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Marliniversary: Instant replay overturns Cliff Floyd’s Marlins home run

On this date 20 years ago, a disagreement between umpires led to perhaps the first-ever use of instant replay during a MLB regular season game.

Cliff Floyd
On May 31, 1999, Cliff Floyd became perhaps the first Major Leaguer to have a home run overturned by replay.
Getty Images

Major League Baseball officially added instant replay reviews in 2008. There have been some tweaks since then (the current variation dates back to 2015). So you may be surprised to learn that, exactly two decades ago, the Florida Marlins were the first victims of a call being overturned via MLB instant replay.

The Marlins were struggling at 16-34 as they got set to host the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a four-game set on May 31, 1999. St. Louis, at 24-24, was looking to get back over .500 and would do so with the help of an unlikely source: a television camera.

The Cardinals led 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Florida outfielder Cliff Floyd hammered a ball to left field off Kent Bottenfield. It looked as though Floyd had just driven in both himself and teammate Álex González to make it a one-run game.

Floyd’s shot was originally ruled a double by second-base umpire Greg Gibson. However, crew chief Frank Pulli saw it differently and gave the Marlins a home run...at least initially.

Pulli consulted a television camera near the Florida dugout and spent several minutes looking at replays. He then overturned his own call, making Floyd’s hit a RBI double (just as Gibson had originally called it).

Photo by Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Floyd would end the inning being stranded at third base as the Cardinals eventually prevailed, 5-2. The only actual home runs in the game came from St. Louis shortstop and former Marlins World Series hero Edgar Rentería, who left the yard twice.

Mark McGwire and Ray Lankford each recorded RBI doubles for the Cardinals. Mike Lowell had the only other RBI hit for the Marlins with a single in the fourth.

The Marlins would play the final four innings under protest. It was later denied, although National League President Len Coleman conceded that replay should not have been used in that case.

Photo by Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Since instant replay was implemented and expanded in Major League Baseball, there have certainly been gripes here and there. But long before Marlins fans had Zack Cozart’s inexplicable tying “run” to complain about it, there was Cliff Floyd’s home run that wasn’t. It came on this day 20 years ago.