An Old-Timers' Day that began with the usual parade of Yankees legends ended with an old-time debate about whether a takeout slide by an Orioles player was dirty or clean.
Fifty years ago, the question probably wouldn't have even been asked. But it was asked and Joe Girardi reacted angrily about a slide by one-time Yankee Steve Pearce that upended third baseman Kelly Johnson and led to four runs in the eighth inning of Baltimore's 8-0 victory Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
Girardi called the slide "malicious" and "violent" and "dangerous."
Pearce said he wasn't trying to hurt Johnson, but admitted: "When I saw the replay, I was like, 'man, I was far away .' "
Now, the Yankees were already losing 3-0 and were being stymied by Orioles pitching for the second straight day. They were facing just their third loss in 15 starts by Masahiro Tanaka, who fell to 11-2.
It may not have been the Yankees' day no matter what happened in the eighth. But any hopes of a comeback were squashed in that inning, when Pearce's slide led to a costly throwing error and a curious ruling by the umpires without the aid of instant replay.
With Adam Warren pitching, Pearce and Adam Jones singled to start the inning and Nelson Cruz hit a grounder to third.
Johnson stepped on the bag for an out before Pearce slid in and clipped him on the left ankle going by, forcing Johnson to throw the ball all the way into the stands behind first base for an error as Jones appeared to score.
However, Pearce slid out of the baseline to the home plate side. There was no debate about that. Girardi argued that was interference and some sort of penalty should be applied to the Orioles, such as the batter being called out for a double play.
The umpires huddled before deciding to send Jones back to third and letting Cruz take second. An error was charged to Johnson. The Orioles went on to score four more runs in the inning on J.J. Hardy's three-run double and Manny Machado's run-scoring single.
"[The umpires] thought he could still touch the bag," Girardi said. "You have to make an attempt for the bag and there was no attempt for the bag. That was pretty malicious. And I'm all for playing hard. I don't have a problem with playing hard. I took guys out. But that's a pretty dangerous one because you're going after someone on the side and that's how you hurt your knees. I didn't think he made any attempt for the bag."
Pearce, who played under Girardi with the Yankees for 12 games in 2012, said: "I was just trying to take him out. There was nothing malicious about it. I'm just playing the game. If he feels that way, I'm sorry. But personally, I was not trying to hurt the guy. I was just trying to break up the double play."
Girardi said Pearce "plays the game hard. I don't know if mentally he meant to maliciously go after him. I think it's just the fact that they're playing hard. But I think it's something that the umpires, if it's at second, it gets called. A lot of times at third and home, it doesn't. That's what I don't understand."
Pressed on whether he thought Pearce's slide was truly "malicious," Girardi said: "Let's not get into semantics -- I'm not an English major. I'm a math guy. So I don't think he intentionally tried to hurt him, OK? But it's a pretty violent and dangerous slide, is what I'm saying. I like numbers. I don't like words."
Johnson said he thought the slide was "on the fine line" of being dirty.
"It could be dirty, but as a baserunner, I would have a hard time saying I wouldn't slide the same way," he said. "I would try to maybe make sure I'm closer [to the base] . . . I got a little upset after I watched a replay, for sure, but also about the fact to me it wasn't ruled the right way."
By rule interference and / or obstruction, plays are not reviewable by replay.
"I don't think you need to review it," Girardi said. "All you've got to do is look at where his slide is. There's a big mark in the field that tells me where his slide is."