Oakland's Josh Reddick could not get to a fly ball by Detroit DH Victor Martinez that umpires ruled was a home run after Tiger fans John Bendzinski and Mark Beauchamp tried to catch it, leading to a protest by Reddick and center fielder Coco Crisp in the bottom of the seventh inning. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — As John Bendzinski stood in the front row of the right-field bleachers, fans nearby chanted M-V-P, M-V-P.
Sure, Miguel Cabrera happened to be batting, at the time. But the chants might as well have been for Bendzinski.
The longtime Tigers season-ticket holder was in the right place at the right time — at least, from every single Tiger’s perspective — as the fan who might’ve just helped out the home team in a big, big way, reaching over the railing to get a hand on Victor Martinez’s game-tying, leadoff home run in the seventh inning of Game 4 on Tuesday night.
“It was coming at me and I didn’t know if it had enough (distance),” said Bendzinski, of Macomb. “I didn’t really want to reach over. Next thing you know, I’m switching hands with my beer and it hits me right in the hands.”
The fans’ potential assistance — his buddy, Mark Beauchamp, got body on the ball, too — didn’t sit well with A’s right fielder Josh Reddick, who immediately cried foul.
But after a lengthy umpire review, the home run stood. Replays showed the ball heading to at least the upper reaches of the railing, so it was doubtful Reddick, who leaped, would’ve caught it. Certainly, there wasn’t enough video evidence to overturn.
Not everybody was convinced, clearly.
“The explanation was it was over the yellow line and it wasn’t fan interference,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Even though I guess it touched a fan.”
Or, more precisely, two.
“The ball was coming out,” said Beauchamp, of Clarkston, “and we had to go with it. We were above the yellow, that’s all we knew.”
For a brief bit, though, they — and 43,956 others — didn’t know if it was a home run.
“We were hiding, everybody was hiding me so I wouldn’t get thrown out,” Bendzinski said. “Then when it came out to be a home run, everybody was going crazy.”
Umpires reviewing this Victor Martinez home run. Fan interference, maybe? pic.twitter.com/sN3e0yVKCO— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) October 8, 2013
The party continued for the next three innings, as Martinez’s home run might’ve sparked a Tigers offense that’s been missing against the A’s. The Tigers scored five runs in the seventh and eighth innings, one fewer than they scored through the first three games.
And the outburst all began with Martinez’s homer – and two noteworthy Tigers fans.
There have been notable fan-interference instances in recent baseball history. Everybody remembers Steve Bartman (2003 NLCS), for instance, though that greatly hurt the home team (Cubs). If you had to compare it, this one was more in line with Jeffrey Maier (1996 ALCS), the kid Yankees fan who broke the Orioles’ hearts.
“Awww, yeah, boy, I told them, ‘Good job, good job, way to go baby,’” Torii Hunter said of his interaction with the fans in right field the next half-inning. “Those are our fans. I’m excited they reached over and got that ball before he did.”
The fans’ reward, Hunter said: “Sodas,” on him, next year.
Beauchamp, 42, and Bendzinski, 49, will be back. They been season-ticket holders since Comerica Park opened in 2000. Bendzinski normally sits in section 104, seats 5 and 6, while Beauchamp is nearby.
Little did they know when they arrived downtown Tuesday night they’d be a part of the plot in Game 4, which the Tigers won to avoid elimination – and send the series back to Oakland for a do-or-die game Thursday night.
“It startled me,” Bendzinksi said of the ball, “and then the eruption. The electricity baby!’
And the best part? OK, second-best part?
He didn’t spill his beer.