Presenting The 2009 She-Fan Awards, Part 4

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With She-Fan Awards already handed out to Dr. Marc Phillipon (Best Surgeon), Brad Lidge (Best Postseason Enemy) and Junichi Tazawa (Best Regular Season Walk-off Enemy), it’s time to spotlight another deserving individual who, by virtue of being unlucky, unfocused or just-plain unskilled, aided and abetted the Yankees in their quest for Championship #27.
And so we turn our attention to the umpires who made a difference in the 2009 postseason. There were several whose calls were controversial and/or downright terrible. Some of the calls went against the Yankees, but it’s the ones that helped our cause that will be singled out for the solid gold fan tonight, along with the men responsible for them.
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Now, without further ado, here are the nominees for the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Postseason Umpire. We thank them all for being in the service of the Yankees.
Phil Cuzzi, Left Field Umpire, Game 2 ALDS Versus Twins –

In the top of the 11th inning, with the Yanks and Twins tied and Marte on the mound, Mauer sliced one down the left field line and watched it bounce into the seats. Cuzzi called the ball foul, but replays showed it should have been a ground rule double. Mauer ended up singling but never scored, despite the two hits that followed. Had he doubled, he surely would have scored. (Great inning by Robertson to get out of the bases-loaded no-outs jam.) The Yankees went on to win the game 4-3.
Jerry Layne, Second Base Umpire, Game 2 ALCS Versus Angels – 
It was in the bottom of the 10th inning of what was to be the longest ALCS game in history that Layne showed us his stuff. Jorge grounded into a routine double play, but Layne ruled that Aybar, who had received the throw at second from Izturis, never touched the bag before sending the relay on to first. Consequently, Melky was safe at second and the so-called “Neighborhood Play,” which we’ve seen called a million times, was suddenly a figment of our imagination. The Yanks won the game 4-3 and went up by two games to none in the series.
–  Dale Scott, Second Base Umpire, Game 3 ALCS Versus Angels – 
With Kazmir on the mound in the top of the fourth and Jeter at the plate, Swisher led off second and got picked off – or did he? Kazmir’s throw to second and Aybar’s tag appear to nail Swishalicious according to the replays, but Scott called the runner safe. The Yankees blew the Angels away that night by the score of 10-1, and I was in Anaheim fending off the thunderstix. A great time was had by me.
Tim McClelland, Third Base Umpire, Game 3 ALCS Versus Angels – 
In the fifth inning of the above game, with the Yankees already up 5-0 and Posada on third and Cano on second, Swisher hit a Darren Oliver pitch on the ground for a fielder’s choice. Posada broke for home and got caught in a rundown. Napoli chased him back to third base, but – oopsie! – Cano was already there! Napoli tagged both Cano and Posada, but McClelland, who was standing right on top of the play, called Cano safe. The Yankees didn’t score, but it was a bad night for McClelland, who had mistakenly (“in his heart”) called Swisher out in the previous inning for tagging up too early.
Fieldin Culbreth, Home Plate Umpire, Game 5 ALCS Versus Angels – 
Fieldin should win the award just for his name alone. But here goes. The Yankees were down 4-0 in the seventh with one on and one out. Posada had a great at bat against Lackey, working the count full. Lackey’s next pitch was low and inside, and Posada trotted to first base with a walk, thanks to Culbreth’s tight strike zone. Big John was incensed at the ump, and Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher had to come out to the mound for a mental health chat. It didn’t work; Lackey walked Jeter, and Darren Oliver allowed the next three runners to score. The Yanks lost the game anyway 7-6, but Culbreth gave us his best shot.
Brian Gorman, First Base Umpire, Game 2 World Series Versus Phillies
Mo was pitching in the eighth (since he was his own set-up man by this time), and the Phillies had a rally going – until Gorman said Utley didn’t beat Jeter’s relay to first on a ground ball. Replays were inconclusive, but Charlie Manuel thought his player was robbed. “I’m not saying nothing about the umpiring,” he told the media after the game. “I’m just saying that he was safe.” If Gorman hadn’t ruled in our favor, the Phillies would have had runners at the corners with two outs. The Yankees won the game 3-1.
Brian Gorman, Home Plate Umpire, Game 3 World Series Versus Phillies
Yes, it’s Gorman
again. But this time he was minding his own business at home plate when A-Rod launched one to right field that hit the TV camera positioned there. Gorman signaled “double,” but Girardi protested and the umpires huddled together in some back room to watch the replay. When they returned to the field, Gorman waved A-Rod home. The call wasn’t just historic (the first use of instant replay in a World Series); it sparked the Yankees’ comeback off Hamels and we went on to win 8-5. The irony of the whole thing was that the ball hit one of the TV cameras whose purpose was to make the call.
Those are your nominees. And now, the envelope please.
The winner of the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Postseason Umpire is
***** Phil Cuzzi *****
Yes, Tim McClelland’s bonehead move calling Cano safe deemed him a worthy runner-up for the award, but the Yankees had that game well in hand and the call didn’t affect the outcome. All it did was make everybody look like bit players in an Abbott and Costello routine.
Cuzzi’s call, on the other hand, was a game changer. The Twins very likely would have taken the lead and evened the series. Still not convinced? Here’s the evidence.
Congratulations, Mr. Cuzzi!
Oh, wait. Apparently, Mr. Cuzzi is vacationing in Tampa at the Steinbrenner compound. Accepting the award on his behalf is his optometrist.
Enjoy your award, Mr. Cuzzi.
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  1. baseballisms

    It is an impressive list of umpiring misques … Even more so when you consider what occurred in other series throughout the postseason. Hello CB Bucknor …

  2. rabruzzese

    I would have liked to have seen McClelland win. You make a good point about it not really affecting the outcome, but he made two terrible calls. The Swisher one he wasn’t even looking at it, but that probably didn’t matter since he was staring right at Cano and Posada and still got that one wrong. I mean the guy can mess up a call in multiple ways.

  3. Jonah

    I wasn’t crazy about Cuzzi to begin with; he tossed Roy Halladay from a game six years ago because he hit Rocco Baldelli – after a solo home run by Julio Lugo. Now at the time Doc was going for his 22nd win of the campaign, which would have been a club record; Cuzzi tossed Halladay without any warning in the sixth inning and the Blue Jays trailing. Sure, Doc got his 22nd victory in his next start, but Cuzzi sure put a damper on that night against the Rays. That call against the Twins was pretty outrageous – I don’t know how he missed that. I agree wholeheartedly with this dispensing of this award to its “victor”.




    That is the ugliest group of umpires I have ever seen. I hope the viruses on the skin don’t mess up your hard drive.

    el duque

  5. cheshirecat9

    That is an impressive collection of mistakes. And those were only the calls that went for the Yankees. Pretty sloppy all around. I think Cuzzi really deserves the Golden Fan because that was one call that really could have made a difference between winning and losing the game.

    Just so you know Jane there is a typo in the second block of text. You wrote the 2007 Post season.

    I am so glad for your blog! With nothing going on with the Yankees it is great to have this place to come for a laugh and to enjoy our 27th World Championship.

  6. thefreak

    WOO HOOOO! I finally got one right. That makes my average .250. I better pick that up or you’ll be sending me to the minors.

    That call down the left field line was OUTSTANDING! I could “almost” justify a coupld of those other calls. I never like the neighborhood play but ok. Pick off at second *BANG BANG*. Getting called out tagging from third. Well its hard to see both at once from where he was standing. But the left field foul……….. really? I thought I was on candid camera for a moment.

    ok – gimme another one. I gotta get my average up. I figure if we do this everyday until spring training, I can have a .350 average at least. COME COACH! PUT ME IN! I’M READY TO PLAY!



    Might have been a tie between Cuzzi and McClelland. Cuzzi’s call impacted the game more, but McClelland’s were just outrageous. (He felt “in his heart?” and the non-double play at third was nuts.)

    I thought Layne made a good call. Aybar wasn’t really near the bag from any angle.

    As for Culbreth, I seem to remember that he was consistent with his tight strike zone.

    And Gorman’s two plays were okay. When it’s so close you can’t tell, that’s just the way it is. And the camera thing was quirky, but they got the call right in the end. (The umpires had discussed the camera before the game.)

    We watch a lot of soccer, as well as baseball and though instant replay is interesting, the refs and umps have to make the call based on what they see in real time (with the exception of the home run rule.) It’s part of the game. I get a little upset when the announcers go crazy on some plays that really, the official just made the call he saw. (As opposed to McClelland’s and Cuzzi’s where you wonder exactly what he was seeing!!)

    As my father always said “my little Roseanne Rosannadanna . . . ” no wait, that wasn’t him. As MY father always said “Baseball always pays you back.”

    And thanks again for a fun post today Jane! It’s interesting to see how those plays impacted the game, and fun to relive those memories.


  8. Jane Heller

    Joe, I think you’re right; umpiring in general took a hit in the postseason. I’m not one who’s lobbying for instant replay. I like the human element to the game, and I really believe things even out in the end. But MLB should get more involved in the training and selection of umps for the playoffs.

    It was a dilemma, Rob, for sure. Cuzzi’s mistake impacted the game but McClelland committed multiple sins. Still, I picked Cuzzi because it was the Yankees’ first series of the playoffs and getting that leg up on the Twins for a 2-0 series lead was big.

    That’s quite a story about Halladay, Jonah, and I can understand your dislike of Cuzzi because of it. Of course reading about Doc winning 22 games that year only made me want him more. Can you see me drooling?

    El Duque, why do you think these men became umpires? If they were studly, they would have been shortstops for the Yankees and become SI Sportsmen of the Year.

    Thanks for catching the typo, cheshirecat. It’s fixed. I think I always have 2007 on the brain. 🙂 And you’re right: the umpiring was sloppy all around. There was quite a list of calls that went against the Yankees, but those didn’t qualify for She-Fan Awards so I didn’t mention them. All in all, I hope the umpiring improves next year.

    Mike, I don’t think .250 is a bad average at all. I think Jose Molina would be thrilled with it. LOL. But I bet you’ll get your average up on the next one.

    I promise there won’t be a Part 40, Austin. In fact, after I finished last night’s post I said to my husband, “Why am I staying up late doing this? I must be nuts.” He agreed.

    My sources tell me that Mr. Cuzzi is having Lasik surgery next week, Jeff. His eyesight will be 20/20 so he’ll have no excuses when he blows a call in 2010.

    The thing about Layne’s decision on the “Neighborhood Play,” Melissa, is that 9 out of 10 times during the regular season the runner is out. I’m not complaining about this one, believe me, but I can understand why Scoscia was ticked off. I agree about McClelland; he was such a close runner-up. And your dad was right! Baseball does pay us back!

    Actually, when I started looking all this up, Layne had quite a few controversial calls, Paul. He was technically correct on the “Neighborhood Play,” but in another instance he called Jeter out when replays showed he was safe at first.


    Jane — Thanks again for the Umpiring Award. And thanks even more for supplying the immortal “Who’s on first” routine. For me it’s one of those things that seems funnier every time I see it.

    Rob Storm

  10. Jane Heller

    Rob, this award was just for you. 🙂 Hope you agree with my selection. I was laughing during the “Who’s on first” routine too. It never gets old.


    Wow!!! Jane, you are amazing. I can’t believe the effort you put into these award categories. We were away for the Thanksgiving weekend and came home to our internet being down. They are supposed to be fixing it today but in the meantime there’s no access at home and have been insanely busy at work.

    The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert was incredible. All in all, I truly felt that Jeff Beck stole the show but all the performers were spectacular. As a L.I. girl I would like to have heard a little more from Billy Joel but it was not meant to be. Jerry Lee Lewis was a hoot! And I think the issue with Stevie Wonder was that he became teary-eyed and very emotional — probably a “Michael Jackson” reaction. The only negative thing I have to say about the show had nothing to do with the performers — the sound transmission was grotesque. I’m not sure if it was the sound from Madison Square Garden or if it was HBO’s reception or broadcast. I heard some people that were at the concert complain about the sound but I got the impression it was corrected early on.
    Anyway, again, I’m sorry I have not been on your site for so long and I hope to be more regular, if not as committed as I was during the season. Certainly when it gets closer to “Pitchers and Catchers” we’ll all have to do our homework and contribute properly.

  12. Jane Heller

    Hope you had a good Thanksgiving trip, Diane. Welcome home and sorry about your internet service. Mine was down for two straight days, only coming back on at night, and it was so aggravating. Glad you’re enjoying the awards. They’re almost over!

  13. greg1969

    Fieldin Culbreth should get an award for best baseball name, at least for an ump! Perhaps he can fill in at RF for Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” routine, since they don’t name a RF! Hmmm!… LOVE that routine!
    Jeff of RSBS tells me that you coined a term for our illustrious Red Sox closer, aka, “Pap Smear”. Scary to think I’m on the same wave length as a Yankee fan, as I have been calling him “Pap Smear” most of 09, for the number of near-blown saves he had for us (and for making the Rolaids and Tums manufacturers RICH at our expense!). And this, even before he served up that walk-off HR (like we couldn’t see that one coming)!! Very much in contrast to 07. And he wants to be THE “highest paid closer in history” (his words)?! SNARL!

  14. Jane Heller

    Isn’t that Abbott and Costello routine hilarious, greg? I never get tired of watching it, because they’re so fast with their comebacks. I did use the term “Pap Smear” for Papelbon in my She-Fan book, but I can’t take credit for coining it. I must have read it on a blog (wish I could remember where so I could give that person a hat tip) and decided it was funny. There’s no question that he’s a premier closer, even though he wasn’t as effective in ’09, but it’s the swagger and comments that annoy me. Snarl is right!

  15. King_of_New_York

    Yes, that game was huge for the entire postseason. 1-1 heading to Minny is much different than 2-0 Yanks with just one to win out of three. Robertson would never have been a hero getting three outs with the bases loaded, and Joe Girardi might not have used him as much from then on.

  16. raysrenegade

    This must be the technical portion of the awards since you are awarding technical difficulty with visuals (lol).
    Fitting that the umpires get an award this season.
    I am not sure, but personally, it seems that they have had a banner year coming out from under their “invisible blankets” and have been major players in questionable game decisions this year.
    From an umpire putting his hands on a player , to one missing a ball that clearly hit a foot inside the libe before bouncing out of play, it has been a wild wild year for the men in black.

    Rays Renegade


    Lol, love it! Cuzzi was my “sentimental favorite” for this one since I was at that game and know that game could have truly gone either way. Since I was in the left field terrace I didn’t get a good look at the play until after the game. I just know that the crowd collectively gave a sigh of relief after he called it foul… absolutely a game changer!

  18. Jane Heller

    All good points, Babu. Going to Minny being up by two games was a far different story than going to the Metrodome tied up. So the call was big. There’s no guarantee the Twins would have won the game, but the momentum certainly would have swung in their favor had Mauer scored.

    Yes, I did have visual evidence this time, Renegade. LOL! And it was a wild year for the men in black. I hope there’s some sort of review during the off-season. Generally, I commend the umps for the job they do – it’s not easy – but there were glaring gaffes this year.

    You were at that game, wirishrose? Lucky you getting to see the win and in extra innings too. I can imagine how the crowd must have reacted when the ball was called foul. Let’s have a round of applause for Cuzzi!

  19. dadlak

    Nice work! McClelland’s call was more spectacularly horrible, but Cuzzi deserves the award for both the possible game impact, and for being the LEFT FIELD UMPIRE – added to the umpiring crew for the postseason specifically to make calls on the LEFT FIELD LINE. This was probably his only call of the game and he missed it by two feet.

  20. Jane Heller

    I forgot that Cuzzi was added to the crew just for that reason, dadiak. Good call. It makes his mistake that much more egregious and his award that much more deserving!

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