Further Review Column
By Ken Cohen
I watched with amazement when Yankee outfielder DeWayne Wise faked catching a foul ball Tuesday night in New York’s victory over Cleveland.
If you’ve been living in a cave and have not seen the play or the replay, here’s what happened. In the top of the seventh inning, Clevelands’ Jack Hannahan hit a looping pop fly near the left field stands. A charging Wise got his glove on the ball and then fell over the railing into the stands, where he remained out of sight for a few seconds.
He then reappeared holding his glove up like he caught the ball. Umpire Mike DiMuro did not ask to see the ball in Wise’s glove and called Hannahan out.
The television replay clearly showed that the ball popped out of Wise’s glove and a fan a few seats away picked it up. In fact, the fan, unlike Wise, actually held the ball up for everyone to see. Everyone except, DiMuro, who later admitted he erred in not asking Wise to present the ball.
While it’s shocking that a major league umpire could completely miss a play like this, it’s sad that professional athletes have no problem doing whatever it takes to win, even if it involves deceit and outright cheating.
Wise said he didn’t do anything wrong, that the umpire never asked to see the ball and he just got up and ran off the field. He said any other player would have done the same thing.
That’s true and that’s what is bothersome. I come from a golf perpsective where players call rules infractions on themselves. In fact, sometime we go out of our way to call a penalty even if we’re not sure that a transgression has occurred.
For example, if I’m about to hit my ball and it I sense that it moves, I have to call a penalty shot on myself. And 99 percent of all golfers will do without hesitation.
I remember a tournament I played in when after the competition was over and while I was driving home, I discovered that my score was wrong. Instead of a six on one hole I made a seven and my score should have been 78, not 77, which was the cut for qualifying. I immediately called the tournament officials and notified them of my error, essentially disqualifying myself.
Yes, I turned myself in and though it was disappointing to not qualify, it was rewarding to have a clear conscience. That’s why golf is called a gentleman’s sport.
Of course, the players are the referees in golf and that’s a big difference from other sports. But what would have been so wrong if Wise got up and showed that he didn’t have the ball? So Hannahan would have got another chance to hit the same scenario had the ball gone five rows into the stands.
How can honesty be that shameful in sports? Is the desire and pressure to win so great that we are sacrificing our basic tenets of human decency? That we are telling our youth that you can break commandments and ignore every moral code you learn at home, in school or houses of worship as long as you win the game.
It’s ironic that Wise is the same guy who saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009 with a spectacular -over-the-wall catch in the ninth inning. Everything about his phantom catch Tuesday was imperfect.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.