Hey baseball fans! Can you spot the point at which this poignant wire story of true sportsmanship is interrupted by the classic needle-scratching-record sound effect?
PORTLAND, Ore. - With two runners on base and a strike against her, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University uncorked her best swing and did something she had never done, in high school or college. Her first home run cleared the center-field fence.
But it appeared to be the shortest of dreams come true when she missed first base, started back to tag it and collapsed with a knee injury.
She crawled back to first but could do no more. The first-base coach said she would be called out if her teammates tried to help her. Or, the umpire said, a pinch runner could be called in, and the homer would count as a single.
Then, members of the Central Washington University softball team stunned spectators by carrying Tucholsky around the bases Saturday so the three-run homer would count—an act that contributed to their own elimination from the playoffs.
Does it make their gesture less touching if one points out that the umpire's tough ruling here was totally ridiculous? Herewith, Official Rule of Baseball 5.10(c)(1):
If an accident to a runner is such as to prevent him from proceeding to a base to which he is entitled, as on a home run hit out of the playing field, or an award of one or more bases, a substitute runner shall be permitted to complete the play.
This has happened often enough for ordinary fans to be aware of it: if I asked the 11 guys in my fantasy league what the right ruling was, at least nine of them would know the right answer. (Granted, a bunch of them are Red Sox fans, so they'd remember the time Gabe Kapler tore his Achilles on Tony Graffanino's homer.) The reporter should have named and shamed the incompetent official, or at least thought to question a ruling that would have left Tucholsky flailing about indefinitely, with the game in limbo, a few feet from first base. After all, how the hell was CWU supposed to tag her out with the ball legally dead in the stands?