Baseball Article

Top 10 Shocking Moments in Baseball Umpiring

There are some good calls, some bad ones and some that make you wonder about the power of sight! Whether made with pure hearts or simply a result of an erroneous conscience, these 10 calls are possibly the worst ever witnessed in the history of baseball.

10. The Pine Tar Incident

In July, 1983, the Kansas City Royals took on the New York Yankees in a regular season game. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Royals’ George Brett smashed a home run, eventually allow the Royals to grab a 5-4 win. Yankees manager, Billy Martin came up to home plate umpire Tim McClelland and stated that Brett had used an illegal substance on his bat. The pine tar used to increase grip hasn’t been known to affect the hitting capabilities of the bat.

Even if used beyond the acceptable margins, the maximum punishment is to put that bat out of the game. However, umpire McClelland decided to cancel Brett’s home run and awarded the game to the Yankees. An official protest saw this decision being thrown out of the window and the game was slated to be replayed after Brett’s homer, at a later date. The result remained the same as the Royals won 5-4.

09. A Heavy Price Tag

When the Colorado Rockies entered the bottom of the 13th inning in the 163rd game of the 2007 season, against the San Diego Padres, at stake was the wild card slot for the playoffs. Down 8-6, the Rockies had a huge triple, through Matt Holliday, tying the scores at 8 a-piece. Todd Helton came up to bat next, and was walked intentionally, bringing Jamey Carroll to bat. Holliday decided to take advantage of a line drive and tried for home.

Brian Giles picked up the ball and sent it flying towards home, hoping to beat Holliday in the process. Padres’ catcher Michael Barrett had the plate covered and the throw was good. He tagged a sliding Holliday and after a slight delay, the call was safe. Replays clearly showed that Holliday never got close to the home plate, thereby being rightly out – a fact not denied by Holliday himself. However, the umpire on the night, our very own Tim McClelland, decided to play him safe.

08. What Strikeout?

Game two of the 2005 American League Champion Series saw the Chicago White Sox take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A. J. Pierzynski, catcher for the Sox, came up to bat against Kelvim Escobar. Tied at 1-1, the game was truly in the balance. Despite missing a swing at strike three, Pierzynski was allowed to take first base after the third strike allegedly bounced out of the catchers’ mitt.

Pierzynski took a few steps towards the dugout, realised that the strike hadn’t been called, turned to run towards first base. Before anyone knew what had happened, he was safe while the Angels were left wondering what had happened. Umpire Doug Eddings (no McClelland here) made no audible call however there was a sort-of clenching of the fist. There was no use of the no-catch signal either, thereby making things seem even more suspicious.

Pierzynski was replaced by a pinch runner who went on to score the winning run.

07. Interference

In Game three of the 1975 World Series, the Boston Red Sox played against the Cincinnati Reds. Cesar Geronimo led off the tenth inning with a single, before Ed Armbrister dropped down a bunt that bounced high in front of home plate. As catcher Carlton Fisk came forward to field the ball, Armbrister intentionally collided with him and the throw went wild.

A protest for interference was made against Armbrister but umpire Larry Barnett decided against it. Joe Morgan then hit a single that went on to give the Reds a 6-5 win. This loss is said to have demoralised the Red Sox so badly that they went on to lose the World Series.

06. Pushovers

At the 1993 World Series, Ron Gant of the Atlanta Braves singled out to left field. As he rounded first and was heading into second, when the throw came in surprisingly quickly, forcing him to retreat to first. Kent Hrbek, the rather large first baseman for the Minnesota Twins tried a tag on Gant, which more or less pushed the, relatively, tiny Gant over.

Gant was already off balance and umpire Drew Coble believed that it was his own momentum that bowled Gant over. The Braves would lose that game and the series as well.

05. Crowd Control

A 12-year old Yankee fan turned the 1996 American League Championship Series against the Baltimore Orioles, right from game one. Down 4-3 at the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees had phenom Derek Jeter at bat. His long fly ball out to right field was tracked by Tony Tarasco. As Tony backed up against the wall to make the catch, 12-year old Jeffery Maier reached down and deflected the ball.

Spectator interference should have been called however umpire Rich Garcia called it in as a home run. Tied at 4-4, the Yankees went on to win it in 11 innings while Garcia later admitted to his mistake.

04. Back to Tim

It seems as if Tim McClelland made his name with poor calls, and tried to hog the limelight from the players. New York Yankees’ Melky Cabrera hit a ground ball to Angels’ pitcher Darren Oliver, with runners are second (Robinson Cano) and third (Jorge Posada). As the hit reached Oliver, Posada started making his way towards home. Oliver quickly threw the ball to home, catching Posada in the middle and forcing him to turn back. While Posada was pondering about turning back, Cano had already reached third base. However, Posada kept running back towards third, where Cano was also standing off the bag.

Angels’ catcher Mike Napoli, who had chased Posada down, was alert to this fact and tagged Cano before tagging Posada out as well. According to baseball rules, both players should have been ruled out. However, everyone’s favourite umpire McClelland decided to declare Posada as out and Cano, safe. While no runs were scored in the innings and, later, McClelland did admit to making a mistake, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Mr. McClelland should find another profession.

03. The Phantom Menace

Garbage was thrown onto the field in protest, by fans of the Boston Red Sox. In Game Four of the 1999 American League Championship Series, John Valentin hit a regular ground ball to the second baseman, Yankees’ Chuck Knoblauch. Jose Offerman, at first base, had gone for second and was sure to be tagged out by Knoblauch.

Sure as thought, Knoblauch went on to tag Offerman and then threw the ball to first base and sent the ball flying to first base to end the innings with a double-play. Or did he? While Valentin was clearly out at first base, replays showed that not only did Knoblauch not tag Offerman on his run to second base, he missed him by a full nautical mile. That Tim Tschida, the umpire at second base, missed that call is unthinkable.

The call stopped the Sox’s rally back into the ball game and they went on to lose 9-2 to the Yankees, later losing the series as well.

02. A Fine Line

Jim Joyce would surely be on Armando Galaragga’s hit list for people to pop before the end of the year after the MLB umpire decided to use his better judgement to deny Galaragga what had been an amazing night. With MLB’s 21st perfect game-ever on the cards, Galaragga was one out away from history.

With two outs, a slow hit by Jason Donald pulled first baseman Miguel Cabrera off the bag, forcing Galaragga to cover at first base. Cabrera fielded the ball perfectly and sent it flying to Galaragga at first base. Donald was out and Galaragga had the perfect no-hitter game. However, Jim Joyce, who was probably watching a different game, decided to call it safe. Replays, in real-time and slow motion, clearly showed that Donald was short by a half-step.

Joyce not only denied Galaragga a perfect game, but in the process ruined other records that would have been created, such as the fewest pitches in a perfect game (held since 1908), the shortest perfect game (held since 1965) and the second-most perfect games in one decade, behind the 1990s. Way to go Joyce!

01. The Don King of Umpiring

In Game Six of the 1985 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals took on the Kansas City Royals in what was to be the deciding game, in many ways. At first base, umpire Don Denkinger had other ideas! On the verge of a World Series triumph, at 3-2, the Cardinals were poised for greatness. At the bottom of the ninth, the Royals were losing 1-0 when the lead-off batter, Jorge Orta hit a routine ground ball towards first baseman Jack Clark. The ball was fielded easily and thrown towards first base where pitcher Todd Worrell had come in to give cover.

The throw beat Orta by a decent margin, yet Denkinger ruled him safe. The Royals went on to win the game and tie the series. Denkinger refused to reverse his call despite a lengthy discussion on the matter. Denkinger was behind the plate for the final game and Todd Worrell claimed that he had been a constant distraction to the Cardinals’ pitchers. The Cardinals lost Game Seven 11-0!

Anjali nambissan
Sports Pundit member

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