All season long, George Steinbrenner has complained about the crowds at Yankee Stadium. Maybe it's time he started thanking them.
The New York Yankees, for the second time in five weeks, wound up with a victory Saturday because of a crazy contribution from a fan.
This time, a young man ran on the field just as the apparent final out was being made. Given another chance, the Yankees rallied for three runs in the ninth inning, the last two on Don Mattingly's two-out single, and beat Boston, 4-3.
"I am sure there are several things we don't understand," Yankee Manager Buck Showalter said. "But in my job, I can't get involved in fate and destiny."
Instead of falling four games behind Toronto, which would have given the Blue Jays their biggest lead of the season in the AL East, New York remained three back. Next weekend, the Yankees play three times in Toronto.
At least, that's if the victory holds up. The Red Sox said they planned to file a protest.
"The home team did not control the fans," Boston General Manager Lou Gorman said. "The game should have been over. This affected the outcome of the game."
Exactly what happened, however, wasn't completely clear.
The Yankees trailed, 3-1, in the ninth and had two out and none on when Mike Gallego was hit by a pitch from Greg Harris (6-5).
Boston seemed to have it won, though, when pinch-hitter Mike Stanley hit an easy fly ball to left field that was caught. But the play didn't count because third-base umpire Tim Welke had called time when a young man bolted from the box seats toward the field.
"When (the fan) got to the coach's box, I'm waving my arms, trying to be demonstrative," Welke said. "The first-base umpire was also calling time.
"This wasn't even close. It was unfortunate, but it was obvious."
Stanley, who seemed to take a half-hearted swing at the ball, said he saw the fan.
"Yeah, out of the corner of my eye I saw somebody running down the steps," he said. "You usually don't see that, but with all the fans on the field yesterday, I guess I was conscious of it."
"As soon as I put the ball in play, I looked down to third base and saw that the umpire called timeout, so I knew I was going to get to hit again," he said.
The Yankees didn't release the fan's identity. He was tackled by security officers and taken away to a police station.
Actually, there were two boys running wild, bringing the total to 13 fans who have run on the field in three days of Red Sox-Yankee games, including nine Friday night.
Boston Manager Butch Hobson briefly argued, but replays clearly showed Welke stopping play. Meanwhile, a couple of Red Sox players who had raised their arms in triumph went back to their positions.
"(Welke) said the guy was on the field and he called timeout, but nobody else called timeout," Hobson said. "I didn't see him call timeout until my pitcher was in his delivery. (Welke) said he called timeout before Harris started the delivery home."
Said Harris: "The ball was way on its way home when he called time. I had already thrown."
Stanley took advantage of his second chance, singling on the next pitch, and Wade Boggs followed an infield hit that scored Gallego and made it 3-2. Dion James walked on a full count, bringing up Mattingly, who capped off the improbable comeback by singling sharply to right field, driving home the tying and winning runs.
"It was an unbelievable finish. A second chance," Mattingly said.
On Aug. 15, Mattingly and the Yankees also seemed to catch a break when Tim McKenzie, 16, from Durham, Conn., reached over the right-field fence to grab a drive by Mattingly that went for an eighth-inning home run in a 1-0 victory over Baltimore.
"This is better than pine tar," Mattingly said. "We're going to win this one."
* NATIONAL LEAGUE: Rare loss by Atlanta is a gain for San Francisco, and Philadelphia, in need of a big win, gets one against Montreal. C12