Jeffrey "Jeff" Maier (born November 15, 1984) is an American baseball fan best known for an incident in which he was involved as an 11-year-old at a baseball game. During Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, Maier deflected a batted ball, hit by Derek Jeter, into the Yankee Stadium stands for what umpires ruled to be a home run, rather than fan interference. His action altered the course of Game 1, as the resulting home run allowed the Yankees to tie the score. They would go on to win the game and that series, four games to one.
On October 9, 1996, the Yankees trailed the Orioles 4–3 in the bottom of the eighth inning when shortstop Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball to right field. Right fielder Tony Tarasco moved near the fence and appeared "to draw a bead on the ball" when the then-11-year-old Maier clearly reached over the fence separating the stands and the field of play 9 feet below, snatched the ball with a glove of his own. While baseball fans are permitted to catch (and keep) balls hit into the stands, if "a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball" spectator interference is to be called.
Right field umpire Rich Garcia immediately ruled the play a home run, tying the game at 4–4, despite the protest of Tarasco and Orioles manager Davey Johnson (the latter was ejected in the ensuing argument). The Yankees won the game in the eleventh inning on Bernie Williams' walk-off home run. The Orioles maintained their protest of the Maier play after the conclusion of the game, but their protest was denied by American League President Gene Budig because judgment calls cannot be protested. After viewing the replay, Garcia admitted that there was spectator interference, though he maintained the ball was not catchable. Garcia's contention that the ball was not catchable has been disputed. Had Garcia ruled it spectator interference, he would have then used his own judgment to determine what the most likely outcome of the play would be—either an out or awarding Jeter a given number of bases.
In right field, Tarasco, going back to the track, to the wall...(Maier steals ball, Bob Uecker: "Oh!") AND WHAT HAPPENS HERE? HE CONTENDS THAT A FAN REACHES UP AND TOUCHES IT! BUT RICHIE GARCIA SAYS NO...It's a home run! Here comes Davey Johnson, out to argue as Jeter comes across to tie the game.
There's a high fly ball to right, deep...Going back is Tarasco, to the warning track, to the wall, he's under it now...AND IT'S TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM BY A FAN, AND THEY'RE GONNA CALL IT...A HOME RUN! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! Richie Garcia is calling it a home run, and Tarasco is out to argue! A terrible call by Richie Garcia! IT'S ALL TIED UP!
The Yankees went on to win the series against Baltimore, four games to one, as well as the World Series against the Atlanta Braves. As a result of the play, a railing was added behind the right field wall at Yankee Stadium to prevent fans from reaching over it.
Maier grew up in Old Tappan, New Jersey and played baseball there at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan. He then played college ball at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he was a first-team all-NESCAC selection. He also played briefly for the Pittsfield Dukes in the New England Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2005.
In 2006, he became Wesleyan's career hits leader and was featured on ESPN. The New York Times reported that Maier hoped for a career in baseball. That spring, the Washington Post and MLB.com reported that, ironically, the Baltimore Orioles might draft him—though the team denied ever having an interest in him. Maier was also invited to a tryout for a number of prospects, held by the New York Yankees. However, he was not selected by any team in the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft. Maier worked in the summer of 2006 as a scout in the Cape Cod League for ESPN's Peter Gammons and also as an instructor for Frozen Ropes Baseball Training Center. Maier has since become a special consultant for the New Haven County Cutters. He has had several internships, including with the YES Network, and had several interviews (according to The New York Times) with MLB teams at baseball's winter meetings in search of a front-office job.
- Sheinin, Dave (June 2, 2006). "From Way Out in Right Field". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- In Rematch, Memories of a Stolen Moment, NYT. By Zach Schonbrun. Published: October 6, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
- The Official Site of Major League Baseball: Official info: Official Rules
- Interview with Rich Garcia
- The Official Site of Major League Baseball: Video: Baseball's Best
- LaPointe, Joe (April 14, 2006). "Boy Who Helped Yankees Is a Hit Again". The New York Times. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
- The Official Site of The Baltimore Orioles: News: Baltimore Orioles News
- "Cutters Add Jeff Maier To Front Office Staff". OurSports Central. August 10, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
- Steve Jacobson
- Video of the October 9, 1996 incident
- Baseball America article
- MLB.com article
- CNNSI article
- Maier's photo at Wesleyan University