Salem grad and umpire Meals says he missed call in Pittsburgh loss


AP

Photo

Atlanta Braves' Julio Lugo, right, slides into home plate safely to score the game-winning run as Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Michael McKenry tries to make the tag during the 19th inning of a baseball game, early Wednesday, July 27, 2011. in Atlanta. The Braves won 3-2. (AP Photo/John Amis)

AP

Photo

Atlanta Braves' Julio Lugo reacts to a safe call at home plate to end the game as Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Michael McKenry shows the umpire the ball during the 19th inning of a baseball game, early Wednesday, July 27, 2011. in Atlanta. Atlanta won 3-2. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) is ejected by home plate umpire Jerry Meals after arguing the ejection of Nate McLouth, left, after McLouth argued a strike out during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tuesday, July 26, 2011. in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Staff/wire report

ATLANTA

Major League Baseball and umpire Jerry Meals agree Meals made the wrong call in Atlanta’s 4-3, 19-inning win over Pittsburgh early Wednesday morning.

Meals, a 1979 graduate of Salem High and a resident of Perry Township in Columbiana County, ruled Pittsburgh catcher Mike McKenry failed to tag Atlanta’s Julio Lugo in the bottom of the 19th, allowing Lugo to score the winning run.

Replays showed McKenry clearly tagging Lugo before Lugo reached the plate.

The Pirates filed a formal complaint hours after the longest game in team history, and MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre said it appeared Meals missed the call.

Later Wednesday, Meals said he saw in his review of the play that Lugo’s pants moved slightly when tagged. Meals said that showed him he missed the call.

“After coming into the locker room, I reviewed the incident through our videos that we have in here and after seeing a few of them, on one particular replay, I was able to see that Lugo’s pant leg moved ever so slightly when the swipe tag was attempted by McKenry,” Meals said.

“That’s telling me that I was incorrect in my decision and that he should have been ruled out and not safe.”

Speaking of safe, his wife, Robyn, said police have become involved in keeping the family safe because of threatening phone calls.

The calls, which came all day Wednesday, began at 2 a.m., she said.

“They’ve been threatening and vulgar,” she said.

She also said there have been unwanted visitors at their house.

“We’ve had cars sitting at the end of our driveway, at 4 this morning. We just want people to leave us alone,” she said. “Stop calling us. Stop threatening us. Leave my kids alone.”

The couple’s children range in age from 14 to 23. Mrs. Meals said they’d been approached.

The backlash over a baseball game is “very ridiculous,” she said. “My husband is a wonderful man.”

Meals’ statement on Wednesday was stronger than his comment following the game that he “might” have missed the call.

“You can watch that tape a hundred times and there’s no ‘might’ about what happened,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

With runners on the corners and one out in the 19th, Atlanta’s Scott Proctor hit a groundball off Pittsburgh’s Daniel McCutchen to third base.

Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez fielded it and threw home to McKenry who appeared to apply the tag to Lugo in plenty of time.

Meals, however, called Lugo safe. Hurdle exploded from the dugout after the call, which put an abrupt end to the longest game in the organization’s history.

Before Wednesday’s game, Hurdle spoke with Meals when lineup cards were exchanged at home plate. The two shook hands, and Hurdle gave the umpire a pat on the back before returning to the Pirates’ dugout.

Torre said he spoke to Meals and “no one feels worse than him.”

Pirates president Frank Coonelly said the organization was “extremely disappointed” with the way the game ended, arguing both teams deserved better.

“While we cannot begin to understand how umpire Jerry Meals did not see the tag made by Michael McKenry three feet in front of home plate, we do not question the integrity of Mr. Meals,” Coonelly said. “Instead, we know that Mr. Meals’ intention was to get the call right.

“Jerry Meals has been umpiring Major League games for 14 years and has always done so with integrity and professionalism. He got this one wrong.”

Though Torre lamented the error, he also said mistakes are part of the game.

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