What makes a baseball fan throw caution to the wind and risk life and limb when a ball is hit within 50 feet of him? We're not sure, but we do know that there have been many instances over the years where the action on the field has spilled into the stands. With baseball's postseason upon us, here are some especially noteworthy instances of fan interference.
1. Steve Bartman/Moises Alou (2003)
The situation: Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, with the Chicago Cubs leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were five outs away from their first World Series appearance since 1945.
What happened: Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo hit a high foul ball toward the stands down the left field line. As Cubs left fielder Moises Alou reached for the ball, so did a fan named Steve Bartman. The ball bounced off Bartman's hand and into the stands, and Alou and the Cubs pleaded for a ruling of fan interference to no avail. Castillo walked on the next pitch, starting an eight-run rally aided by a key error by Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
The outcome: The Marlins won the game 8-3 to force Game 7, which they won 9-6 to capture their second National League pennant. Florida would go on to beat the Yankees in six games to win its second world championship. Bartman's gaffe became embedded in the lore of a franchise which last won a World Series in 1908.
2. Tony Tarrasco/Jeffrey Maier (1996)
The situation: Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, with the Orioles leading the Yankees 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning.
What happened: Yankees rookie shortstop Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to deep right field off Orioles reliever Armando Benitez. Right fielder Tony Tarasco backed up to the wall and reached up to make the catch, but a fan -- later identified as 11-year-old Jeffrey Maier -- reached over the fence and tried to catch the ball before Tarasco could do so. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a home run despite vehement protests by Tarasco, Benitez and Orioles manager Davey Johnson.
The outcome: The game went into extra innings, and Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams won it in the 11th inning with a solo home run. New York went on to win the series in five games en route to its first World Series title since 1978.
3. Shane Victorino (2009)
The situation: Two outs, bottom of the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 2009 National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies, with Philadelphia leading 9-4.
What happened: With a runner on first base, Philadelphia's Shane Victorino hit a deep fly ball to right field off Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario that caromed off the top of the fence. Umpire Ted Barrett quickly ruled that a fan had touched the ball, limiting Victorino to a double.
The outcome: The runner on first, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, scored the final run in a 10-4 Phillies victory that clinched the NLCS and sent Philadelphia to its second straight World Series.
4. Robinson Cano (2010)
The situation: Game 4 of the 2010 American League Championship Series, scoreless in the bottom of the second inning at Yankee Stadium.
What happened: Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano hit a towering drive to right field that bounced off the top of the fence and into the seats for a home run. Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz leaped at the wall trying to catch the ball and claimed that a fan interfered with the play.
The outcome: Umpire Jim Reynolds ruled that the home run would stand. The Rangers, however, would rally and pull away for a 10-3 win and would go on to win the ALCS in six games on the way to their first World Series berth.
5. Nelson Cruz/Matt Holliday (2011)
The situation: Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, with the Cardinals leading the Rangers 14-6 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
What happened: Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz hit a sacrifice fly to his Cardinals counterpart, Matt Holliday. As Holliday camped under the ball, a fan in the left field bleachers tossed another ball onto the field. It landed several feet to Holliday's left. Holliday made the play.
The outcome: The fan was ejected from the game, and the Cardinals went on to a 16-7 win. St. Louis would capture its 11th World Series championship after rallying twice to win a memorable Game 6, then capturing Game 7, 6-2.
Ice bucket challenge trending up
Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.
The Simpsons still going strong
The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.
Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.
A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."
8 crucial tips for college freshmen
With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.
College sports upended by NCAA vote, judge's ruling
Big-name conferences have leave to write their own rules, and a federal judge is forcing colleges to share television and marketing royalties with players. The guise of amateurism is gone from college athletics. What's next is anyone's guess.
How rural poverty is changing: Your fate is increasingly tied to your town
The town of Las Animas takes about five minutes to drive through when the one stoplight is blinking yellow, as usual. It's easy to miss but hard to escape. Just ask Frank Martinez.
Your brain helps you judge a face before you even see it
In a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers report that the amygdala — a part of the brain associated with decision making, memory and emotion — plays a part in telling us who to trust almost instantly.
'Baconholics' undeterred by 30-year high pork prices
With images of pigs and barbecued meats tattooed on his left calf, Brian Polak is doing what he can to cope with the highest price of bacon in three decades. The 41-year-old self-proclaimed "baconholic" now often cures his own at home to help reduce costs.
Baseball still catching on to official reviews
The Marlins clung to a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning against the Reds last week when an official review of a play at the plate changed everything. The game's controversial outcome - Cincinnati won 3-1 - illustrates baseball's struggle to adjust to the new replay system.
Controversial Amway-style sales approach draws greater scrutiny
Enrique Martinez didn't like chocolate, but he was eating as many as 10 pieces a day, drinking chocolate protein shakes and rubbing a chocolate-based skin cream on his face. The chocolate came from MXI Corp., which uses a controversial business model called multilevel marketing -- companies without a sales force that recruit their customers to sell products, often in bulk to other customers, who might in turn sell to other customers, and so on.
- Ice bucket challenge trending up