When it comes to fans having a chance to touch the game ball, baseball is a sport like none other. Other than perhaps arena football, fan interference is a purely baseball phenomenon.
With the average MLB contest consuming well over 100 baseballs, chances are a good number of them will be hit into or near the stands and into the gloves—or arms, hands, backs and hats—of eager fans looking for a cheap souvenir.
For whatever reason, when a baseball is hit within 50 feet of a fan, the spectator feels inclined to retrieve it. This is especially true when it comes to balls bounding along the fence-line beyond the dugouts and fly balls hit basically anywhere.
Spectator (fan) interference is defined by Rule 2.00 INTERFERENCE (d) of the MLB Rules Book.
Spectator interference occurs when a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and (1) touches a live ball or (2) touches a player and hinders an attempt to make a play on a live ball.
On any interference, the ball is dead and the umpire may elect to impose whatever penalties he believes will best nullify the act of interference (Rule 3.16). This might include rewarding bases to the batter or runner, sending a runner back to a base and/or declaring the batter out in cases where spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball.
The 2011 season had its fair share of fan interference, including a play in which Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing where umpire Gary Darling chose to place a runner following interference and the first time instant replay review was used to rule spectator interference when the call on the field was not a home run.
Controversial? You bet. Funny? Occasionally.
Will either of these plays crack the top 10 fan interference vids?
Read on to find out. You'll notice plays six through 10 fall into the humorous category, while plays one through five are all controversial in their own right.
Unfortunately, the video to the side doesn't capture the actual beer toss, but Phillies outfielders Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez' reactions are priceless.
If you don't mind watching videos recorded on a potato, click here for the fuzzy replay.
As many of these videos will echo, it all started with an innocent fly ball. Victorino rushes back to make the catch on a routine sacrifice fly when a full plastic beer cup is thrown inches from Victorino's head.
Victorino made the catch, threw the ball back towards the infield and turned to confront his assailant.
Victorino and the Phillies had the last laugh, however. The Phillies won the NL Pennant and advanced to the 2009 World Series while the Cubbies were shut out of the playoffs.
To begin the countdown, we have a fan reaching over the short wall past the first base dugout and interfering with play.
On its own, that might not be overwhelmingly amusing—until you consider that the fan appears to be an Ichiro Suzuki clone.
Watch him being ejected from 1:45 on and notice that the TV broadcast isn't providing any glimpses of the real-life Ichiro in the Mariners dugout...
Makes you wonder.
After two one-run decisions in Games 1 and 2 of the 2011 World Series, the Cardinals marched into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and piled on the offense. By the bottom of the seventh inning, the score was 14-6 in favor of the visitors.
In a scene that might have been inspired by Naked Gun, a Texas fan fed up with the lopsided contest wanted to make a difference.
He timed his entrance just right, and when a fly ball was hit in his general direction—actually to Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday—the bored fan threw a wiffle ball in Holliday's general direction.
Though Holliday was able to complete the play and throw onto third base in an attempt to double up Rangers runner Adrian Beltre, that didn't stop Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa from arguing with the umpires that the foreign ball thrown on the field constituted fan interference.
The umpires didn't bite, La Russa stood around for a few seconds and eventually play continued, minus one knucklehead fan.
This might be the rare case in which a fan is more dialed in to the play than the professional ballplayer.
On July 13, 2002, the Pirates were visiting the Brewers in Milwaukee. In the midst of a 5-3 Pirates victory, a fan, a third baseman and an umpire combined to make earn themselves a spot on the unofficial fan interference blooper reel.
With two outs in the fifth inning, Pittsburgh's Rob Mackowiak hit a pop fly past third base into foul territory. Brewers third baseman Tyler Houston gave chase, as did third base umpire Kerwin Danley.
As Houston and the fan converged around the ball, one of their two gloves dropped with the force of a falling baseball—the ball had clearly been caught.
Danley vehemently raised his right arm, forming a fist with his hand.
As Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh went to its customary half-inning commercial break, the broadcast suddenly cut back to Miller Park, where the apparent third out had been taken off the board.
Upon further review, the man in the green hat had made the catch, not Houston, who wore Milwaukee blue.
Perhaps Danley (who wears a black hat himself) should have consulted the glove-wearer's hat to determine who in fact made the catch.
Sometimes, the best interference is accidental.
The best part of this video is how routinely the players, umpires and broadcasters deal with this instance of interference.
From Brewers hitter Bill Hall cruising into second base to the nonchalant call of "and it's a ground rule double" to the fan's reaction of sheer terror once she realizes what she's done, this clip is a classic.
Even better, the fan cooperates with ballpark security, seemingly agreeing with the black-coats that it is time to leave.
As a fly ball flew toward the seats down the third base line, Sole attempted to make a daring one hand catch while holding on to his beer.
Neither endeavor proved fruitful, as Sole and the gentleman sitting next to him both spilled their beers and the ball deflected back onto the playing field.
The consolation prize? Angels left fielder Garrett Anderson was unable to make the catch as the spectators' hands touched the ball first.
The fact that a Red Sox fan had interfered to prevent an opposing player from recording an out against his team makes what happened next all the more baffling.
As umpire Tim Timmons quickly motioned the ball foul and ruled no interference had occurred, an anonymous fan in a Patriots jacket hurled a slice of pizza at Sole, striking the latter on his right shoulder as he was facing away from the hurler.
The pizza thrower was a New England fan and had no real beef (no pun intended) with Sole. Had the Red Sox defense been prevented from recording an out, the throw would have made sense.
With the Angels in the field, the throw made no sense—though it was decidedly hilarious.
As NESN broadcasters Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo broke into hysterics, security ejected the food fight instigator and the contest continued without incident.
With a 7-1 score at the time of pizza-gate at Fenway Park, it's not as if the action on the field was more exciting than the hilarity ensuing just inside the third base stands.
In today's era of MLB instant replay review, you'd think that all instant replay decisions would be clearcut and not controversial.
You would be wrong.
During the fifth inning of an October 2010 Brewers-Reds game, Reds slugger Jay Bruce hit a drive to deep right center field.
As Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain leaped and reached up to grab the descending fly ball, a group of Reds fans reached over the wall and deflected the ball back onto the playing field.
Initially ruled a home run, the umpires agreed to review the play. After spending several minutes watching video from multiple angles, crew chief Tim Welke astonishly determined that no fan interference had occurred.
The call on the field stood, it was a home run.
When the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers met during the 2010 ALCS, all eyes were on the Bronx Bombers to see if they could repeat as World Series champions.
After splitting the first two games in Arlington, Texas easily won Game 3 by a final of 8-0.
In Game 4, the teams were scoreless with one out in the bottom of the second inning. That's when Yankees slugger Robinson Cano stepped into the batter's box.
As Cano belted a 0-1 fastball deep to right field, right fielder Nelson Cruz camped out at the base of the wall and prepared to attempt an exciting leaping catch at the wall.
One problem: Some Yankee fans were gathered in the first row, reaching over onto the playing field side of the wall and clearly hitting both Cruz's glove and the descending baseball.
As the ball deflected into the stands, right field umpire Jim Reynolds channeled his inner Richie Garcia (more on that later in the countdown) and ruled the play a home run, no fan interference.
Even more improbable, the umpires led by crew chief Gerry Davis refused to consult instant replay review and the call stood.
Why even have instant replay review if you aren't going to use it?
No matter, the Rangers came back and easily beat the Yankees by seven runs. When the series shifted back to Texas, the Rangers also cruised to a series-clinching Game 6 victory, winning by the final of 6-1.
From a controversial decision not to employ instant replay, we turn to a controversial decision to use the technology.
During a Sept. 4 Phillies-Marlins game this year, Philadelphia slugger Hunter Pence hit a fly ball to deep right field.
As Marlins right fielder Bryan Petersen attempted to field the fly ball, a contingent of Phillies fans seated in the front row seemingly reached over the fence and interfered with the ball in play. The ball deflected to the right field corner, allowing Pence to cruise into second base and Ryan Howard to go from first to third base.
After a brief argument from Marlins manager Jack McKeon, the umpires elected to employ instant replay review to determine whether the call should be a home run, spectator interference or none of the above.
Though replay conclusively showed the interference, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel took offense at umpire Joe West's use of instant replay in what Manuel believed was an inappropriate situation.
The two discussed the play before West ejected Manuel for arguing the overturned call. Stadium security also ejected the Phillies fans who had interfered with the fly ball.
The Phillies elected to file an official protest, while West maintained that his use of instant replay was appropriate.
Major League Baseball VP Joe Torre agreed with the umpires, denying the Phillies' protest while ruling that West's use of instant replay review was authorized and proper.
Before you press play, do yourself a favor and mute the video. Then advance to the 50-second mark.
Jeffrey Maier became a household name around baseball after he interfered quite drastically with a fly ball during Game 1 of the 1996 ALDS.
With the Baltimore Orioles leading the Yankees 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Yankees captain Derek Jeter stepped to the plate and hit a high fly ball to deep right field.
Baltimore right fielder Tony Tarasco went up, young Yankee fan Jeffrey Maier reached down and the ball left the playing field in Maier's glove.
Right field umpire Richie Garcia emphatically ruled the play a home run as opposed to fan interference, which would have resulted in an out.
Unlike the call in Florida, however, the umpire got it wrong.
Thanks to the extra run, the game would continue into extra innings, with the Yankees winning the game in the 11th on Bernie Williams' walk-off home run.
The Maier play may or may not have changed the complexion of the 1996 ALDS as the Yankees had no problem defeating the Orioles, 4-1 in the series.
Talk about fans impacting the game and two names come to mind.
The first is the aforementioned Jeffrey Maier. The second is the one they call Steve Bartman.
With the Chicago Cubs leading the 2003 NLCS three games to two over the Florida Marlins, Wrigley Field fills up in anticipation of a series clinching Game 6.
As the Cubs take a 3-0 lead into the eighth inning, the Wrigley faithful settle into their seats.
Six more outs.
Then, Marlins second baseman Louis Castillo fouls off a tough fastball into the left field corner.
Bartman reaches up, Alou jumps and—no one catches the ball.
Left field umpire Mike Everitt rules no fan interference had occurred on the play, it is a foul ball.
The Cubs go onto lose Game 6 and Game 7 as well, extending their drought without a World Series appearance to 57 years.
Bartman bore the brunt of Cubs fans' frustration for years after the fateful game—it was yet another unfortunate event keeping the Cubs from baseball's promised land.
For its tremendous impact on the game—and the overall appearance of a guy wearing headphones trying to catch a baseball—Bartman earns the top spot on the list of the Top 10 MLB Fan Interference Videos.