Braves fans litter field after controversial infield fly call (Video)

The debut of baseball’s one-game wild-card playoff format was marred by a mess that would make the NFL’s replacement refs cringe.

The Braves-Cardinals game Friday night was delayed in the eighth inning after Atlanta fans began littering the field with debris in protest of a call that went against their team.

With the Braves trailing 6-3 with one out and men on first and second, Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons hit a pop fly to left that fell between Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday. However, left field umpire Sam Holbrook called the infield fly rule right before the ball dropped — halfway out into the outfield.

Instead of bases loaded and one out, Atlanta was left with men on second and third with two outs. The fans were so upset they began littering the field with debris, causing an 18-minute delay. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez protested the call. Atlanta’s next batter, pinch-hitter Brian McCann, walked to load the bases, but Michael Bourn struck out to end the inning, and the Braves went on to lose 6-3.

Tough way for Chipper Jones’ career to end, especially after he railed against the one-game playoff format last month. Braves fans won’t forgive the umpires for this call anytime soon.

Here’s the official definition of the rule per MLB rules:

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.

When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare “Infield Fly, if Fair.”

The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.

And here is the MLB official rule book comment on the infield fly rule:

On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder— not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire’s judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.

When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

The rule is designed to protect the team that is batting so that a savvy defensive player doesn’t intentionally drop an infield pop up with runners on in order to turn a double or triple play.

Below are a few fan photos of all the debris on the field that caused an 18-minute delay:

After the game, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he felt his team had a “legit beef,” and he explained his decision to protest the call:

The Braves dropped their protest shortly after the game, and MLB explained they were standing by the umpires because the infield fly rule is a judgment call made by the umps. This will no doubt go down as one of the biggest umpiring controversies we have seen in baseball in the past few years. Here are all the others, not to mention this awful call by Sam Holbrook earlier in the season.

Photo credits: @Jonathon_Q/Twitter, @kristenmpruitt/Twitter

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  • cabobob1

    I am neither a Braves or Cardinals fan.  That being said, this was one of the most egregious officiating calls I have ever witnessed.  The fly ball was halfway into the outfield, the ball could not be caught with ordinary effort, and the umpire (one of six) invoked the infield fly rule too late, just before the shortstop almost ran into left fielder, Matt Holiday, and dropped the ball.  The ruling goes against everything the rule was trying to prevent, the intentional dropping of a popup to try to force a double play on an ordinary play.  This was anything but ordinary!  Fredi Gonzales had every right to protest this call because the rule was misinterpretted by the umpires.   Major League Baseball will uphold the ruling on the field though because they do not have the conviction to overturn a wrong call and make it right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sean.yount.79 Sean Yount

    the game still would have had the same outcome ether way the braves would have scored one run big deal the cardinals still win why make yourselves look bad by littering the field your team has to play on this just makes you look like stupid drunk cubs fans not cool shame on you  

  • James Fletcher

    @Sean Yount, I’m a huge Braves fan, but I totally agree with you. The bad call wouldn’t have mattered if they didn’t choke with 3 errors! That’s what really cost them the game

  • mudsnipe

    I couldn,t agree more and after I just saw Joe Torre ( who I HAD ALWAWS  had the greatest respect for) take up for such a terrible call by Sam Holbrook, who should be bagging groceries next week, saddens me deeply. Even the game of baseball has lost it,s integrity and a lifelong fan in me. I expect dishonesty in politicians and the WWE but I expected a little more class from you Joe.

  • mudsnipe


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Mortensen/100001611465000 Dan Mortensen

    You took ALL the words right out of my mouth. Couldn’t agree more. I live in Kansas City, and although not a fan of the Cardinals, I was pulling for them in this instance since they are still from my state. But the Braves were robbed bigtime on this one. Would it have effected the outcome of the game, no one will ever know.

  • dogman1945

     I always thought the Braves fans were amongst the best until that stupid display tonight.  Great job to those in the stands who now have lowered yourselves to the New York and Philadelphia levels.  Embarrassing….

  • m j

     I agree totally but the fans will sleep better thinking they had a chance in that game they need to look back at the season and wonder why they were in a do or die game to begin with.

  • http://twitter.com/jim663 Jim

    I am an umpire with 5 years experience. How far out onto the grass the pop fly goes has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. Ignorant announcers that fan the flames by saying that it can’t be an infield fly that far out show they have no idea what the rule actually says. There is no doubt in my mind that it could have been played by the shortstop with ordinary effort, had he continued out. The fact that he “wasn’t camped under it” again has nothing to do with it. Ordinary effort for a major leaguer is very different from ordinary effort for a Little Leaguer or high schooler. I would have ruled it an intentional drop, not an infield fly, but the outcome would have been the same. Major leaguers are known for their ability to deek (decoy) base runners not unlike foul floppers in the NBA. I’m betting that’s what the true ruling was, even though the left field ump gave the signal for an infield fly. Umps make mistakes, but this wasn’t a mistake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-J-Nelson/725856129 Eric J. Nelson

     Jim, if that is that case then why on all the other miscues like this one why has it never been called an infield fly before?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6LL4TJQM7YV7YTQGBSXNW344LI Dennis

    You had me agreeing with you until you said you would have ruled it an intentional drop.  Really????  If the shortstop would had let it fall infront of him and then forced the guy out at third… ok… then you call it an intentional drop.  But the shortstop ran away from the ball, making it obvious he wasn’t going for the trick force out.  Plus on top of that… the onl;y reason a player would intentionally drop the ball is to get a double play.  You are telling me you think the SS was thinking DP????  I hope you never ump any of my games.

  • JamesT32

    Not a fan of the judgment call in that instance, but just an absolute disgraceful show of comportment by Braves fans at Turner Field.  The price of admission simply does not include the right to arbitrarily heave s**t on the field regardless of how many questionable umpiring calls you witness or how pissed off they may or may not make you.  Behave yourselves when at public sporting events and always remember that very little that happens in this world is done with an eye towards pleasing or displeasing you directly.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PWZQZ3TA7INZDHAGQGSYKKIAIM ToddB

     Really, you spend your hard earned money to go to a damn baseball game and some a-hole rips off your team(incapable of overturning a terrible call for some damn reason) and your supposed to feel bad for littering?  I wouldn’t have acted that way but I understand why they felt that way.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PWZQZ3TA7INZDHAGQGSYKKIAIM ToddB

     Thanks Dad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futurerocker Brett James Arnold

    I don’t think the rule says, “Only call if you think they’re going to get a DP if the ball is dropped.” It’s written out plainly, and should be called as such.

  • AdamF29

    I moved from that town over 9 years ago and after I worked for the ball club, maybe biased I too disagreed with the call but I can’t believe more Cardinal fans are not outraged with the lack of attention and credit their team generated after their winning tradition continues. The only topic of conversation about last night was the blown call and the retirement of Chipper’s career. I can assure you those fans are better than the reaction they displayed. Surely Cardinal fans at Busch would have never done such an insane thing like that. Someone will pay for another Braves collapse, Fredi G/Frank Wren.

  • DreamW

    Mr. Chipper Jones: thank you for all the great play for all the years.Let people argue about what they will. I’ve been a Braves fan for 25 years and yuo Sir were the absolute class best. Thanks aggain G. Weave.

  • JamesT32

    You’re welcome, clod, you wish I was your father. What I said was perfectly true, simple as that.

  • JamesT32

    Saying you “understand why they felt that way” certianly doesn’t justify such childish and mindless behavior in any way, shape or form.  Surely you get that, should probably seek professional help if you don’t.  Besides, be honest, the tone of your posts clearly suggest you would have been partaking of that idiocy as energetically as anyone else.