Friday, September 9, 2011

Marlins TV cameraman recalls giving umpire help on video replay

Florida Marlins TV broadcaster Craig Minervini did some reminiscing Monday night about Sun Life Stadium (that's where the Marlins play, silly, until their new park opens next season) and he talked to a TV camera operator who assisted an umpire with an instant replay review.

In 1999.

But wait, you say. MLB didn't adopt replay until 2008. Officially, that's right, but May 31 of '99, umpire Frank Pulli took it upon himself to use the electronic equipment at his disposal to make a final determination on a ball hit by Florida's Cliff Floyd that originally was ruled a home run.

After the St. Louis Cardinals argued that Floyd's hit hadn't cleared the convoluted-looking left-field fence at what was then called Pro Player Stadium, umpires got together and Pulli ? as no other umpire had ever done before, or has done since ? went over to the camera operated by John Touitou and asked him to have replays called up on his monitor.

This really happened. Pulli and Touitou aren't stargazing through a telescope in this exclusive video, which you need to watch:

Here's what Touitou said about it 12 years later:

"I was ... just doing my job. The umpire shows up at my camera position and tells me he wants to look at replay. So, when the umpire comes over to your camera position and wants something, you comply [laughs].

"It was an absolute shocker. The game was on national television. It was just a normal day and then, the next thing you know, I was on the cover of USA Today and ESPN. I got a lot of notoriety. It was a lot of fun."

Together, they went over the play and Pulli came away with an adamant reversal, taking a home run off the board.

"I didn't know instant replay was in the game," Floyd said at the time.

Man, I thought Joe West did some freelancing reviewing the Hunter Pence double!

I had forgotten about this moment in time, though a few blogs have referenced it ? even recently, as on Sports Fan Talking. The story definitely seems to get overlooked in the overall narrative of how replay has come about. But what umpires do now ? head off into a little room with a TV and a headset ? isn't far afield from what Pulli did in '99.

The Marlins (hey there, Fredi Gonzalez) protested Pulli's awesomely practical investigation, and although Major League Baseball came out against what Pulli did, the Fish were denied the protest. Because that's what MLB does ? it denies!

From USA Today:

[Then-] NL president Leonard Coleman denied the Marlins protest of Pulli's use of replay, saying even though it was incorrect that Pulli examined the video, changing the home run to a double was a judgment call ? and judgment calls can't be overturned through protest.

"I certainly agree with the Marlins' position that instant replays should not be allowed in the game," Coleman said, according to The New York Times.

Oh, that's such legalese. Did you notice how Coleman comes off regarding replay overall? He certainly agrees that replays should not be allowed in the game. What is this, the NFL? One more side note: "NL president." How quaint!

So, Charlie Manuel's protest regarding West and Pence should have no chance ? based on the Pulli precedent.

Looking back, it's amazing that it took MLB almost 10 years to re-work Pulli's ingenuity into a real system. But as Don Fehr (and others have said), Major League Baseball moves really slowly on stuff. Sometimes glacially so.

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