Everyone makes mistakes.
Umpires in the majors have one of the hardest jobs in the sports-officiating business. Every other league in major sports (NFL, NHL and NBA) all have video instant replay. Though it is limited in the NBA, it is still used to clarify calls by officials that are controversial. The NFL and NHL use replay on an every-game basis, but MLB rarely uses it. MLB just started really making it part of the game not long ago. With infamous incidents of fan interference, MLB enacted guidelines for use of instant replay that mostly include plays having to do with whether or not a home run should be awarded.
If you weren’t already on the side of insisting that MLB allow usage of instant replays for calls such as whether a player is safe or not, I am confident after you read this list you will be.
5. Safe! At least according to Tim McClelland. Oct. 1, 2007: The Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres needed more than 162 games to settle who was going to be the wild card winner in the National League. In the bottom of the 13th inning, the Rockies’ Matt Holliday tagged up from third base and sprinted home, running over Padres catcher Michael Barrett. Umpire Tim McClelland called Holliday safe, but he actually never even touched home plate. The call was a bad one — and it ruined the Padres’ 2007 playoff bid.
4. Strike 3, but safe at first? Oct. 12, 2005: In Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels Angels, the game tied 1-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. A.J. Pierzynski was up to bat and he swung and missed for a third and final strike. The pitch was low, but it was obvious to most that catcher Josh Paul caught the ball with no issues. Apparently, even Pierzynski thought so too as he started heading to the dugout, but when he realized umpire Doug Eddings had not called him out because Paul “dropped” the ball, he ran to first base and reached safely before any Angel realized the play was still alive. The White Sox went on to win that game and their first World Series since 1917.
3. The game had to end some time. July 26, 2011: This call was close. Not to mention everyone was exhausted seeing that it was the 19th inning in a game between the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates that lasted well over 6 hours. The Braves got the win on a controversial call at home plate when Julio Lugo scored the game-winning run but should have been called out because Pirates catcher Michael McKenry tagged him on the shin, which was clearly visible on replay. Some still argue that what looked like a brush against Lugo’s leg may have just been a swipe that never touched him, but even the home plate umpire who made the call, Jerry Meals, said after looking at the replay that it looked like Lugo was tagged. What an ending to a very, very long night.
2. Umpires should know the rules, right? Oct. 20, 2009: Game 4 of the 2009 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels (the Angels just have bad luck with umpires) had a number of bad calls, one of which can be considered one of the worst calls in the last decade. It was a blown call not due to an error in judgment, but a lack of knowledge of the basic rules of baseball or complete disregard for them. Nick Swisher hit a ground ball back to pitcher Darren Oliver, who immediately threw the ball home to catcher Jorge Posada, who was on third base in a pickle. While catcher Mike Napoli was chasing down Posada, the man on second base, Robinson Cano, made his way to third. Napoli finally chased down Posada and saw that Cano, for some odd reason, was standing a few feet off of third base, so he tagged Cano and then tagged Posada, too. Common sense tells us that both players should be out, but I guess umpire Tim McClelland left his common sense at home that night because he called Posada out but Cano safe. Everyone stood around looking stunned for a moment, and I know I wasn’t the only fan watching in bewilderment.
1. Armando Galarraga’s perfect game ruined. June 2, 2010: The Detroit Tigers’ Armando Galarraga was pitching the game of his life against the Cleveland Indians. In fact, it could have gone down in history as one of the greatest games ever pitched. He had the potential to throw the 21st perfect game in major league history and only needed one more out. What should have been the final at-bat was a routine ground ball hit by the Indians’ Jason Donald. Galarraga ran and covered first as Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball and threw Donald out. Except Jim Joyce, the first-base umpire, called Donald safe, even though replays clearly showed him out by more than half a step. Fans and Galarraga’s teammates were irate. Galarraga could only look at Joyce in disbelief as he watched his perfect game disappear right before his eyes. I still can’t believe how calm Galarraga was after the call. Joyce later apologized for the biggest blown call in his career — and by far the worst in the last decade.
Brendan Clinch is an avid baseball fan and follows MLB, minor leagues and NCAA very closely.