As Enrique Wilson swirled around the bases like a tornado, Knoblauch kept pointing at first base, trying to get umpires to call interference on Travis Fryman.
Knoblauch pointed and pointed, but the call never came. And all the while, the ball sat on the infield dirt for all to see.
By the time Knoblauch finally picked up the ball and threw it, Wilson was flopping into home plate with the go-ahead run.
"I'm pretty shocked. ... I was kind of dumbfounded," Knoblauch said Wednesday after the Indians' 4-1, 12-inning victory over New York, which tied the American League Championship Series at a game apiece.
Yankees fans, angry at his no-brainer, had a harsher assessment, booing him loudly when he came to the plate in the bottom half.
"Blockhead," screamed the front-page headline in today's New York Post.
"Chuck Brainlauch," added the back page.
At Yankee Stadium, it seems the wild is the norm during October. And this time, the Indians were the beneficiary, happy to head home to Jacobs Field without a pair of losses.
"You come into New York, you come away with a split, I think you can go home and feel like you did something," said Fryman, who got his first sacrifice in two years. "It was a great win to me. I don't care how I win, as long as you win."
Jim Thome had singled off Jeff Nelson, the eventual loser, leading off the 12th, Cleveland's first runner since Omar Vizquel tripled with one out in the eighth. Wilson ran for Thome, and Fryman sent a bunt up the first-base line to Martinez.
"I didn't have much room to really work with," Martinez said. "The ball was bunted right next to the line. I was trying to sneak it in there."
Knoblauch had come over from second to take the throw and the ball struck Fryman, clearly running in fair territory, in the back. Wilson kept going, nearly tripping himself up as he headed home with gigantic strides. He sprawled into the plate with the go-ahead run just ahead of Jorge Posada's tag.
"I don't feel like I didn't play the ball out. I didn't know where it was," Knoblauch said.
Yankees manager Joe Torre tried to persuade first-base umpire John Shulock and plate umpire Ted Hendry to change the call.
"He was on the grass, It was so blatant. I don't know what to say," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "It was a terrible call."
Did the umpires make the right call? Crew chief Jim Evans said it's all a matter of interpretation.
"The fact that he was literally on the base or half a step from the base, he has the right to be in that position," said Evans, who watched the play from right field. "Is it a throw that would have retired him, and how close is he to the base? He has the right to be in fair territory that close to the base."
That's different than section 7.09 (k) of the Official Playing Rules, which states: "A runner is required to have both feet within the 3-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane."
Fryman clearly was on the grass in fair territory, not the lane on the foul side, during his entire route from the plate to first.
"I think the call could have gone either way," Evans said.
The play will surely be debated, just like the Jeffrey Maier home run in 1996. That's when the Yankees snatched a win from Baltimore when the 12-year-old Maier caught Derek Jeter's fly before right fielder Tony Tarasco could get it, creating a home run.
This time, it went against the Yankees.
"I was a little surprised nobody went after the ball," said Fryman, who wound up on third.
Torre clearly was disappointed in Knoblauch, who was booed loudly when he came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning.
"You have got to make the play and then go back and argue with the umpire," the manager said. "But I think he was just shocked that they didn't make the call."
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was angry, too.
"Knoblauch should have been after it. Chuck knows it," Steinbrenner said. "With these umpires, you make the play and then argue."
For much of the afternoon and evening, it was a sparkling pitcher's duel between Cleveland's Charles Nagy and David Cone.
David Justice put the Indians ahead with a fourth-inning homer off Cone _ the first time the Yankees trailed this postseason _ but Scott Brosius' RBI double tied the score in the seventh and chased Nagy, who had been working on a four-hit shutout.
Cleveland, blown out 7-2 in Game 1 _ had lost a postseason opener for the eighth straight time. Yet, the Indians have excelled in comebacks, going 6-2 in Game 2s.
Four batters after the controversial play, Kenny Lofton hit a two-run single off Graeme Lloyd. Finally, Cleveland could relax.
"At the end," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said, "we caught a break and made the most of that opportunity."