my view was that it wasn’t even that. There was really no entry into the glove with the ball. And to [the umpires’] credit, they did confer.’’
They also conquered. Fairly quickly. The umpires, all six of them, went through the transaction. There was nothing left to do but wave off DeMuth’s initial call, restore Pedroia to second and call No. 5 hitter Mike Napoli to the plate. With one out and bases loaded, Napoli delivered a gap double and three runs came across — Ortiz circling all the way around from first when center fielder Shane Robinson added to the parade of horribles by mishandling the ball in deep left-center.
“As a crew, we want to get everything right,’’ explained Hirschbeck. “We want to be perfect on our job, whatever base we are on, whatever we are working. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. But the ultimate thing is, we want to get the play right.’’
According to Hirschbeck, the umps inside their huddle were “100 percent’’ certain that Pedroia was safe. Ultimately it was Hirschbeck who would tell everyone the call was reversed but, he stressed, it was a crew’s decision.
“We got together,’’ said Hirschbeck, “and everybody said, each guy, ‘what do you have?’ [And they said], ‘One hundred percent.’ Each said, ‘I’m 100 percent.’ And then they got to me and I said, ‘I’m 100 percent, too.’ So that’s why we decided to change it.’’
To no one’s surprise, Mike Matheny wasn’t happy how the night was going. He had every reason to feel his club was one out from getting off the field. Instead, Pedroia was back at second and he needed an explanation.
“That’s not a play that I’ve ever seen before,’’ said Matheny. “And I am pretty sure that there were six umpires on the field that had never seen that play before either. It’s a pretty tough time to debut that overruled call in the World Series. Now, I get they are trying to get the right call . . . I get that. Tough one to swallow.’’
Hirschbeck calmly made his case to the irked Cards skipper.
“I just explained to him — the same as I’ve said here — that five of us were 100 percent sure,’’ Hirschbeck told the pool reporter. “Our job is to get the play right. And that’s what we did. I said [to Matheny], ‘I know you are not happy with it, that it went against you, but you have to understand that the play is correct.
“And that’s really it. The rest is really just him being upset that the call went against him, and that’s understandable. But ultimately it’s correct.’’