ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals, still seething over the blown umpire's call that cost them a championship 28 years ago, now may be forever be indebted to those men in blue if they win this World Series.
The Cardinals knocked off the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, Saturday night in the wackiest, most bizarre finish in World Series history.
They won the game on rule 7.06 in your friendly baseball rulebook.
It's called obstruction: "The act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.''
Yes, really, that's how Game 3 of the World Series was decided.
"I'm absolutely shocked a game of this magnitude could be decided like that,'' Boston Red Sox starter Jake Peavy said. "Just doesn't seem right. It's all I can do to just say that. Just unbelievable that can happen in a World Series.''
BOX SCORE: Cardinals 5, Red Sox 4
It was the first obstruction call to ever decide a World Series game.
The Red Sox can hate it all they want, but it was absolutely the correct call.
And the man who made the call was third-base umpire, Jim Joyce, the same man who blew Armando Galarraga's perfect game in 2010.
"Immediately after we got off the field into our locker room,'' said John Hirschbeck, the crew chief, "we contacted Jim and said, "Great call.''
"We're trained to look for these things. It's out of the ordinary, but when it happens, and it's the World Series, you expect to get it right.''
It may also turn out to be the call that awards the Cardinals their 12th World Series championship, taking a 2-1 lead over the Red Sox, with Game 4 scheduled at 8:15 (ET) tonight at Busch Stadium.
"It blows your mind,'' Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks said, "to lose a game that way."
Then again, it was Middlebrook's feet that blew out Allen Craig's legs, prompting the obstruction call.
"Tough way to have a game end,'' Red Sox manager John Farrell said, "particularly of this significance.
"That's a tough pill to swallow.''
Farrell, who conceded after the game that he made a few blunders of his own, somehow having reliever Brandon Workman make his first career plate appearance in the ninth inning instead of using pinch-hitter Mike Napoli, may spend all night recalling the intimate details of this nightmare.
SECOND GUESSING HIMSELF: John Farrell's biggest Game 3 regret
Yet, despite all of the second-guessing of managerial moves, heroics by Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, and shaky relief pitchers, it will be remembered for only one play.
The situation: The Cardinals, with the game tied at 4-apiece, had runners on second and third with one out in the ninth inning.
Farrell, who had just watched Allen Craig double off closer Koji Uehara to advance Yadier Molina to third base, decided to pitch to Jon Jay.
Jay hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia fielded it cleanly, and threw to the plate, easily nailing Molina.
UMP SHOW: They nail the call at crucial time
Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, seeing Craig running from second base to third on the throw, fired to Middlebrooks. It was wide right. It sailed past a sprawling Middlebrooks into left field.
Craig got up, and started to run past Middlebrooks, but was tripped by Middlebrooks' feet flopping into the air. It appeared intentional. Middlebrooks denied it.
No matter. Craig fell down.
"Running under control in that situation,'' Craig said, "didn't cross my mind."
Craig alertly got up and started running toward home. This is when Joyce immediately raised his hand for interference. Red Sox left fielder Daniel Nova, backing up the play, threw home to nail Craig.
BREAKDOWN: Cardinals win to take 2-1 Series lead
Home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth, seeing Joyce's interference signal, and knowing that Craig would have scored if not for the interference, didn't hesitate.
The Cardinals swarmed onto the field to mob Craig, who was playing only his third game since breaking his left foot six weeks ago.
Farrell stormed from the dugout to argue, along with his players.
And the sellout crowd of 47,432 at Busch Stadium, initially confused, celebrated when they realized what just transpired.
"I didn't know what was going on,'' Saltalamacchia said. "I tagged Craig and Dana (DeMuth) called him safe, and I couldn't believe it."
"Then he said they called obstruction. I couldn't see it from my (spot) behind the plate, but I watched on the replay and I don't think it was obstruction.
"Will didn't try to interfere with him. He didn't have anywhere else to go.''
Sorry, intentional or not, it was the proper call.
The only call.
"Obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a runner when not in the act of fielding a ball,'' Hirschbeck said. "There does not have to be intent, ok? Once he has the opportunity to field the ball, he can no longer in any way obstruct the runner."
Sorry, this was a call they weren't reversing.
Perhaps, so is the World Series.
Don Denkinger, the man who blew the call at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series - 28 years to the day of Saturday's Game 3 - may now forever be forgiven in St. Louis.
The Hall of Fame officials, in attendance the first three games of this Series, haven't collected any artifacts yet.
They may start with Middlebrooks' spikes.
The spikes that tripped Craig, and perhaps tripped the Red Sox right out of the Series.
"It was a tough call in that situation,'' Middlebrooks said, "but I guess he had to call it because it technically was obstruction. I didn't know what was going on at the time.
"I dove and I felt (Craig's) hands on my back then he fell down and they called obstruction. The only way I could have avoided making contact would be if I had fallen more toward second base, but then I might not have been able to stop the ball."
He accomplished neither.
"This game's not going to define our team,'' Pedroia said. "This won't stop us."
Maybe not, but there's no doubt now that the Red Sox are in serious danger of their season ending in St. Louis.
The home team that won Game 3 to go ahead 2-1 has won the World Series every year since 1964.
The last team to lose in the World Series under that scenario was the New York Yankees.
They lost to the Cardinals.
No obstruction was needed.
GALLERY: THE PLAY OF GAME 3