With the firestorm of controversy ignited in the NFL over repeated mistakes made by replacement officials, especially the egregious officiating error Monday that gave Seattle a win over Green Bay, this seems like a good time to look back at the 10 worst calls by MLB umpires in recent history.
Denkinger Says Safe: In Game 6 of the 1985 World Series between the Kansas Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, first-base umpire Don Denkinger called the Royals' Jorge Orta safe in the bottom of the ninth, even though replays showed that the runner was out by at least a half-step. The Royals went on to a come-from-behind Game 6 victory as well as the Series win in Game 7.
Jeffrey Maier Gloves It: In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS at Yankee Stadium, 12-year-old New York Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier was sitting in the first row of the right-field stands when Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to the wall. Maier reached over and gloved the ball, taking a potential catch away from the Orioles outfielder. The right-field umpire, Rich Garcia, missed the fan interference, giving Jeter a home run. The Yankees went on to take the game and the series.
Blind as a Bat: In Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS, umpire Phil Cuzzi, ostensibly positioned as the left-field umpire to make fair or foul calls more easily, missed one in front of his face as he called a fly ball from Joe Mauer foul, even though it was clearly a fair ball. This was another blown call that led to pleas from some for more replay use in the game.
Blockhead Gets Away With It: In Game 4 of the 1999 ALCS, Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch executed a phantom tag to perfection as Boston's Jose Offerman was attempting to move to second on a ground ball. Offerman was the first out of a 4-3 double play that helped the Yankees win the game, and eventually the series.
A Sticky Situation: The Yankees held a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth inning at home over the Royals on July 24, 1983, until Royals star George Brett hit a two-run home run to put his team on top. Or not. After Brett crossed home plate, Yankees manager Billy Martin objected to the home-plate umpire that Brett's bat had pine tar too high on the handle. The umpire agreed and ruled Brett out, setting off a frenzied reaction from Brett. The Yankees "won" the game that day, but the two played a make-up contest 25 days later with the Royals coming out on top.
He Never Touched the Plate: In a play-in game in 2007 to determine if the Padres or Rockies would proceed to the postseason, the Rockies scored twice in the bottom of the 13th inning to tie the score. Matt Holliday was on third and attempted to score next on a fly ball. The outfielder's throw was in time but it was dropped by the catcher. However, Holliday was credited with scoring the winning run, even though it appeared he had been blocked off the plate. The Rockies would go on to make the World Series before coming up short in their attempt to win it all.
Jim Joyce Ruins Perfection: In a June 2, 2010, between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was on the verge of baseball immortality after retiring the first 26 batters of the game. The 27th batter, Jason Donald, hit a ground ball to the first baseman, and the ball was flipped to Galarraga covering, clearly in time to record the final out of a perfect game. But first-base umpire Jim Joyce shockingly ruled Donald safe, ruining Galarraga's chance at baseball glory.
Jerry Meals Pirates a Win for the Braves: On July 26, 2011, the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates played into the bottom of the 19th inning in a thrilling game in Atlanta. On a ground ball to third base, Braves baserunner Julio Lugo was called safe as he ran to home plate by umpire Jerry Meals, even though the tag was applied by the Pirates catcher well in advance of Lugo crossing the plate, giving the Braves an undeserved 4-3 win.
Tim McClelland Forgets the Rules: In Game 4 of the 2009 ALCS, the Yankees' Jorge Posada got caught in a rundown between third and home, returning to third as the runner on second, Robinson Cano, arrived at the bag. Los Angeles-Anaheim Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged both runners as they were standing off the base, but McClelland erroneously called Posada out and Cano safe, instead of ruling both players out.
Eric Gregg's Wide Strike Zone: Umpire Eric Gregg was noticeable on the field for his wide girth and was notorious for his wide strike zone. The latter was never more on display than in Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS between the Braves and the Marlins. Gregg continually called pitches well off the plate strikes, especially to the benefit of Marlins pitcher Livan Hernandez. The final pitch of the game--a called strike three--appeared to be several inches off the corner. The Marlins took the series and went on to capture the World Series.
Patrick Hattman is a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan and the team's second-half collapse in 2012 has only added to his misery.
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