I kind of alluded to today’s Friday 5 with this post detailing the horrible umpiring that has taken place in the Major League Baseball Playoffs this season. I’ve decided to countdown the most meaningful blown calls of all time. Obviously, I’m not going to know all the blown calls so if your great grandpa remembers that time in the 1911 World Series…well, it’s not on here.
My criteria here was simple. It had to be an obviously blown call, not one that’s open to interpretation. Jazz fans, I know Jordan pushed off. I don’t care. Not a blown call. The other rule is that it had to lead to or hinder a championship. I know Arkansas got screwed this weekend, but it’s a little too early to tell if Florida is going to win the title because of it. That’s not so with our #5 blown call:
5) Colorado vs. Missouri, 1990. The Fifth Down.
This probably would have been higher except it wasn’t an actual championship game. If the referees had called the game correctly, however, Colorado wouldn’t have earned a share of the National Title with Georgia Tech. The Buffaloes finished the season 11-1-1 and ranked first in the AP Poll. Georgia Tech ended the year 11-0-1 and was ranked first in the Coaches Poll. Both teams claim a share of the national title. The officials were suspended indefinitely following the game. As they should have been.
4) Yankees vs. Orioles, 1996. Jeffrey Maier.
YouTube doesn’t have footage of this play, so you’ll have to click here to see it. The Orioles had a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning when Derek Jeter lifted a fly ball to right field. That’s where then 12 year old Jeffrey Maier reached his hand over the wall and snagged it for a game tying home run. Right fielder Tony Tarasco immediately protested to umpire Rich Garcia, but Garcia upheld the call. The Yankees went on to win the game in 11 innings and the series in five games. They would also go on to win the World Series.
This may be the most controversial inclusion in my list, but I’m leaving it here because had the Orioles won that game they would have taken a 2-1 lead in the series and momentum would have been back on their side heading back to Baltimore. From there, the franchise would spiral downhill. They lost again in the ALCS in 1997, but they haven’t recorded a winning season since. I don’t think all of the credit (or blame, I guess) goes to Maier for the futility of a franchise, but think of what might have happened if Baltimore had won that World Series instead? How different might things have been?
3) Sabres vs. Stars, Stanley Cup Finals, 1999. Skate in the crease game.
There was a short lived (and rather stupid) rule in the NHL in 1999 that stated that a player cannot be in the goaltender’s crease when he scores a goal. All year, many good goals were overturned due to the presence of a skate in the crease, whether it was doing any harm or not. In this particular instance, Brett Hull scores the Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime of Game Four. His skate is clearly in the crease when he beats Dominik Hasek, but it is not overturned. Why? Who knows. Dallas wins and Buffalo is left with another bitter championship defeat. Would they have come back from a 3-0 deficit? Probably not, but stranger things certainly have happened.
2) Royals vs. Cardinals, World Series, 1985. Don Denkinger.
I said yesterday that this was the worst call of all time. It’s pretty close, but I thought about it some more and I came up with a worse one. Anyway, this call still elicits strong feelings in Missouri as Royals fans love to reminisce about a time when they mattered and Cardinal fans hate having it rubbed in their faces.
I realize that Denkinger’s call didn’t win the game for the Royals, but it certainly sparked the comeback. It also didn’t cause the Cards to lose Game 7, but he still gets the majority of the blame. He did work home plate for that contest, a fact that upset the Cardinals players greatly. Regardless, the Royals won 11-0 and took home their only World Series trophy.
1) USA vs. Soviet Union, Olympic Gold Medal Game, 1972.
This is the one thing that I could think of that trumps Denkinger’s horrible call. The Soviet Union was given three chances to defeat the US in the Gold Medal Match at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. On the third try, they succeeded even though several things clearly went wrong. In fact, so many things went wrong, I won’t try to explain them all. It was truly a horrid piece of officiating.
The United States appealed the game but didn’t even stick around to hear the result. They were on a plane back to the States before the medal ceremony. The result of the appeal was a 3-2 vote to uphold the result with the three Communist countries voting in favor of the Soviets. The Americans still have never received their silver medals from that game and have no intention of ever accepting them.
So what do you all think? Are there worse calls out that that I’m forgetting (I’m sure there are)? Let me hear it in the comments.