ATLANTA -- Frank Pulli, the former major league umpire who stepped outside the rules by turning to instant replay to settle a disputed call in a memorable 1999 Marlins game at Pro Player Stadium, has died at the age of 78.
"You know what? He was ahead of his time," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.
The date was May 31, 1999, and Gonzalez had been designated to manage the Marlins briefly in the absence of John Boles, who missed several days due to a neck injury. Never in his wildest imagination did Gonzalez think he would be thrust into one of the most controversial plays in baseball history.
It all started when Cliff Floyd's fly ball in the fifth inning against the Cardinals struck part of the teal scoreboard in left. Floyd pulled up at second with what was ruled initially to be a double. But the Marlins argued it should have been a home run and, at first, the umpires agreed and credited Floyd with a round-tripper. But Pulli finally decided to take matters into his own hands, examined the replay, and changed the call back to a double.
Gonzalez went to Pulli and said the Marlins were playing the game under protest.
"I remember a couple of things," Gonzalez recalled. "I remember me saying to pitching coach Rich) Dubee, 'I think I'm going to protest this game' and he said, 'I think you're on your own on that one.' And I remember the way Frank Pulli handled it when I lodged the protest. He was a gentleman. He said 'Sure, no problem. You can do that.'"
While the home run call was ultimately upheld, Pulli was admonished by the league office for overstepping the rules by turning to instant replay. Now, of course, replay is permitted on boundary calls like the one that created such an uproar 14 years ago.
A.J. RAMOS PILING UP THE K'S
The Marlins' A.J. Ramos is tied with Cody Allen of the Indians for second-most strikeouts in the majors among rookie relievers. Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals leads the way with 87.
"I've thrown a lot of innings (68 2/3) so I've had ample opportunities to strike out people, and I guess I've taken full advantage of that," Ramos said.
Ramos is proudest of his consistency. He's been one of the Marlins' most dependable relievers.
"That's one of the main things, try to be consistent with what I do, try to be the same guy every time," he said.
Ramos can credit first baseman Logan Morrison for one of his whiffs. After Morrison bailed out on a foul ball for what would have been the third out in Washington on Wednesday when he heard a fan yell "I got it! I got it!," Ramos promptly whiffed the hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, on the next pitch.
"Sometimes when you're out there, you're like 'Catch it, please,' because you're struggling,'" Ramos said. "But that time I thought, 'If he misses it or it goes foul, that's fine.' I thought I could get him with the next pitch."
RYAN WEBB FINE
One day after being struck in the back by a line drive while stretching in foul territory during batting practice, Marlins reliever Ryan Webb said he was good to go and could pitch if needed. Webb had to be led off the field after being smoked in the back by a Nationals hitter during batting practice. Since he had been used in long relief the previous night, going 3 1/3 innings following a rain delay, he wouldn't have been available to pitch anyway on Thursday.
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR
In case you missed it, the Marlins were eliminated from the N.L. East race on Thursday.