On Monday, September 24, one of the strangest endings in the history of sports unjustly provided the Seattle Seahawks with a 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Despite the defender clearly having possession of the last-second "Hail Mary" pass, replacement referees awarded Seattle receiver Golden Tate with the touchdown. Even resorting to instant replay failed to correct the inconceivable call and the dejected Packers left the field in disgust. This botched ending now joins a notorious list of odd calls that have decided controversial games. Here's a look at 10 of strangest calls by referees in the world of sports.
Tuck Rule Game: During a divisional playoff game on January 19, 2002, young New England Patriots' QB Tom Brady became part of one of the more controversial calls in NFL history. With the score tied in the final minutes of a game marred by snow, Brady fumbled the ball after a sack by Oakland Raiders' cornerback Charles Woodson. The Pats' ensuing dynasty may never have occurred, if the referee had not proceeded to overturn the call on the field due to an obscure provision called the "tuck rule." Because Brady's arm was judged to be moving forward, it was considered an incomplete pass and New England soon kicked the winning field goal.
Armando Gallaraga Loses a Perfect Game: While this wretched call was more straight-forward than others, its impact was equally devastating. On June 2, 2010, the right-handed pitcher for the Detroit Tigers retired 26 consecutive batters and stood on the verge of baseball immortality. Striving for the 21st perfect game in MLB history, Gallaraga then produced a grounder to first, which should have been the game's final out. Though the play happened directly before him, Jim Joyce called the runner safe at first base. This was a blatant miscall in the most critical of times and the umpire even apologized to Gallaraga after the game.
Brett Hull & the In The Crease Rule: Though this NHL stalwart posted 741 goals in a legendary career, he is best remembered for the winning tally that decided the 1999 Stanley Cup in favor of the Dallas Stars. Hull broke a 1-1 tie in Game 6 against the Buffalo Sabres by slipping a shot past Dominik Hasek in the 3rd sudden-death overtime period. Though the Stars began celebrating euphorically, fans at home saw the replay reveal that Hull's skate was "in the crease" prior to obtaining the puck. According to the rules, the goal should have been disallowed. Not surprisingly, the NHL quickly rewrote this inflammatory rule over the summer.
The Hand of God: During an elimination contest of the 1986 World Cup between political rivals Argentina and England, Diego Maradona produced both goals for Argentina to secure a 2-1 victory. Though the second proved one of the prettiest in soccer history, the first tally illegally came courtesy of his left hand. The referee somehow overlooked Maradona's hand redirecting a shot into the net. In the post-match press conference, the brass star himself coined the phrase "hand of God" to describe the goal. Argentina went on to capture the 1986 World Cup.
Game 6 of the 1985 World Series: Holding a 3-2 edge in games and a 1-0 lead in the 9th inning of Game 6, the St. Louis Cardinals were on the cusp of winning the World Series over the cross-state rival Kansas City Royals when umpiring disaster struck. Leading off the 9th inning, Royals' batter Jorge Orta grounded out to first base, but was instead called safe by umpire Don Denkinger. Despite replays showing the call was botched, and a vigorous protest by Cards' manager Whitey Herzog, the horrible call stood. Karma naturally dictated that the Royals proceed to post 2 runs to win the game 2-1 and then capture Game 7 to claim the World Series.
Heads or Tails:
Heads or Tails:In a nationally-televised Thanksgiving Day game in 1998, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions required overtime to decide a winner. Prior to the start of the extra period, Steelers' captain Jerome Bettis was tasked with choosing between heads and tails for the coin flip to decide possession. Though microphones captured "The Bus" calling tails with the coin in the air, referee Phil Luckett interpreted the decision as heads. Bettis and the Steelers lost the toss and immediately lost the contest, as Detroit scored on the opening possession. The NFL quickly intervened and the choice must now be stated clearly prior to the referee's toss.
Derek Jeter came to the plate in the 8th inning. Jeter rocketed a deep fly ball down the right field line that Baltimore outfielder Tony Tarasco pursued. Before he could stretch against the wall to make the catch, 12 year old Jeffrey Maier reached down with his own glove to make the catch from the crowd. Despite the play happening right before his eyes, right field umpire Rich Garcia immediately indicated a home run and the game was tied. Perhaps blessed by a higher power, and certainly aided by a child, the Yankees eventually won the contest, the American League pennant, and the World Series.
1972 Olympic Gold Medal Basketball Game: The United States had never failed to capture the gold medal in basketball prior to this disputed ending of the 1972 Olympic event. After trailing to the Soviet Union for much of the contest, the USA hit a pair of free throws to take a 50-49 lead with only 3 seconds remaining. Though time proceeded to expire 2 times, the referees stopped all victory celebrations and cited problems at the scorer's table to reset the clock each time. On the 3rd attempt, the Soviets actually scored and captured the gold medal. Not surprisingly, these ineptly corrupt refs found no timing problems on the winning play.Bengie Molina's Home Run That Wasn't a Run: This portly catcher is the only known hitter in baseball history to belt a homer and not be credited with a run. Playing for the San Francisco Giants, on September 26, 2008, Molina hit a long fly ball off the wall at AT&T Park and reached first base for a single. A pinch runner immediately replaced Molina, even while manager Bruce Bochy protested that the drive was actually a home run. Umpires eventually used instant replay to confirm that Molina's shot was indeed a homer. However, the catcher was no longer in the ballgame and his replacement had to circle the bases to claim the run.
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Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
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