1B umpire Kulpa misses call, starting Cards’ rally
AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – All these years later, a blown call by a first base umpire actually helped the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
While it remains to be seen whether Ron Kulpa will be as vilified by Texas Rangers fans as Don Denkinger is by Cardinals fans, there’s no doubt this mistake was as bad or worse – perhaps enough to revive talk of expanding video replay in baseball.
In the top of the fourth inning Saturday night, St. Louis was leading only 1-0 when Matt Holliday hit a grounder to shortstop Elvis Andrus that was perfect for the Rangers to turn into a double play. Andrus threw to Ian Kinsler for the force out at second, but Kinsler’s throw pulled first baseman Mike Napoli off the bag but into Holliday’s path. Napoli caught the ball and slapped a tag across Holliday’s left shoulder a step before he reached first base.
Kulpa was in decent position to make the correct call – but didn’t. The Cardinals took advantage, scoring four runs that inning on their way to a 16-7 victory and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Kulpa is a St. Louis native and lifelong Cardinals fan who was 17 when Denkinger made the mistake that triggered a collapse by the Cardinals that cost them the 1985 World Series to the neighboring Kansas City Royals.
Kulpa is in his 13th year in the majors and this is his first World Series. He was picked before it was known the team he grew up dreaming of playing for would be involved.
While conspiracy theories are sure to abound, it’s important to note that Kulpa made the correct call on perhaps the most difficult play yet of the World Series, a steal of second base by Kinsler in the ninth inning of Game 2, with St. Louis trying to protect a 1-0 lead. Kulpa called him safe and Kinsler went on to score the tying run and Texas went on to win 2-1.
Having video replay would help clear things up. It’s already been added to determine whether balls clear the fence for a home run.
This wasn’t the first missed call this series, either. In the ninth inning of the opener, which Texas lost 3-2, Adrian Beltre fouled a ball off his foot but umpires called it a fair ball.
In the opener, Kulpa missed a call at third base, ruling a ball was caught in the air when it actually bounced. That mistake did not lead to any runs.
Kulpa’s every move the rest of this series is certain to be scrutinized – especially Sunday, when he’s scheduled to be behind the plate.
Denkinger was behind the plate, too, the night after his crucial mistake in the ’85 World Series.
The play that made Denkinger infamous came in the ninth inning of Game 6, with the Cardinals up 1-0 and leading the series 3-2. Leadoff hitter Jorge Orta hit a grounder to first baseman Jack Clark, and he tossed it to pitcher Todd Worrell covering first base. Replays show that Worrell beat Orta to the bag, but Deninger insisted he was safe.
The Royals went on to win that game 2-1, then won the decisive seventh game 11-0, with St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog and pitcher Joaquin Andujar getting ejected by Denkinger in the fifth inning.
Until this series, Kulpa – who happens to have a Herzog-esque brush cut – was probably best known for being head-butted by Carl Everett in 2000. He’s worked an All-Star game and was behind the plate for Justin Verlander’s first career no-hitter, in 2007.