Top 10 Worst Calls In Baseball History


On any given day, an umpire may make a mistake in judgment behind the plate, or botch a call somewhere in the field. In what are commonly termed “bang-bang” plays, the action on the field occurs so quickly that often even the sharpest of umpires can be confused as to whether the tag was applied before the batter reached the base. However, on very few occasions, an umpire will make a grave mistake that remains firmly in the minds of fans long after the lights have been turned out and the players have left the clubhouse. In these rare situations, only two things can be blamed: either the umpire has lost his ability to see, or the umpire has a fundamental lack of understanding of the game and its long-established rules. And with the single-handed destruction of a perfect game committed by umpire Jim Joyce last week, many may wonder where this particularly horrendous call ranks with the worst calls in the history of Major League Baseball. In an age where umpiring performances seem to be getting consistently worse, below are the ten most nightmarish umpiring calls in the history of baseball. Unfortunately, these calls were not just bad dreams.

10. The Great Pine Tar Incident

george brett pine tar bat incident

On July 24, 1983, the Royals were playing the Yankees, down 4-3 in the top of the ninth inning. There were two outs, a runner on first base, and George Brett was up to bat against Goose Gossage. Miraculously, George Brett hit a home run, ultimately giving the Royals the 5-4 victory. However, the Yankees’ manager, Billy Martin, confronted home plate umpire Tim McClelland immediately following the home run, citing an obscure rule stating that any foreign substance on a bat could extend no further than 18 inches from the knob. As a result, Tim McClelland demanded Brett’s bat be inspected for the amount of pine tar used.

After a short umpire conference, McClelland confirmed that the pine tar extended higher up the bat than allowed, finding 24 inches of pine tar on the bat. As a result of this judgment, and at the insistence of the aforementioned Billy Martin, McClelland nullified Brett’s home run and called him out. This concluded the game and resulted in the surprising Yankee’s victory. George Brett’s animated and angry reaction to this determination is an iconic image of Major League Baseball in the 1980s.

As everyone knows, a livid Brett charged full-speed out of the dugout towards umpire McClelland and had to be restrained from further action. What many may not know is the rules dictate that the only proper punishment for breaking this pine tar regulation is the removal of that particular bat from the game. In the aftermath of this controversial umpiring decision, the Royals lodged an official protest, which was subsequently upheld by American League President, Lee MacPhail. In fact, pine tar is used for gripping the bat, and has never been shown to alter a bat’s hitting characteristics. McClelland was officially deemed incorrect for ejecting Brett and canceling his home run. Finally, it was ordered that the game be re-played, beginning after the Brett home run.

When the game resumed a month later, the Royals again won 5-4. With Brett being ultimately vindicated in the controversy, it is curious that his notorious temper tantrum is the lasting image from that game, and not the utter ignorance of the rules demonstrated by umpire Tim McClelland.

9. 2007 National League Playoff Play-In Between Rockies and Padres

Colorado Rockies' Matt Holliday, right, slides safe into home as San Diego Padres catcher Michael Barrett bobbles the ball during the 13th inning

In the 163rd game of the 2007 season, the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres battled to see who would be the Wild Card team representing the National League. Through the entire 162 game schedule, the Rockies and Padres finished in a dead tie in the Wild Card standings. In the bottom of the 13th inning, with the Rockies down 8-6 to the Padres, outfielder Matt Holliday hit a big triple to tie the game at 8-8. So with Holliday on third and still no outs in the inning, the Padres intentionally walked power hitter Todd Helton to bring the more average Jamey Carroll to bat. In his at-bat, Carroll hit a line drive to right field, which was caught by the Padres’ Brian Giles.

After the catch, Holliday tagged up at third and tried to beat Giles’ throw to home. The throw was on target and landed in front of Padres’ catcher Michael Barrett, who blocked the plate and applied the tag. Holliday slid. Then, everyone’s favorite umpire, Tim McClelland, made the delayed safe call, resulting in the 9-8 Rockies’ victory and their entrance into the postseason. Unfortunately, replays show that Holliday clearly never touched the plate. Moreover, baseball rumors have it that Holliday himself has admitted he does not know if he touched the plate either.

8. A.J. Pierzynski’s Non-Strikeout

pierzynski no strikeout bad callIn Game Two of the 2005 American League Championship Series, Chicago White Sox catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, was up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Angels’ pitcher, Kelvim Escobar. The game was tied 1-1 at the time, and there were two outs. During this at-bat, Pierzynski swung at a low pitch and missed for strike three, but was allowed to take first base after the third strike allegedly bounced out of catcher Josh Paul’s glove.

For his part, Pierzynski first took a couple of steps towards the dugout, then upon not hearing himself called out, he turn and ran to first base before a majority of the Angels even knew what had happened. However, the third strike was not dropped by the catcher, and Pierzynski should not have been allowed to take first base. Paul said after the game, “I caught the ball so I thought the inning was over.” In reality, Paul caught the ball, thought the game was over, and released the ball.

Umpire Doug Eddings never called Pierzynski out and made no audible call, although he did perform a wishy-washy clutching of the fist. Eddings did not use any no-catch signals at all during the game. Eddings later stated that he believed the ball had not been caught legally. Upon his reaching first, Pierzynski was pulled for a pinch runner, and ultimately came around to score the winning run. The White Sox went on to win their first World Series since 1917, so it is probably pretty easy to guess that Doug Eddings is a well-liked person in the city of Chicago. The good news, however, is that since then, a professional umpiring mechanic has been added to indicate a specific no-catch signal or a “no catch” verbalization after an uncaught third strike.

7. Interference in the 1975 World Series

fisk armbrister bad interference call

Many Red Sox fans wholeheartedly believe that a non-call on player interference cost the team the 1975 World Series. In Game Three, the awesomely-named Cesar Geronimo of the Cincinnati Reds led off the 10th inning with a single. Then, pinch hitter Ed Armbrister dropped down a sacrifice bunt that bounced high in front of home plate.

When Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk attempted to field the ball, Armbrister intentionally collided with him, instigating a wild throw to second base in an attempt to throw out the lead runner, Mr. Geronimo. The Red Sox immediately protested that Armbrister should have been called out for interference by home plate umpire Larry Barnett, as he clearly interfered with Fisk as he attempted to field the ball. They also argued that Geronimo should have to return to first base. This in-game appeal was rejected, and Fisk was charged with an error on the play.

After this dramatic play, Joe Morgan hit the single that scored Geronimo. This gave the Reds the 6-5 victory. At least Red Sox fans can forgive and forget, as rumor has it Barnett received several death threats. It should also be noted that Barnett was booed in every subsequent appearance at Fenway Park, until he finally retired in 1999.

6. Ron Gant Gets Pushed Off First Base

Ront Gant is pushed off of first baseIn the third inning of Game Two of the 1991 World Series, the Atlanta Braves’ Ron Gant singled to left field, taking a wide turn as he rounded first. Gant was headed towards second when a surprise throw into the infield forced him to retreat quickly back to first. However, the quick-footed Gant returned safely back to the bag, albeit slightly off-balanced. The Twins’ big first baseman, Kent Hrbek, applied a “tag,” which was more-or-less a blatant attempt to push Gant off first base. Hrbek, as a much larger man, was easily able to accomplish this illegal goal and Gant’s leg came off the base. Announcers Jack Buck and Tim McCarver were adamant that Hrbek had pulled Gant off the bag at first.

Unfortunately, the umpire at first base that night, Drew Coble, mistakenly called Gant out, believing that Gant’s momentum had pulled him off the base, which would have been grounds for him being called out. Coble later said that his judgment was that Gant was falling over as he headed back to the base, his own momentum caused him to get tangled with Hrbek and that was what caused him to be out. The Braves lost Game Two by a score of 3-2, and ended up losing the World Series in seven games.

5. The Jeffrey Maier Incident

jeffrey maier interference bad callFew can forget the impact a 12-year-old Yankees fan had on Game One of the 1996 American League Championship Series, especially not fans of the Baltimore Orioles. This single at-bat also became the beginning act of an illustrious playoff career for then-rookie shortstop, Derek Jeter. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Yankees were losing 4-3, and the phenom, Jeter, was up to bat. Jeter proceeded to hit a long fly ball back to deep right field. As outfielder Tony Tarasco of the Baltimore Orioles backed up to make the catch against the wall, Yankees’ fan Jeffrey Maier, aged 12, clearly reached down and deflected the ball into the stands.

The rules state that baseball fans are permitted to catch balls hit into the stands, but if “a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and touches a live ball,” then spectator interference should be called. It was a simple call of fan interference, which would have most likely rendered Jeter out. In fact, replays at the time unmistakably showed Maier’s arm reaching far below the top of the wall to retrieve what, in reality, was Jeter’s fly ball out. Unfortunately, right field umpire Rich Garcia inexplicably called it a home run, tying the game at 4-4. After viewing the replay, Garcia finally admitted that there was spectator interference, although he still believed the ball was not catchable. However, the legitimacy of Jeter’s home run has been widely disputed by experts ever since.

The game ended with a Yankees’ victory in 11 innings, when Bernie Williams hit a walk-off home run, and the Yankees ultimately won the series in five games. Little Jeffrey Maier, although probably not so little anymore, should have been named the series MVP.

4. Umpire Forgets Rules in 2009 American League Championship Series

bad call 2009 ALCS

The Most Valuable Player, if you will, of crummy umpiring is clearly Mr. Tim McClelland, who is now making his third appearance on our list. To many, missed calls involving the eye are excusable, as human beings are inherently imperfect. However, when a veteran umpire like McClelland shows a complete ignorance of baseball’s rules, fans worldwide should be horrified. During the top of the fifth inning, in what many immediately labeled, “The Worst Call of All Time,” the New York Yankees’ outfielder, Melky Cabrera, hit a ground ball back to the Angels’ pitcher, Darren Oliver, when runners were at second and third.

Oliver threw the ball immediately to home, thereby catching the base runner, catcher Jorge Posada, in a rundown between third and home. As Posada was caught in this pickle, the Yankees’ Robinson Cano appropriately moved from second to third on the play. However, when the Angels’ catcher, Mike Napoli, finally caught up with Posada near third base, he noticed that Cano was inexplicably standing off the bag. Napoli alertly and correctly tagged Cano and then turned back and tagged Posada, who was also standing absentmindedly off the bag, past the foul line.

Anyone with a working knowledge of the Major League Baseball rules would know that this base running brain fart should have rendered both Yankees’ runners out. However, our hero in this tale, umpire Tim McClelland, who happened to be standing right in front of the play, ruled only Posada out and called Cano safe at third. Coincidentally, McClelland did not see what everyone else in the park and in America saw that night. Further, the insanely dumbfounding call made by McClelland should have been overruled by one of the other five umpires in the game that night. Later, McClelland admitted, “[The replay] showed that Cano was off the bag when he was tagged. I did not see that for whatever reason… I’m just out there trying to do my job and do it the best I can.”

Luckily, no runs were scored in the inning; however, the thought that this lowly umpiring exists in the MLB playoffs is disturbing, to say the least. And for many, when you’re “best” includes making the most asinine of errors in an important playoff series, then you’re best simply isn’t good enough.

3. The Chuck Knoblauch Phantom Tag

knoblauch phantom tag

The fan reaction to this horrendous call in Game Four of the 1999 American League Championship Series was enough to make the oft-frustrated Boston Red Sox fans throw garbage onto the field in protest. In this controversial play occurring in the ninth inning, the Red Sox’ John Valentin hit a routine ground ball to the second baseman, causing the man previously standing on first, Jose Offerman, to proceed towards second. The Yankees’ second baseman, Chuck Knoblauch, fielded the ball, tagged the runner, and then threw the ball to first base. Or so it seemed. Actually, when Knoblauch attempted to tag the runner, he clearly missed him by a few gigantic feet. It was not even close. However, second base umpire Tim Tschida immediately affirmed that Offerman was out and that the inning-ending double play had been successfully turned.

Replays from every possible angle repeatedly showed that Knoblauch missed the runner by what amounts to a mile in the baseball world. In reality, only Valentin should have been called out, and this with the throw to first base. If the correct call had been made, beloved shortshop, Nomar Garciaparra, would have been up with a runner in scoring position and two outs, thereby giving the team an excellent chance to score some runs.

The call halted the potential rally begun by the Red Sox and the final score of the game was 9-2. In fact, many Red Sox faithful cite this as the play that single-handedly destroyed their chances of beating their mortal enemies, the New York Yankees, and moving on to the 1999 World Series. In a meaningless, after-the-fact admission that offered little solace to Red Sox Nation, umpire Tim Tschida admitted he blew the call.

2. An Imperfect Call in Armando Galarraga’s Perfect Game

Jim Joyce Bad Call at first base ruins perfect gameThe blown call at first base committed by long-time umpire Jim Joyce stands as an open wound to baseball fans the world over. On June 2, 2010, 28-year-old Venezuelan pitcher, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers, was on the cusp of completing only the 21st perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball.

With the first at-bat at the top of the ninth inning, outfielder Austin Jackson made a miraculous, running, over-the-shoulder catch preserving the perfect game bid, and it looked to be the play of the game. After another ground ball, there were two outs and Galarraga was one out away from history. On a routine, slowly-hit ground ball hit by the Cleveland Indians’ Jason Donald that pulled first baseman Miguel Cabrera off the bag and forced Galarraga himself to cover, Cabrera fielded the ball cleanly, threw the ball to Galarraga, who was now covering first, and got Donald out at first base. At least this is the way the play appeared to fans watching the game nationwide.

Shockingly, umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Donald save at first base, ending Galarraga’s perfect game bid on the 27th out, with two outs in the ninth inning. Replays, both in real-time and slow motion, showed the throw beating Donald to first base by a full half-step. The replays also showed Galarraga’s foot firmly on the bag at first. A stunned Galarraga could only look towards Joyce in disbelief. The reaction of his teammates and manager, Jim Leyland, was one of unmistakable anger. During the game, Joyce defended his call, stating that Donald had beaten the throw. This was clearly not the case, as Jim Joyce himself regrettably admitted following his review of the play immediately after the game. However, not only did Joyce rip Galarraga’s perfect game away from him, but he also undid the records for the fewest pitches in a perfect game since 1908, the shortest perfect game since Sandy Koufax in 1965, and the second most perfect games in one decade, behind only the 1990s.

1. The Denkinger Call

denkinger bad callThe call most commonly held as the worst in the history of baseball occurred in Game Six of the 1985 World Series between the Midwest’s own St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. The culprit, Don Denkinger, was the first base umpire. The series was at 3-2, with the St. Louis Cardinals on the verge of World Series triumph. In the bottom of the ninth, with the Royals losing 1-0, the Royals’ lead-off batter, Jorge Orta, hit a routine, slow ground ball up the line to veteran first baseman Jack Clark, who cleanly fielded the ball and threw it, without incident, to pitcher Todd Worrell, who was now covered the bag at first. He was clearly out and St. Louis should have been celebrating their second World Series win of the 1980s. Except, the umpire making the big call at first, Don Denkinger, ruled Orta safe, despite the fact he was out by almost an entire half-step.

Later in this unjustly continued inning, and with the Cardinals reeling, the Royals got runs in scoring position with a passed ball by the Cardinals’ catcher, Darrell Porter. And then, after intentionally walking the bases loaded, the Royals’ pinch hitter, Dane Iorg, hit the game-winning, two-run single with two outs, securing the comeback victory for the Royals. After a lengthy and heated argument involving the Cardinals’ manager and players, Denkinger refused to reverse his call, and he continually refused to admit he was wrong until a meeting later convened by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth. Making matters worse, Denkinger became a further distraction while working behind the plate the following game. Pitcher Todd Worrell would later compare the idea of Don Denkinger working behind home plate to putting a stick of dynamite back there and lighting it. The Cardinals’ frustrations were obvious throughout the game, and the presence of Denkinger behind the plate clearly affected the Cardinals’ game-play. By way of example, ace pitcher John Tudor gave up five earned runs and four walks in only two and one-third innings. Then, a disgusted Tudor punched an electrical fan with his pitching hand. Television cameras caught the Cardinals’ manager, Whitey Herzog, screaming and belittling Denkinger from the Cardinals’ dugout.

Pitcher Joaquín Andújar exploded twice over Denkinger’s calls at the plate during the fifth inning. He was ejected, along with Herzog, after a heated argument with Denkinger regarding the strike zone. Herzog also informed Denkinger that had he gotten “the call” right in Game Six, the Cardinals would not have even been subjected to a seventh game in the first place. To complete the team’s emotional meltdown, Andújar later smashed a toilet in the clubhouse. Not surprisingly, the Cardinals lost Game Seven by a score of 11-0. Most Cardinals fans blame Denkinger for this defeat, believing the team was simply unable to regroup from the blatant injustice committed against them.

Two St. Louis disc jockeys went so far as to reveal Denkinger’s telephone number and home address. Ultimately, it is undisputed that the horrendous call made by Denkinger, which in essence stole the Series from the Cardinals, dramatically and unfairly altered the outcome of 1985 World Series. Today, a retired Don Denkinger is held in esteem as the go-to source when it comes to bad umpiring, giving his valuable insight into the anatomy of bad calls and supporting baseball’s need for widespread instant replay.

Umpires are a pure, “human element,” original to the game of baseball, but they are not in existence to otherwise determine the outcome of a game. Umpires are not supposed to be actors within the game, but rather, they are theoretically there to maintain order and fairness. When umpires become a liability detrimental to the game, as presently seems to be the case, it is time for the league to change its archaic practices.

About the author:
Dana Bashor has absolutely no formal writing credentials whatsoever, but that doesn’t stop her from writing on topics that catch her attention. Dana  loves to write and contribute to the World Wide Web. Follow her on Twitter @Dana_Bashor

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  1. Both of those Angels calls always make me so mad. The Angels always seem to get screwed when it comes to umpires making important calls like those

  2. The Denkinger call was a non factor in the result of the game because Orta was the 1st out on a play at third. So he didn’t score. Plus the 2nd base ump had blown an attempted steal attempt by White earlier in the game on a high tag. White got his foot to the base in time. Royals played the 25 of the 27 outs of the game and blew them out in 7th game. Cardinals always want to play the victim card.

  3. Jeff Carlisle on

    When I was a kid (long ago) there was a comic strip called Little Abner, about a handsome, muscle bound hillbilly who the ladies loved. A smitten Boston lass pleaded with him “I will follow you to the ends of the earth..even Brookline if necessary!!” Such is the endless and nauseating provincialism of Bostonians and Red Sox fans. This list is a bizarre rant of Yankee hatred..nothing more, nothing less. I’m a Reds fan yet felt compelled to point out the absurdity of this ‘list” ..after I got through laughing.
    Think of the math…there have been at least 20 teams (now 30) since 1962. Each plays 162 games a year and had, therefore, between 3%-5% chance to benefit from the countless questionable calls over those 45 years. Now if a team had 10% of the worst calls-double the natural chances-that would be ONE on a list of 10. If they had QUADRUPLE the chance of benefitting from bad calls, it’s 20%…2 of 10. Yet somehow, someway, at TWELVE times the rate of chance, the Yankees gained from 60% (6 of 10) of all the very worst calls in baseball according to the author of this-not worth scrawling back to get his name. The Redsox , according to this lunatic list benefitted…NOT AT ALL zero, zilch. In fact , since each franchise had between 3-5% chance of being HURT by bad’s put forth by this venomous Yankee hater that his beloved Sawks were directly HURT by 20% of those horrible calls -against my Reds in the Series in which Tony Perez made The Bearded lady’s junk ball disappear into the night-at win the Series on the road. The other “outrage” against Boston?..of course, a call favoring the Yanks. If you can’t make a list remotely objective, pal,…give it up As I said, I’m a Cincy fan but I know that no list, making even an insincere pass at fairness, could omit Yogi Berra’s clear tagging of Jackie Robinson attempting to steal home. But fairness isn’t part of the agenda, now is it?

  4. Mike DeJong on

    You missed the blown call that cost the Blue Jays a triple play against the Braves in the 1992 Series.

  5. Good list! That call blowing the kid’s perfect game was brutal.

    On a side note, what made Knobloch’s phantom tag (#3) even worse was that a different blew the exact same call in the previous game. He offered a public apology for his phantom tag call. Then, the same thing happens the next game.

  6. While #1 was a bad call, you are wrong to blame the Dekinger for the series loss. First of all, you failed to mention Frank White getting called out stealing second in the fourth inning, when he was safe. And would of scored on the next batters single. Also to say that the 9th inning was “unjustly continued” is flat out wrong. Even if Denkinger made the right call, that would of been out number one. I guess you must be a new baseball fan. Each team gets 3 outs, so the “unjustly continued inning” would of continued anyway. Next, Orta ending up making the first out of the inning later. He was thrown out at third. He never scored so the play at first didn’t matter. And don’t forget the lack of hustle between the Cardinals catcher and first baseman, that let an easy foul pop up drop that gave Balboni another chance. And the Cardinals players blaming the game 7 loss on the game 6 call, says a lot about their characters. It is unbelievable that one bad call can’t make an entire professional team become quitters in the following game.

  7. Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t there an incident in the 1969 World Series between the Miracle Mets vs. the Orioles. I was a youngster when it happened, but from what I heard, a Mets batter was up to the plate, and struck out swinging on a very low, into the dirt pitch. Mets manager Gil Hodges went to the plate to inspect the ball. The ball had a black smudge on it and was in question as if it was shoe polish from the cleats that the batter had on. After a few minutes, the umpire agreed that it was shoe polish and ruled it a “hit by a pitch” on the Mets batter and the Mets batter was allowed to go to first base which in turn became a rally for the Mets and them eventually won the World Series. Would anybody have information about this as I was only 7 years old when it purportedly happened

    • You described it almost perfectly Pete. I was 5 at the time. The only thing you got wrong was, the batter did NOT swing. If he had, he couldn’t be awarded first. EVEN if a ball hits you, you can’t go to first if you swing. No one thought the umps ruling was controversial…..except for Earl Weaver.

      • Hello Dave. Thank For the Info on that incident and correcting the question that I had. And as far as Earl Weaver is concerned, he was a great manager but his temper is what the history books are made out of. I do believe that he holds the record for being ejected the most times than any other manger in major league history, another stat that I will have to look up. Again Thanks, Dave

      • Dave K,a batter can try to RUN to first if the catcher DROPS the ball even if the batter does swing.But,you are right,because the rule I have stated can only happen if the catcher drops the ball,but I have read the catcher didn’t drop the ball.I just wanted to say this.

  8. This is complete and utter garbage – when I read at the end of the article that “Dana Bashor has absolutely no formal writing credentials whatsoever” I laughed out loud, because I can’t say that I was in the least bit surprised.

    The pine tar incident, as many have said before, was called absolutely correctly according to the rules at the time. The league then proceeded to come up with some garbage about the “spirit of the rule”. So ultimately, the league CHANGED THE RULES OF BASEBALL to deal with this particular protest. While I don’t necessarily disagree with the league that the “spirit of the rules” was not violated, it seems very strange that a league would change its rules like that.

    I find it ridiculously hard to believe that the presence of Don Denkinger behind the plate caused a team to lose a game 11-0. 11-0!!! That had NOTHING to do with the umpire, and EVERYTHING to do with the team. BTW, Whitey Herzog wrote in his book that he wishes he would have asked Commissioner Ueberroth to overrule the call on the field. If this had happened, I certainly hope the umpires would have walked off the field.

    Also, there is a difference between “your” and “you’re” and it’s pathetically embarassing that a piece of writing can be “published” with such disgusting grammatical errors.

  9. #7

    “When Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk attempted to field the ball, Armbrister intentionally collided with him….”

    What are you, a die hard Red Sox fan? Armbruster did not “intentionally” collide with him. That is the whole issue with the call. Ed Armbruster was a righ-handed hitter and he left the batter’s box for first when Fisk ran into him. It was a judgement call, not an obvious non-call as you put it.

  10. This list needs to include Harry Wendlstadt. In 1968 Don Drysdale was going for a record of 56 consecutive scoreless innings pitched. When he reached 50, he loaded the bases against the SF Giants. Rich Dietz came to the plate and Drysdale beaned him. Streak over, right? Wrong. Home plate umpire Harry Wendlstadt ruled Dietz did not try hard enough to get out of the way. Trouble is, this rule only applies if the batter is hovering over home plate and is IN the strike zone when hit. Dietz was standing with his heels on the chalk of the outside of the batters box, about as far from home plate as possible. This was not some bang-bang play like Jim Joyce or Don Denkinger. This was a case of an umpire giving a pitcher a record, even if he didn’t earn it.

    • That is not what the rule says. The batter does not have to be in the strike zone. The rule says that the batter must make some sort of effort to move out of the way. He cannot just stand there and “let” a pitch hit him. You must make an effort to get out of the way.

      • OK Paul B,….fair enough. But tell me this. Can you site ONE other time when a batter was not awarded first base because he didn’t make an effort to get out of the way? I’ve seen HUNDREDS when the batter made no such effort and still was sent to first. Also, if there was no record on the line, and the bases were empty and Dietz made the same “non-effort” …do you believe Wendlstadt would have kept him at home? No chance.

        • I have seen it many times before Dave. Can I name a specific time right now.. no. I’m sure if I did a little research I could find more than one. But I know I have seen it called on a batter when I was pitching. The gray area in the rule, as with most, is that it’s the umpires call… what they consider “making an effort”. But to answer your question, Yes I have seen it happen before.

  11. ä¼ å¥?ç§?æ?? on

    I actually knew about the majority of of this, but even so, I still found it informative. Nice job!

  12. The Flip play with Jeter, where Jeremy Giambi was safe, but was called out at home!

  13. custom nfl jerseys on

    If you view the Galaraga “perfect game” call you will also see that although the ball beat the runner to the bag; the first baseman readjust the ball in his glove and it does not come to rest in his glove until after the runner passes the bag. So even though that was not what the umpire was calling, and he admits his mistake. The call potentially is correct although it is the letter of the rule and not the spirit of the rule again.

  14. Same with the Galarraga play. It was a close play, but since it was a near perfect game, everyone will remember it. As for the Knoublach play, I am not really sure about it since I have never seen it in real action, but if the tag was as far off as stated;

  15. The worst call of all time has to be in 2009 ALDS when Phil Cuzzi calls Joe Mauer’s fair ball foul when he was 10 feet away and was so clearly fair a blind person could have seen it.

    • Rickdiculous on

      Agree with the 2009 Mauer fair ball. I think the people who put this list together already had 50% of the top ten worst plays of all time going in favor of the Yankees and perhaps 6 out of 10 might have pushed it over the top. I don’t know, seems a little hmm that many of these “botched” calls happen to secure a post season Yankee victory.

  16. You list should be called the most controversial calls of all time not the worst. George Brett should have been called out by the letter of the rule, but not the spirit. The rule clearly stated how much pine tar could legally be applied to the bat and Brett violated that. But it was incredibly cheap to wait till after the homerun to challenge it, and since it had no effect on the hitting of that homerun the umpire should have used his common sense and ignored the rule.
    Also the third strike from AJ clearly brushes the ground video replay shows it redirect, the controversy comes in whether the umpire called him out whether right or not would have rendered him out at that point. But it should have been basic fundamental baseball to tag out the hitter when its even close. The irony is that Josh Paul came up through the White Sox’s farm system and the basic fundamentals that should have taught him to tag out the hitter should have been taught by the Sox.
    As for the Knoublach play, I am not really sure about it since I have never seen it in real action, but if the tag was as far off as stated; then it is entirely posible that the runner was out of the basepath in which case he could have been called out without being tagged. (Again I have never seen it so I dont know if this was the case).
    If you view the Galaraga “perfect game” call you will also see that although the ball beat the runner to the bag; the first baseman readjust the ball in his glove and it does not come to rest in his glove until after the runner passes the bag. So eventhough that was not what the umpire was calling, and he admits his mistake. The call potentially is correct although it is the letter of the rule and not the spirit of the rule again.
    And lastly the Fisk play, any host of calls could have been made. If the contact was not intentional the umpire can avoid calling it interference since the runner has equal right to the basepath as the catcher has right to the ball. And while it is not called “catcher interference” if a fielder interfers with the runners ability to reach the subsequent base by making contact with the runner, all runners are awarded the next base, so the umpire could have called everyone safe. Or he could have deemed that the runner interfered with the fielder’s ability to field the ball, which would have rulled the runner (bunter) out and caused the baserunner to have to return to first, in fact he could have deemed that without the interference a double play would have occured and he could rule both runners out. Since there is so much gray area, the call ultimately is up to the umpire
    It is clear the writer of this article is a Boston Red Sox fan since nearly every call he complains about is in favor of a rival of his “beloved” but ultimately crappy team. If he had a clear understanding of the rules, and was unbiased there are many more demanding blown calls (like any call ever made by CB Buckner because he is unbelievably aweful)

  17. “…utter ignorance of the rules demonstrated by umpire Tim McClelland.”

    The only utter ignorance here is your knowledge of the rules of baseball. In fact, the rule exists and McClelland was put in a position where he couldn’t just pretend it didn’t exist.

    The league overruled him with a tortured explanation regarding the spirit of the rule. I have no problem with that decision (I hate having games decided by ticky-tack calls or rules), but at no point was it suggested McClelland interpreted the rule incorrectly.

  18. I don’t know. The Pine Tar incident is famous, but being one of the worst calls ever is a bit of a stretch. Same with the Galarraga play. It was a close play, but since it was a near perfect game, everyone will remember it. I’m sure there are hundreds of worse plays that simply aren’t memorable.

  19. This list is OK … if baseball history started in the 1970s. Any list of the worst calls in baseball history HAS to have “Merkel’s Boner” of 1908 as its #1 worst call. And I’d bet there was at least one more really bad call in the next 60 years too.

  20. Dana:

    You say that had Denkinger called Orta out, the Cardinals would have celebrated their second World Series in the 80’s. You also write that “(l)ater in this unjustly continued inning…”

    For an inning to end, it takes three outs. Orta was the lead-off batter. Had he been called out, there would have been one out. The Cardinals needed to get two more outs. Who knows what would have happened.

    These were professional ball players. If they couldn’t get over a stupid call, they didn’t deserve to win. Please don’t justify their inability because the call didn’t go their way. Losing 11-0 says more about the Cardinals the it does about Denkinger’s call the previous game.

  21. You're wrong on #10.

    There was no rule specifically covering that case, so the umpires pieced it together. The rules at the time said that you were out if you hit an illegally-batted ball. An illegally-batted ball was one that was hit with an illegal bat. An illegal bat was one that had pine tar more than 18 inches from the end. Ergo, the umpires were right and Brett should have been out.

    The umpires did not display "utter ignorance" of the rules. I suspect they knew more than you do. Sorry.

    • Presto is right 100%. There were three rules which were applicable, and they flowed one into the other just as he outlines. The umps in the Pine Tar game made the right call. MacPhail didn’t like the rules and he failed to back-up the correct call made by the umps. If you don’t like the rules, change them going forward, but MacPhail threw his umps under the bus. Actually, MacPhail didn’t like George Steinbrenner and many have speculated that’s why he overruled the umps.

  22. I think you’ve left out an interference on Reggie Jackson in the ALCS when he was with the Yankees. In a rundown play Jackson purposely moved his backside into the path of a throw from one infielder intended for another. The ball bounced off Jackson allowing him to safely move to 2nd base. The play was argued heatedly but as usual the umpire won the argument and the Yankess won a close game.

  23. Detroit Tigers fan here. #2 DOES NOT BELONG ON THIS LIST. First of all, Jason Donald was out by an eyelash, it took several replays for me to see that.Secondly, it didn't change who won the game, which technically is the only reason you're out there. As Herm Edwards would say…"you play to win the game." Not to set records…. #7 also does not belong on here. Fisk INTERFERED WITH ARMBRISTER, not the other way around.

    • #2 ABSOLUTELY belongs on the list. A perfect game is such a rare thing, more rare than a world series victory even. And to have one blown call take that away from a pitcher is heartbreaking! You obviously have not played much baseball, and OBVIOUSLY have never been a pitcher. If you had, you would realize how horrible that call was, and the affect that the call had. That was made pretty clear by the reaction of the umpire who made the call, who was in tears because he was so upset about what his mistake had done. And the runner was out by AT LEAST a half step or more. It was very obvious to me the very first time I watched the play. The list is titled The Worst Calls In Baseball History, not the worst calls that changed who won the game. This play definately belongs at #2, if not #1.

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  25. I disagree with #8. I firmly believe that the ball bounced on the ground and into Paul's mitt. If I understand that rule right, that makes it a "no catch" and Paul should have tagged Pierzynski because of that. The umpire's confusion didn't help, but he stated afterward that something sounded funny and he clearly didn't call Pierzynski out. The only one that really made a mistake was Josh Paul.

  26. The Imperfect Call in Armando Galarraga’s Perfect Game is number ONE… i still can't believe that "stupidity"

  27. I'm fairly certin that at the time of the pine tar game there was nothing in the rulebook about what to do if there was too much pine tar on the bat. McClelland had to make up what to do on the spot and the rule was added later.

  28. Where is Ken Burkhart’s call at the plate in the 1970 World Series? That one was ugly because this photo ( showed up everywhere the next day.

    Also, in defense of AJ Pierzynski's "strike out," let me say that people don't look at that situation from a perspective of baseball fundamentals. Anytime there is a blocked third strike in the dirt, the catcher should ALWAYS tag the runner or throw to first to be safe. A.J. is a smart catcher, knew the situation and made a heads up play running to first. Josh Paul, a career backup catcher, was not thinking and blew it. I think it's tough to blame the ump for this one. If Paul had obeyed the fundamentals and done his job, the game would have gone into extras.

  29. I'm sorry but the ball did bounce. I will not read the rest of this as you are stating opinion as though it is fact.

  30. Hi Dana, You wrote "And then, after intentionally walking the bases loaded, the Royals’ pinch hitter, Dane Iorg, hit the game-winning, two-run single with two outs, securing the comeback victory for the Royals. "

    There was actually just one out when the Royals won the game.

  31. There are 2 problems with this otherwise very interesting list.

    First, Armbrister didn't *intentionally* interfere with Fisk. At least, you don't know that he did. Whether umpire Larry Barnett should have called interference–which doesn't require an intentional act–is a continuing debate. If you saw the game, which I did *when it was played*, you would know that Fisk threw wildly to 2nd because he FIRST hesitated and hitched a throw to 1st. Armbrister was not in contact with him when he threw to 2nd, as your narrative implies.

    Second, you left out Ken Burkhart's infamous call in the 1970 World Series between the Orioles and the Reds, where he called out the Reds' runner at the plate when the Orioles' catcher tagged the runner with the mitt while the ball was in his other hand. This is surely one of the most infamous calls ever.

    • Agreed. I think Fisk interfered with Armbrister. He obstructed a baserunner while fielding a bunt. That's called "catcher's interference." Armbrister s/have been awarded first base. Sox fans s/be glad they got away with one there.

      • Actually, Defensive interference (commonly called Catchers interference) is when a fielder (the catcher) hinders or prevents the batter from hitting the ball (OBR 2.0 Interference (b). This has nothing to do with the situation explained here. What you are describing is called obstruction. Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with,obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. Obstruction is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.

        I really do wish people (especially tv commentators) would take the time to read and understand the official rules of baseball instead of pulling the old sandlot myths out of their hats

        • Thank you for correcting me Bryan H. It was “obstruction” not interference on Fisk’s part. I apologize.

      • No, that is not called “catcher’s interference.” If you’ve never umpired or read the rulebook don’t just make things up.