After a shaky start, Major League Baseball managed to complete a coronavirus-era season Tuesday night, but not without one last dash of COVID-19 controversy when Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive for the virus—in the middle of the game. MLB had not recorded a positive test for the virus in nearly two months until Tuesday night’s decisive World Series Game 6. What transpired after the results came in will surely raise eyebrows, as Turner, after being removed from the game and forced to isolate in the clubhouse, later returned to the field to celebrate with his teammates. The 35-year-old reportedly refused to leave the field when approached by MLB security; he posed for a team picture without a mask and was seen kissing his wife on field, much of which was captured on national television.
It was a surreal, and perhaps appropriate, ending to an already surreal season that concluded with both teams sequestered in a Dallas-area bubble where all of the games were played at a neutral site, the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Despite all of the precautions, things started to go wrong when Turner’s daily test from Monday returned from MLB’s Utah lab as inconclusive. The Wall Street Journal reports the test results arrived in the second inning. Inconclusive tests, which were not uncommon throughout the season, were often the result of contamination of some kind.
By the league’s coronavirus protocol, Turner, a pivotal player who bats third for the Dodgers, was not required to leave the game. Around the same time, however, Turner’s sample from earlier Tuesday arrived at the Utah testing facility via FedEx, and MLB fast-tracked the third baseman’s test, which came back positive. The results arrived in the Dodgers’ dugout in the middle of the seventh inning. Turner was pulled and isolated for the remainder of the game.
But the allure of celebrating a World Series, the Dodgers’ first in more than 30 years, proved too much, and Turner made his way back to the field to celebrate with his teammates—and their families.
“When told by MLB security that he had to leave, a person familiar with the matter said, Turner refused,” according to the WSJ. “He continued to share space not just with other players who had already been in close contact with him throughout the game, but with his teammates’ spouses, children and other family members who had not been.”