It's the ball, stupid.
Little Leaguers aren't very forgiving when it comes to one of the biggest gaffes of the baseball season: The decision by New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to argue a call while an opponent was rounding the bases to score.
"He should have been paying attention," said Scott Fisher, a pitcher and infielder for the Toms River, New Jersey, Little League world champions. "We'd probably pick up the ball and hold the runner."
Instead of grabbing the ball, Knoblauch argued with umpires, trying to get an interference call on the Cleveland Indians' Travis Fryman. Enrique Wilson wound up scoring the go-ahead run all the way from first base.
Cleveland beat the Yankees 4-1 Wednesday to even the American League championship series at one game apiece. The winner of the best-of-seven series goes to the World Series. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday night.
Little Leaguers said Thursday that Knoblauch was right: Fryman should have been called out for interference after he was hit by the ball as he ran on the fair side of the baseline on the way to first base.
But the kids couldn't believe Knoblauch didn't finish the play before pitching a fit.
Joe Franceschini, a pint-sized infielder, yelled at his television.
"I was really mad at him 'cause he's, like, a pro and he still had to complain," said outfielder R.J. Johansen, a Yankees fan like everyone else on his team.
An embarrassed Knoblauch on Thursday apologized to his teammates, Yankees fans and anyone else he could think of.
"I screwed up," he said. "I screwed up the play, and I feel terrible about that. You know, I should have went and got the ball, regardless of what the outcome of the umpire's call was."
Toms River manager Mike Gaynor is sure his kids would have played it right.
"My Little Leaguers would've hustled after it," he said. "They wouldn't have known the interference rule. They would have thought they blew it and tried to make a play."
By DAVID KINNEY