When Todd Zeile Was Called For Obstruction

It’s July 8, 2000, the Mets Todd Zeile is called for obstruction on Yankee Chuck Knoblauch as he rounds first base. The umpire’s call happens on the game’s first pitch and Bobby Valentine gets ejected after arguing the call.

The Mets and Yankees are playing the first game of a day-night, two-ballpark doubleheader at Shea Stadium. On the first pitch from Mets starter Bobby Jones, Knoblauch hits a sinking liner to center field that Jay Payton makes a nice dive on, getting it on a short hop.

Payton throws to second base where Melvin Mora tags Knoblauch out. But then Yankees first base coach, and former Mets matinee idol, Lee Mazzilli convinces first base umpire Robb Cook that Todd Zeile obstructed the runner.

Watch the video and you can see that Zeile is just standing there facing centerfield. Knoblauch pays him no mind, never touching Zeile as he continues toward second base.

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After the umpire’s call, Bobby Valentine argues that the runner never even broke stride. He even retraces Knoblauch’s footsteps in the freshly raked dirt. But Valentine gets no justice, is ejected, and plays the rest of the game under protest.

Knoblauch would score on a Derek Jeter single. The Mets would also lose the game 4-2. Former Met Dwight Gooden got the win for the Yanks.

“I thought Lee did a very good job of coaxing an umpire into a bad call. [Knoblauch’s] stride was intact the whole way. There wasn’t impediment. His stride was perfect. If there was contact I could see that meaning something.”

Bobby Valentine told the NY Post

Bizarrely, the same three players, Payton, Knoblauch, and Zeile were involved in a fourth-inning obstruction call. Payton hits a grounder to Knoblauch with Zeile running from first base. Zeile crashes into Knoblauch, just as, or after, he’s trying to field the ball between the bases. Zeile gets called out for obstruction on the play.

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In the nightcap game, Roger Clemens beans Mets catcher Mike Piazza. Piazza had been 7-12 with 3 homers off of Clemens before the beaning. Including this grand slam just one month earlier.