BALTIMORE (WJZ) — October 9, 1996 is a date that is still seared into the memory of many Orioles fans. It was on that date, in Game 1 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, that things went sideways in the team’s big for a World Series.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, leading 4-3, Armando Benitez faced a young Derek Jeter. Benitez had struck out the previous hitter, Jim Leyritz on five pitches. On the first pitch to Jeter, the 22-year-old hit a deep fly ball towards the short porch in right field at the old Yankees Stadium.
Right fielder Tony Tarrasco, in to replace Bobby Bonilla, seemed to have a bead on the ball as he backed up onto the warning track. Then, well, O’s fans know what happened next.
Today In 1996: 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier causes an uproar when he reaches over the wall and turns Derek Jeter's fly ball into a HR in Game 1 of the #ALCS at Yankee Stadium! #MLB #Yankees #Orioles #Postseason pic.twitter.com/DcPpdpO2h5
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) October 9, 2020
Young Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and snagged the ball and umpire Richie Garcia ruled it a home run. The Yankees would go on to win in extra innings thanks to a Bernie Williams homer off of Randy Myers in the bottom of the 11th. While the Orioles would go on to win the next game at Yankees Stadium 5-3, they headed back to Camden Yards with the series tied at 1-1 rather than a potential 2-0 lead.
That’s not to say that the Orioles winning Game 1 definitely would have changed the outcome of the series. The team had gone just 3-10 against the Yankees that season. But, the logic of the situation doesn’t change the feeling of being robbed of a playoff win. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series that year, their first of four in the next five seasons. The Orioles, they came back with a vengeance the following season, winning 98 games and the A.L. East before falling in the ALCS to the Cleveland Indians.
24 years later, the loss still stings.