Under Protest: Highlighting the Most Infamous Protested Games

This weekend, the Phillies lost a game to the Marlins that was played under protest.  I'm not going to get into the specifics of this particular protest (for that, you can check out this article which gives a concise explanation of why the protest may or may not be upheld), instead, what I would like to do, is give you a summary of the protested game rules and highlight the history behind the phenomenon that is the protested game.

The official 4.19 "Protesting Games" rule states that:

"Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpire’s decision is in violation of these rules. No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire. In all protested games, the decision of the League President shall be final.
Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning the game.

Comment: Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play. A protest arising on a game-ending play may be filed until 12 noon the following day with the league office."

So, protested games are only appropriate in cases where there was a misapplication of a particular rule took place (not judgment decisions), the protest must be made at the time that the play occurred and the protest will only be upheld if it is determined that the call in question adversely affected the protesting teams chances of winning the game (the League President has the final say on protested games).  Further, yet not indicated above, if the protest is upheld, the game will be replayed from the point that the call was made.

Upheld protests and resumed games are very rare.  There are three things that have to happen in order for an upheld protest to come to fruition.  First, a valid protest has to be made on the spot.  Second, the protesting team has to lose the game. Third, the League President has to determine that the protest is valid.  If a protest is validated, the game is resumed.  Surprisingly, the Phillies have been involved in a lot of protested and resumed games.  Probably more than any other team in baseball.  Of the fourteen resumed games listed at here, at retrosheet.org (an unofficial and admittedly incomplete list of resumed and protested games), the Phillies are listed as participants in six of them.

The last upheld protested game occurred in 1986 (the Pirates protested a 4-1 loss to the Cardinals that was called in the 6th inning due to rain; it was ruled that the crew chief did not wait long enough to call the game and the game was resumed from the 6th inning... the Pirates still lost).  There have been a handful of games protested due to improper handling of weather related delays/events.  One of the most famous weather-related protested and resumed games occurred in 1943 (PHI @ STL).  With the score 1-0 in the middle of the seventh, in favor of St. Louis, the game was called due to rain.  The Phillies protested saying that the field was not properly covered and the protest was upheld.  The Phillies scored two runs in the final frames and one run win for the Cardinals became a two run loss.

One of the more controversial protested games occurred in 1947 between the St. Louis Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers.  In the top of the 9th with the Cardinals ahead 2-0, Ron Northey hit a ball to the wall in deep right-center field.  Dodgers CF Pete Reiser made an unsuccessful attempt to catch the ball and as he did, one of the umpires signaled to Northey that it was a home run.  Northey went into a "trot" and the right fielder came over, fielded the ball and gunned down Northey at home plate.  The game was protested at that point and the Dodgers went on to score three runs in the bottom half of the 9th to win the game.  Ford Frick, NL President, ruled in favor of the protest and awarded Northey with a home run but also decided to let the 3 runs that scored in the bottom half of the inning to count, so the game officially ended in a "tie" and all of the statistics were to count, with the exception of the "winning" and "losing" pitchers of record.  The game was eventually replayed, with the Dodgers winning.

Another memorable protested game was the second game of a double-headers between the Dodgers and Phillies in 1947.  At the time, Philadelphia had a 7:00 curfew on Sunday games, which meant that all Sunday games had to end by 6:59.  The Phillies won the first game of the double-header 4-0 and were tied 4-4 after 6 innings in the second game as the curfew neared.  As luck would have it, the Dodgers would score a run in the top of the 7th so the Phillies started to adopt delay tactics, hoping that the inning would not be completed and the game would revert back to a six inning tie.  At that point, the game turned into a travishamockery.  The Phillies took their time, changing pitchers and quickly the Dodgers realized what was going on.  To counter, the Dodgers had their players slow trot for steals, yet the Phillies made no attempt to pick them off.  The Dodgers batters swung at balls out of the zone, including once on an intentional walk and the top of the inning would finally end on an slow-trot attempt to steal home (the Phillies finally succumbed and tug the runner out).  The first batter in the bottom of the 7th could not find his bat, creating a delay and then with the count 2-1, the clock struck 6:59 and the game was called.  The next day, Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that the game was to be resumed with the Phillies player at bat in the bottom of the 7th and the Dodgers leading 5-4.  Frick, called the game "a farcial exhibition which was a disgrace to baseball and a complete travesty of all the rules of sportsmanship."  The Dodgers ended up winning that game 7-5.

And finally, the most memorable resumed protested game occurred July 24, 1983.  The game is commonly referred to as the "Pine Tar Game."  George Brett hits a go-ahead 2 run home run for the Royals in the bottom of the ninth before Billy Martin, manager for the Yankees, chimed in about the amount of pine tar that was on Brett's bat.  The umpires measure the amount of pine tar on the bat against home plate and determine that it did, indeed, violate MLB Rule 1.10(c) which stated that "a bat may not to be covered by such a substance more than 18 inches from the tip of the handle."  After a lengthy discussion by the umpires to figure out how the situation was to be rectified, they called Brett out for hitting an illegally batted ball.  Cue Mr. Hyde... Brett's mad dash from the dugout is still considered one of the most memorable moments in baseball history.  The Royals protested the game and Lee MacPhail, AL Commissioner at that time, ruled in favor of the Royals, stating that the ruling on the field went against the spirit of the rule itself (the punishment didn't fit the crime - the rule, he said, was put in place for economic reasons and not to protect against an unfair advantage, since pine tar on the ball renders it useless).  The Yankees were furious, the New York fans were furious, George Brett was suspended and yet, baseball had one of its marquee moments.


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