ST. LOUIS -- It wasn't a replica of the famous World Series "shoe polish" incidents of 1957 and '69, but a ninth-inning at-bat certainly might have cost the Rangers a key out in Wednesday night's 3-2, Game 1 loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in the current Fall Classic.
Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre said he fouled the ball off the tip of his left foot on the first pitch from St. Louis closer Jason Motte before it kicked out to third baseman Daniel Descalso, who easily threw Beltre out at first base for the second out of the inning. Nelson Cruz then flied out to left as the Cards took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Replays appeared to support Beltre's assertion.
"The ball hit the front of my foot," said Beltre, who stumbled on the play and never attempted to run to first. "But when it kicked down to third base, the umpire said he didn't see it. I told him to check my shoe and the ball, but he couldn't tell. He found nothing, so he wouldn't change the call. There was nothing I could do."
Home-plate umpire Jerry Layne looked at the ball, but said he found no evidence that it had struck Beltre's shoe. Some 42 years later, there was no polish.
"Beltre had on those Velcro-type shoes," Rangers manager Ron Washington said afterward. "He asked [Layne] to check the ball, and [he] couldn't find anything on it. [Adrian] said none of the umpires recognized it, so that's what it was about."
On Oct. 16, 1969, in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series at Shea Stadium, the Orioles led the upstart Miracle Mets, 3-0, in the fifth inning when Cleon Jones claimed he was hit on the foot by a Dave McNally offering. Plate umpire Lou DiMuro declined to listen to the complaining Jones until Mets manager Gil Hodges interceded and produced a ball with shoe polish smudged on it.
DiMuro then reversed the call and awarded Jones first base. McNally was apparently so shaken up by the incident that he immediately let up a two-run homer to Donn Clendenon.
The Mets went on to win the game, 5-3, and the World Series that day in five games against an Orioles team that was heavily favored.
Another Jones, Nippy Jones, was involved in a similar incident in the 1957 Series between the Milwaukee Braves and New York Yankees.
With the Braves trailing 5-4 in the 10th inning and facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the Series, Jones pinch-hit for Hall of Famer Warren Spahn to lead off the inning. The Yankees' Tommy Byrne threw a low pitch that home-plate umpire Augie Donatelli called a ball. Jones said the pitch hit his shoe, and showed Donatelli a shoe-polish mark on the ball.
Donatelli awarded first base to Jones and the Braves scored three runs, tying the score and then winning on a two-run home run by Eddie Mathews. Having evened the Series at 2-2, the Braves overturned the Yankees in seven games.
Nothing so dramatic happened on Wednesday, as Layne's original call stood. Replays on the FOX broadcast of the game seemed to show that the ball nicked off the toe of Beltre's shoe. And a new infrared imaging view indicated that it made contact with his foot. Had the call been different, it would have been a foul ball and Beltre would have continued the at-bat with a one-strike count.