The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

Twelve years after the fact, Tim Tschida remembers one October night very well. The Saint Paul native and Cretin-Derham Hall alum was the crew chief for the American League playoff series between the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees. He manned home plate for Game 1, a relatively uneventful 7-2 Yankee win. The rotation sent him out to right field for Game 2. Thus, he was several hundred feet from a play that still burns brightly in the minds of Twins fans.

The game was in the top of the 11th inning, tied at 3-3. Fellow CDH grad Joe Mauer led off and lifted a winding fly ball to left that nicked the glove of Melky Cabrera and dropped a foot into fair territory. There was only one problem: Left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi didn’t see it that way and called it foul.

“At that time, replay was only being used for fair or foul ball calls on possible home runs,” recalled Tschida, who was sceptical early on about the value of replays. “If something else needed to be discussed, all the umpires would get together and talk it out.”

At the time, neither Mauer nor Twins manager Ron Gardenhire raised a ruckus. However, when he saw the replay, TV commentator Ron Darling observed: “That was a fair ball, by the way. Mauer should be on second base.”

Mauer returned to the plate and eventually singled. He didn’t score, but New York’s Mark Teixeira did with a game-winning home run in the bottom of the inning. When the umpires got to their dressing room, their supervisor was waiting with a grim look. Tschida and his mates watched the replay and immediately got a sick feeling.

“No official wants to get a call wrong—particularly one in that situation,” he said. “I said we had to go to the media about this.”

“The problem is the guys playing the games today are world-class athletes and the action moves so fast that some of it’s simply beyond the naked eye,” Tschida said. “For that reason, I’ve changed my view on replays.” 

Cuzzi offered to go, but Tschida said it was his duty as crew chief to talk to the press. So he did and fessed up that Mauer should’ve been on second.

“If you get up and admit a mistake, there isn’t much else people can say,” Tschida said. Indeed, the assembled media sat silently for a few seconds, asked a few perfunctory questions and that was that. 

Shortly thereafter, replay began to expand in baseball as well as many other sports. As a result, officials are now subjected to scrutiny and criticism at all levels of play. But is that a good thing? 

“Replay is designed to correct something that was called incorrectly,” Tschida said. “I’ve been there. I’ve made mistakes. Correcting something is a good thing.”

The problem is how it’s used. When it’s used to micromanage every play, does that mean officials get more hesitant because the replay can change a call?

“I don’t think so,” Tschida said. “Deep down, officials will do what they think is right.” 

Tschida worked 3,414 major league games before retiring in 2012. Before his big league baseball days, however, he worked several amateur sports around Saint Paul, including a stint as a hockey official. He thinks the National Hockey League has figured out the best way to handle replays.

“They keep the game moving,” he said. “You have a rush up ice. It’s close as to whether it’s offside or not. The linesmen let the play go on and the puck ends up in the net. Then you can check the play.”

The same is true when there’s a question about whether hockey players should get a lengthier penalty because they drew blood or hit an opponent in the head.

The system isn’t perfect and, as such, won’t correct all mistakes. Some things that officials miss just have to be accepted. One has to presume that, if there’s evidence of a bad oversight, the supervisor will step in and deal with the matter with the official.

“The problem is the guys playing the games today are world-class athletes and the action moves so fast that some of it’s simply beyond the naked eye,” Tschida said. “For that reason, I’ve changed my view on replays.” 

One area where things may have gone too far is the imaginary strike zone seen on televised baseball games. As is the case with the naked eye, technology cannot catch everything.

That has made life harder for high school and college officials whose games aren’t televised. The world is expecting perfection in a game being played—and officiated by—imperfect people.

Tschida is now 61 years old. He may miss the action, but not the travel, the wear and tear on his body and having every call studied under a microscope. “There’s no question it’s harder to officiate now,” he said. “A lot of the time, it comes down to splitting hairs.”

Blazers swamp field to win state Class A swim title

Visitation once again proved too much for the competition to handle as it claimed its eighth consecutive state Class A swimming and diving title—and 12th state title since 2005—on November 18-20 at the University of Minnesota. Visitation’s 385 points were well ahead of second-place Hutchinson’s 254.  

The 500 freestyle race was a classic example of Visitation’s depth. Junior Ella Passe won in 4:59.37, followed by junior Elizabeth Burke in second at 5:05.15, sophomore Tessa Lindstrom in third at 5:08.78 and freshman Maggie Farley in fifth at 5:11.44.

In the 200 individual medley, junior Anna Farley inched her way past Hutchinson senior Hailey Farrell, who had set a meet record in that event in 2019, to win with a time of 2:04.39.  

Visitation had only two individual wins, but finished in the top eight in several other events to provide the points to secure the victory. Passe and Burke placed second and third in the 200 freestyle, freshman Katie Miller was fourth in the 200 individual medley, and Farley and junior Lucy Berg were third and fourth in the 100 butterfly. Senior Libby Fischer took fifth in the 100 backstroke and sixth in the 50 free, and Miller was sixth in the 100 breaststroke.

Fischer, Miller, Farley and senior Olivia Johanns placed second in the 200 medley relay, and Miller, Burke, Passe and Johanns were fourth in the 200 free relay. Burke, Passe, Farley and Fischer teamed up for second in the 400 free relay.  

In the Class AA meet, Highland Park/SPA finished 26th with 17 points, 13 of which came on senior KK Welsh’s sixth-place finish in the 1-meter diving event.

Dave Wright can be reached at dwright53@msn.com.

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.