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A Brief History of Upheld Protests

After the Indians won the game last night with a little help from their guardian Angel, someone on my Twitter commented that if the A's protested they thought the league would have to uphold the protest. Wait, I thought. There have been so many terrible calls over the years that haven't been overturned, surely they won't overturn this one? And apparently the A's couldn't protest anyway in this instance because the call was already reviewed on Instant Replay. Still, I wondered, what does it take for them to actually uphold a protest? Thus I went down the rabbit hole.

According to Retrosheet, there have been 14 Major League games that have had to be resumed over the years because a protest was upheld. Many of them are for reasons related to umpire handling of rain delays, somewhat surprisingly, though there are some more bizarre stories in there, too.

St. Louis at Pittsburgh, 16 June 1986 (resumed 18 June)

The game was called due to rain in the 6th with the Pirates ahead after only a 22 minute rain delay. The Cardinals argued that the umpires had to wait 30 minutes, and the head of the NL agreed and ordered the game resumed. The Cardinals eventually won 4-2.

Kansas City at New York Yankees, 24 July 1983 (resumed 18 August)

The infamous "Pine Tar Incident". George Brett hit an apparent 2-run homer with 2 outs in the Top of the 9th to put the Royals up 5-4. However, after the Yankees objected that Brett had pine tar too far up his bat, the umpires inspected the bat and ruled that it was violation of a very obscure rule. They called Brett out, giving the game to the Yankees. Brett went spectacularly ballistic. The AL President later upheld the Royals protest despite the umpires technically being correct, saying they weren't "within the spirit of the rule." When the game resumed a few months later, the Yankees attempted to appeal that Brett hadn't touched first or second, but the umpire produced a signed affidavit that Brett had touched all the bases. Dan Quisenberry closed out the Yankees to preserve the Royals win.

Houston at New York Mets, 21 August 1979 (resumed 22 August)

With the Mets up 5-0, Jeffrey Leonard flew out to LF to apparently end the game. However, the Mets SS had apparently asked for time before the pitch and the 3B ump granted it, so the umpires said the pitch didn't count and had to call the Mets back to the field. Leonard then singled. However, the Mets manager pointed out that their first baseman Ed Kranepool was still not on the field and they should have been allowed to have the full compliment of players. The umpires once again ruled the pitch did not count and brought Leonard back to hit again and he flew out again. The NL President was at the game and ruled that the single should have been allowed. The game was resumed the next day and the next batter immediately grounded out.

Atlanta at Montreal, 15 May 1975 (resumed 20 July)

Umpires called the game due to rain in the 4th, cancelling out a 4-1 Braves lead. Even after a 1 hr delay the league upheld the Braves' protest that the umpires didn't wait long enough and didn't test the field. The Braves hung on two months later for a 5-4 win.

Cincinnati at Milwaukee Braves, 22 September 1954 (resumed 24 September)

The Braves led 3-1 with one out and runners at 1st and 2nd in the top of the ninth with somebody named Borkowski hitting for Cincinnati. Borkowski struck out on a wild pitch. The catcher got the ball and threw to 3rd to try to get the advancing runner, but he was safe. Borkowski took off for first, apparently not realizing that because there was a guy already on first he couldn't try to run on a wild pitch. The 3B did not realize this either and threw to first to try to get Borkowski, but it was a terrible throw and both the runners on base ended up scoring on the throwing error, tying the game. The umpires ruled that by running to first even though he was already out Borkowski had "illegally drawn the throw" and called the runner out at third. The league upheld the Reds protest, but when the game was resumed two days later the Braves scored on a walk-off single in the Bottom of the 9th and still won.

Brooklyn at Pittsburgh, 25 August 1948 (resumed 21 September)

The Dodgers led 11-9, but the Pirates had already scored two in the bottom of the 9th and had the bases loaded. The Dodgers brought in a relief pitcher but the Pirates countered with a pinch hitter. The Dodgers, in an apparent example of early La Russa Syndrome, pulled the reliever for another one and the umpires let them despite the rule book saying pitchers have to pitch to at least one full batter barring injury. The league later upheld the Pirates' protest and ordered the game resumed from that point with the same pitcher still going. The result was a bases-clearing double and an immediate Pirates walk-off 12-11 victory.

Brooklyn at Philadelphia, 17 August 1947 (resumed 25 September)

Apparently in Pennsylvania at that time there was a law that games couldn't go later than 6:59pm on a Sunday. In the second game of a double header, the game approached this time limit around the seventh. The Dodgers scored to take the lead in the top of the inning, so the Phillies started stalling so that the game would have to be reset to the previous inning and hence a tie. This included gratuitous pitching changes and intentional walks. When the Dodgers finally managed to get out on purpose, the first Phillies batter for the Bottom of the 7th "couldn't find his bat." Before he was done batting it was 6:59 and the umpires called the game a tie. The Dodgers' protest was upheld and Brooklyn ended up hanging on for a 7-5 win.

Philadelphia at New York Giants, 13 June 1943 (resumed 6 August)

In the Top of the 9th with the game tied and the bases loaded, Babe Dahlgren of the Phillies deliberately stepped into a pitch. The umpires allowed the HBP and the Phillies took the lead and eventually won. The Giants' protest was upheld and ended up winning several months later in the 10th.

Philadelphia at St. Louis, 5 June 1943 (resumed 29 July)

Game was called due to rain with St. Louis up 1-0 in the 7th. The Phillies claimed that the Cardinals hadn't properly covered the field in order to force the game to be called, and the league upheld their protest. The Phillies eventually won 2-1.

St. Louis at Chicago Cubs, 2 July 1934 (resumed 31 July)

With the Cubs already up 4-1 with the based loaded with Cubs in the Bottom of the 7th, the St. Louis catcher let a pop fly fall in front of him and then threw to 2nd to try to start a double play. The umpire failed to call Infield Fly and when the throw sailed into the outfield the Cubs scored two more runs. The protest was upheld, but the Cubs still won the resumed game 7-1.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 28 May 1921 (resumed 30 June)

The Reds catcher made a tag at home plate in the Bottom of the 8th but the umpire still called the runner safe. The catcher went so crazy about the call that he threw the ball into the Reds dugout... and the Reds dugout threw the ball back on the field and another Pirates runner ended up caught in a rundown. The league ruled that once the ball went into the dugout it should have been dead and ordered the game replayed from that point.

Philadelphia at New York Giants, 5 July 1920 (resumed 4 September)

The lack of Infield Fly Rule call resulted in the Giants getting a double play in the 7th. Despite having been down 8-0 at the time, the Phillies protested and it was upheld. The Giants eventually won 12-0.

New York Giants at Philadelphia, 30 August 1913 (resumed 2 October in New York)

Philadelphia led 8-6 with one out in the top of the 9th. However, Giants manager John McGraw complained that fans in CF were waving their straw hats and reflecting sunlight into the eyes of the batters. The umpire asked the Phillies to move the fans, but the fans refused to move. The umpire then declared that the Phillies forfeited the game and called the game for the Giants. The league later overturned this, and the Phillies got the last two outs quickly on the last day of the year in New York.

Hope you guys found this as interesting as I did! Thanks again to Retrosheet!

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