Before there was Steve Bartman, there was Jeffrey Maier.
Maier, the 12-year-old boy who reached over the wall in right field during Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS to snag what was then ruled to be a Derek Jeter home run, is now grown up and able to contextualize the moment for which he will always be remembered. And with the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles squaring off in the playoffs for the first time since that series, there is perhaps no better time to reflect on his 15 minutes of fame.
“I’ve definitely heard from more people this week than I have in quite some time," Maier told the New York Daily News. "It’s fun and I embrace it and try to have fun with it."
Jeter's home run in the eighth inning tied the game at 4, and the Yankees went on to win the contest in the 11th inning and the series in five games. That year, the Yankees won the first of their four World Series titles in a five-year span.
Meanwhile, the Orioles made the playoffs in 1997 before suffering through 14 consecutive losing seasons.
Maier went on to have an extremely successful career on the diamond at Wesleyan University, becoming the university's all-time hits leader. He was never drafted but he did work out in front of several major league clubs (including the Yankees). Now, Meyer works as the director of sales for the Internet company League Apps, which makes mobile applications, websites, online registration and management software for adult recreational sports leagues.
While Maier, who has been married for four years and has two children, said his catch might have been part of the reason that Major League Baseball instituted video replay on home runs, he noted that human error is still prevalent among umpires.
"It certainly might have made a difference, but then you watch a game like (Friday) night (between Atlanta and St. Louis) with the infield fly call, these judgment calls you realize always will be part of the game and nothing in life is perfect," Maier told the Daily News. "As a former player, I know that umpires certainly aren’t, either. It’s one of those things that to me, the purity of the game is what makes the game so great. I’m actually not in favor of more instant replay. It’s a great game and it should be played the way it’s played."
Maier, now 28 years old and living in northern New England, has no plans to attend any games during the Yankees-Orioles series. While his catch ignited a firestorm across the league but especially in Baltimore, he says he has come to terms with his place in history.
"It’s a play that whether or not it matters to me, it’s a play that’s important to the Yankees and it has a place in the history of the game," Maier said. "I’ve embraced that. I’m not looking to write a book about it or anything. But I think it’s a unique play."