Successful protest? Rare, but it happens
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez's official protest of his team's wild-card loss to the Cardinals on Friday night was denied, but successful protests are possible in the major leagues.
That's George Brett lodging the most vigorous brand of unofficial protest. But we're here to talk about official protests.
Speaking of which, rare is the successful attempt to play a game under protest (as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez learned all too swiftly on Friday night). The overwhelming majority of official protests are batted down either because the issue at hand didn't materially affect the outcome of the game or because the protest is rooted in a matter of umpire judgment, as was the case with the "infield-fly rule" controversy that stained the NL wild-card game.
Still, successful protests do happen, and they lead to some interesting outcomes. According to Retrosheet data, 15 or so games have been resumed because of successful protests. So in celebration of this rare baseball event, here's a quick rundown of some of the more interesting ones ...
June 16, 1986: Cardinals at Pirates
This is the most recent example. According to The New York Times, the Pirates protested that umpires prematurely called the game because of rain. Crew chief John Kibler snuffed out the game with the Cardinals on top 4-1 and after rain delays of 17 and 22 minutes, respectively. MLB rules, meanwhile, mandated longer wait times. NL president Charles Feeney agreed with the Pirates.
July 24, 1983: Royals at Yankees
As relived above, the "Pine Tar Incident" is the platonic ideal when it comes to upheld protests. What's interesting about this one -- and relevant to current baseball events -- is that, in backing the Royals' protest, AL prez Lee MacPhail cited the "spirit of the restriction." He argued that the pine-tar rule wasn't designed to prevent a competitive advantage but rather to save the league money on equipment. Could Joe Torre have invoked similar thinking by saying that the purpose of the infield-fly rule, which is to prevent contrived double- and triple-plays, wasn't a consideration, what with Pete Kozma all the way in mid-left field? Maybe, but it seems a stretch.
Aug. 21, 1979: Astros at Mets
This game appeared to end on a Jeff Leonard fly-out, but time had been called just before the pitch. Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool didn't realize this and trotted off the field, thinking the game was indeed over. The subsequent pitch, on which Leonard singled, occurred while Kranepool was still out of position. Mets manager Joe Torre (there's that man again) argued that Leonard's hit shouldn't have counted. The umpires caucused, agreed with Torre and then ordered Leonard to hit again. This time, Leonard flied out to end the game. The Astros protested, and Feeney agreed, ruling that the game should be resumed with Leonard on first after his single. They played the ninth inning the next day, and the Mets held on.
The quirkiest of protested games? Quite possibly it's this one. It all stemmed from a Pennsylvania state law that stated, with solemn, powdered-wig authority, that Sunday baseball games must conclude before 7:00 p.m. Trailing late in the game, aware of the laws of the land and in an effort to have the game suspended, the Phillies began taking their sweet time about things. They made needless pitching changes and issued leisurely intentional walks. Harry Walker pretended not to be able to find his bat. The Dodgers countered by swinging and missing at every pitch and attempting to run directly into outs on the bases. The game was eventually called. While the Dodgers didn't lodge a protest, league president Ford Frick, calling what unfolded "a farcial exhibition which was a disgrace to baseball and a complete travesty of all the rules of sportsmanship," ordered the teams to resume play. The Dodgers, in accordance with karmic forces, won. Had the proper eras collided, this one would've really blown up Twitter.
July 2, 1934: Cardinals at Cubs
In conclusion, we have some infield-fly goings-on. The situation: batter pops up with bases loaded, catcher lets it drop, ump doesn't invoke infield-fly rule, catcher makes wild errant throw to second base. In this instance, though, it was the fielding team, the Cardinals (their role in the story is a coincidence in light of Friday's events, not an example of irony), that protested, since the wild throw led to two runs for the Cubs. St. Louis' protest was upheld, but the Cubs won anyway after the game was resumed and finished some 29 days later.