Editor's Note: Story is updated below...
When is a clean base hit actually something else? When one of your young teammates pulls an absent-minded bonehead play, that’s when.
When Maikel Franco lined his game-winning single into center field in last night’s dramatic, come-from-behind, 5-4 win over the San Francisco Giants in the 11th inning, it appeared to be a walk-off victory like many others seen at Citizens Bank Park.
But it most definitely was not.
As the Phils celebrated by pouring water on Franco and ripping off his jersey as they walked off the field, the always-interesting Hunter Pence went and retrieved the baseball and threw it to second base.
The umpire raised his arm and called Aaron Altherr, who had reached first base on a key error by Eduardo Nunez, "out." Why? Because Altherr never touched second base.
Because there was only one out, it didn’t matter in terms of the outcome of the game. The run counted no matter what. But had their been two outs, the run would not have counted and the inning would have been over.
Instead, the only damage that was done was, at least for about an hour or so after the game, was that Franco was not credited with a base hit. Instead, he was awarded a fielder’s choice.
The whole incident caused confusion in the press box and the Phils’ locker room, where Franco’s teammates let Altherr know about his gaffe.
"I think half the team let him know," Mackanin when said if Altherr had been scolded.— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) August 4, 2016
But that wasn’t the end of it. Higher-up muckety-mucks decided to get involved. Somewhere, in some office in New York, a red phone rang. Franco might get his "hit" after all.
Official scorer Mike Maconi in contact with Elias Sports Bureau. Franco may be awarded a hit. Drama at 11:45 p.m.— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) August 4, 2016
And, after more than an hour of deliberating, Franco got some good news.
So 1+ hr later, good news for Franco: it's been ruled a *hit* & not fielder's choice. Maybe Altherr will still buy him dinner for screw up.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 4, 2016
The ruling cited Rule 5.08b, which states:
Rule 5.08(b) Comment (Rule 4.09(b) Comment): An exception will be if fans rush onto the field and physically prevent the runner from touching home plate or the batter from touching first base. In such cases, the umpires shall award the runner the base because of the obstruction by the fans.
So technically speaking, it wasn’t fans that rushed the field but Franco’s teammates, and no one interfered with Altherr touching second. Nevertheless, they were apparently invoking the "spirit of the rule" on this one.
No matter the ruling, in the locker room, Franco said he didn’t care one way or the other whether he got a knock or a fielder’s choice.
Mackanin, Franco, everyone in clubhouse were sure it was a fielder's choice. As Franco said who cares, win is more important than hit/no hit— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) August 4, 2016
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Just last year the Arizona Diamondbacks were awarded a walk-off win against the Cincinnati Reds, even though a Diamondbacks player didn’t touch a base on a walk-off hit.
Like last night, there was only one out, so only the runner from third needed to touch home and the batter needed to touch first in order for the game-winning RBI to stand.
And in perhaps the most famous example of this play, Fred Merkle committed what is known as "Merkle’s Boner," back in 1908.
Merkle, of the New York Giants, failed to touch second base in a similar situation against the Chicago Cubs, only there were two out in the inning. So instead of giving the Giants a win, the game remained tied, which Chicago later won.
It helped the Cubs win the pennant and propelled them to a World Series victory, the last one they ever won.
Luckily, the stakes last night weren’t even close to being that high, and things worked out in the end for Franco and the Phillies.
And there’s no one who feels better about it than young Mr. Altherr.
Well, after taking a night to think about it, Major League Baseball has decided to take Franco's hit away.
For 3rd time since Phillies' walkoff win last night, a scoring change on Franco's game-winner: MLB rules it's a fielder's choice, not a hit.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 4, 2016
Franco still gets an RBI, but now, no hit. But as he said last night, he doesn't care, so I guess we shouldn't either.
But yes, in the end, Aaron Altherr committed a boner.
And yet, we still might not be done with this.
Saga continues. Phillies have video showing grounds crew member pick up the ball before Giants tug 2nd base. Could again be a Franco single.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) August 4, 2016
It may be time to let it go.