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Thread: Most Controversial 'Blown Calls' in MLB History

  1. #1

    Most Controversial 'Blown Calls' in MLB History

    Hey guys,

    I was trying to think back through all of the biggest umpiring blunders in MLB history, because they are, in my opinion, such a great part of the games history. I love that some of the most memorable moments in the game's history stems from questionable calls because those moments make for such great discussion down the road.

    What I want to do is create a list of all of the greatest and most memorable controversial calls in MLB history.

    I'll start us off. First, there's the ultimate controversial call surrounding 'Merkle's Boner,' which (in some people's opinions), robbed the Giants of a World Series berth and handed it to the Cubs in 1908.

    There is also the infamous call by umpire Don Denkinger at first base in game six of the 1985 World Series, which gave the Royals a free pass and eventually the whole championship.

    What else can you all come up with?

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    Quote Originally Posted by deadball-era-rules View Post
    Hey guys,

    I was trying to think back through all of the biggest umpiring blunders in MLB history, because they are, in my opinion, such a great part of the games history. I love that some of the most memorable moments in the game's history stems from questionable calls because those moments make for such great discussion down the road.

    What I want to do is create a list of all of the greatest and most memorable controversial calls in MLB history.

    I'll start us off. First, there's the ultimate controversial call surrounding 'Merkle's Boner,' which (in some people's opinions), robbed the Giants of a World Series berth and handed it to the Cubs in 1908.

    There is also the infamous call by umpire Don Denkinger at first base in game six of the 1985 World Series, which gave the Royals a free pass and eventually the whole championship.


    What else can you all come up with?
    That call didn't give the Royals the '85 World Series. Some facts:

    1) Jorge Orta, who got the gift call, NEVER scored. He was forced out at third.
    2) Jack Clark and Darrell Porter dropped an easy Steve Balboni foul ball near the first base dugout. Balboni subsequently singled.
    3) Darrell Porter had a crucial passed ball.
    4) Jim Sundberg attempted a bunt but Todd Worrell forced out Orta at third.
    5) The Cards walked Hal McCrae intentionally, moving the winning run into scoring position.
    6) This was Game 6, not Game 7, so the Cards still had a chance to win the World Series.
    7) The Cards imploded in Game 7 with several ejections and lost 11-0.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    1) Jorge Orta, who got the gift call, NEVER scored. He was forced out at third.
    I'm not sure why that matters. Even after that out, the Royals still had a runner on the bases that shouldn't be there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ipitch View Post
    I'm not sure why that matters. Even after that out, the Royals still had a runner on the bases that shouldn't be there.
    How do you figure that the hitters after Orta would not have gotten on base? We don't know that. For all we know Steve Balboni, the batter after Orta, could have homered and tied the score. Or Balboni could have made an out. We'll never know.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    How do you figure that the hitters after Orta would not have gotten on base? We don't know that. For all we know Steve Balboni, the batter after Orta, could have homered and tied the score. Or Balboni could have made an out. We'll never know.
    Right, we'll never know. All I'm saying is that Orta being forced out doesn't erase the blown call.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ipitch View Post
    Right, we'll never know. All I'm saying is that Orta being forced out doesn't erase the blown call.
    That's true, but the Cards can't claim that the blown call caused them to lose Game 6.
    Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 04-14-2009 at 08:03 PM.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    That's true, but the Cards can't claim that the blown call caused them to lose Game 6.
    True, but there seems to be a pattern in the postseason of a team suffering a catastrophic game 6 loss that changes the momentum so significantly that they are totally discombobulated and unprepared for game 7. Witness the '86 Red Sox after Buckner's error, and the '03 Cubs after the the Bartman incident. I guess it's a test of championship mettle, if they can't shake off game 6 and focus on game 7, maybe they're not cut out to be champions.

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    Bill Stewart's call in the bottom of the eighth during the game one of the 1948 World Series.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ol' aches and pains View Post
    True, but there seems to be a pattern in the postseason of a team suffering a catastrophic game 6 loss that changes the momentum so significantly that they are totally discombobulated and unprepared for game 7. Witness the '86 Red Sox after Buckner's error,
    I don't really see that. The Sox had 3-0 lead after 5 innings in game 7, and they didn't commit any errors in the game. They even scored 2 runs in the 8th right after the Mets took the lead in the 7th.

  10. #10
    This is exactly what I like about those controversial calls- they immortalize the moment to be debated for all time. We'll never settle that stupid call by Denkinger, but we can always argue it. Had he gotten the call right, then the Cards just would have won the World Series and it would have been just another flag for St. Louis. (can you detect my bias)?

    Be that as it may, I'd like to keep this thread mostly devoid of debate over the topics themselves, I would prefer that we merely compile those memorable moments. As it stands right now, I'm still the only one to post any infamous blown calls. Perhaps we can create a separate thread on some of these specific calls if we feel there's enough material there.

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    How about the Barnett call in Game 3 of the '75 Series? Fisk made a throwing error when Armbrister interfered with him fielding the bunt. Barnett didn't call interference and let the error stand, resulting in a win for the Reds.

    Or the very famous steal of home by Jackie Robinson in Game 1 of the '55 Series? Yogi Berra tagged Robinson in time, but the ump called Robinson safe. (The Yankees won the game anyway.) But there's a very famous photograph of that moment and it further solidifies the umpire's call; right or wrong.

    More recently was Rich Garcia's 1996 blown home run call courtesy of 12-year old fan Jeff Maier, reaching out onto the field and deflecting what would have been a long out for Derek Jeter.
    "The value of a stat is directly proportional to how good it makes Steve Garvey look." -- Nerdlinger

  12. #12

    1970 world series ken burkhart call

    In the '70 series, Reds Bernie Carbo tried to score from third as Ty Cline chopped a ball in front of the plate and umpire Ken Burkhart got out in front of the plate to see if it was fair or foul. Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks gloved the ball and as he turned to tag Carbo, Burkhart got in the way. Hendricks held the ball in his bare hand and swiped at Carbo with his empty glove. Burkhart's view was completely blocked but when he could see, he noticed Hendricks holding the ball and Carbo way out of the baseline,so he called him out. Sparky Anderson went nuts but the call stood.

  13. #13
    Not much heard about this one but it was big at the time.
    The significance, again no way to tell what the Yanks might have done if the lead runner in that 10th inning got on. But it put the Dodgers up 3 games to 2 and now the Yanks go to Brooklyn facing a very good Dodger team. Also in the bottom of the 11th, Johnny Mize robbed of a home run, leap by Furillo in right field.
    The ump is not in the very best position, but good enough, in baseball this one is not even that close of a call, he blew it.
    The Yanks took the next two games, won the WS.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by banny View Post
    In the '70 series, Reds Bernie Carbo tried to score from third as Ty Cline chopped a ball in front of the plate and umpire Ken Burkhart got out in front of the plate to see if it was fair or foul. Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks gloved the ball and as he turned to tag Carbo, Burkhart got in the way. Hendricks held the ball in his bare hand and swiped at Carbo with his empty glove. Burkhart's view was completely blocked but when he could see, he noticed Hendricks holding the ball and Carbo way out of the baseline,so he called him out. Sparky Anderson went nuts but the call stood.
    That one was different in kind because the "blow" was making a call when there was none to be made. Calling Carbo safe at home would have been another one of the same kind.
    (If there was some case to call Carbo out for leaving the baseline to avoid a tag then the safe call would have been worse. I don't expect that baseline call in the major leagues and don't have any background for judging when it should be made.)

    In 1977 NLCS game three, Gene Garber and the Phillies lost a two-run lead in the ninth inning. They got the first two batters; then bunt single, line double, infield single, pickoff error, ground single (three runs). The infield single by Davey Lopes was the bad call at firstbase and the tying run scored on that hit.

    Contrast that with Orta's infield single. In 1977 there were two out so the game would have ended if Lopes were out. That play tied the score, so the following fielding failure (pickoff 1977 vs foul pop 1985) lost only a chance to preserve a tie. On the other hand, it was only game three, 1-1 in a best-of-five series, where the 1985 Cardinals would win the series by retiring Orta & co. It was the semifinal, not the world series. And it was a close play. Orta wasn't really close.

  15. #15
    How about the ball call in Milt Pappas' perfect game which turned it into "only" a no-hitter?
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    From my screen name you might guess that I have some feelings about the Denkinger call. HonusWagnerRules has posted a list of points, I will do the same.

    1) The call clearly had an effect on the game's outcome.
    2) There's no excuse for an umpire not to ask for help on that call in that big of a game when so much is being contested about it (although that wasn't very common in those days, I admit)
    3) You can't blame losing the World Series on one call. Great teams overcome those things.
    4) As HWR said, the Cards had another chance. They didn't win it.
    5) We will never know if the Royals would have won anyway, it IS possible.

    I've spoken to Jay Randolph (a current and then Cards broadcaster) who was on the Cards bus back to the hotel with the players after game 6. He said you could see it in their eyes--they were beaten.

    The 85 Cardinals will forever be my favorite team of all time. I have gotten over the sting. It still hurts a little and the disappointment will never go away.
    "There ain't much to bein' a ballplayer...if you're a ballplayer. "

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    I would like to share an incident that is long-forgotten and I would imagine that few ever heard about.

    It shows the moral courage of an umpire and is a heart-felt story. Enjoy.
    (article by George Moriarty, Sporting News, April 14, 1932.) Note. Silk O'Loughlin died December 18, 1918.

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    New York Mets Willie Mays yells at home plate umpire Augie Donatelli here, after Donatelli called Bud Harrelson out at home while lying on the ground. The Mets argued that Oakland A's catcher Ray Fosse did not tag Harrelson as he crossed the plate on a hit to Joe Rudi in left field by Felix Millan in the 10th inning and the 2nd game of the 1973 World Series at Oakland Coliseum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by banny View Post
    In the '70 series, Reds Bernie Carbo tried to score from third as Ty Cline chopped a ball in front of the plate and umpire Ken Burkhart got out in front of the plate to see if it was fair or foul. Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks gloved the ball and as he turned to tag Carbo, Burkhart got in the way. Hendricks held the ball in his bare hand and swiped at Carbo with his empty glove. Burkhart's view was completely blocked but when he could see, he noticed Hendricks holding the ball and Carbo way out of the baseline,so he called him out. Sparky Anderson went nuts but the call stood.
    Burkhart missed the call, Hendricks missed the tag, and Carbo missed the plate. For discussion and photo sequence, see Phil Pepe's Talkin' Baseball.

    Roger Angell had a great description: "Burkhart, now horribly resembling a dog on the highway..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Harris View Post
    How about the Barnett call in Game 3 of the '75 Series? Fisk made a throwing error when Armbrister interfered with him fielding the bunt. Barnett didn't call interference and let the error stand, resulting in a win for the Reds.
    That one's been analyzed from many perspectives, and there's still no definitive conclusion as to whether it was or was not interference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VIBaseball View Post
    That one's been analyzed from many perspectives, and there's still no definitive conclusion as to whether it was or was not interference.
    Maybe there's no defintive conclusion among Reds fans. I know some get hung up on whether Armbrister intentionally interfered. Intent is irrelevant, in which case the ump blew it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macker View Post
    Maybe there's no defintive conclusion among Reds fans. I know some get hung up on whether Armbrister intentionally interfered. Intent is irrelevant, in which case the ump blew it.
    Well, I can't imagine a Red Sox fan seeing it any other way!

    Interesting in-depth post on Bruce Markusen's blog about the issue of intent and its relevance:

    http://bruce.mlblogs.com/archives/20...orld_seri.html

    Although here's something from a post on Baseball Think Factory:

    "Bill James, in the Armbrister entry of James' abortive biographical encyclopedia in the 1990-92 Baseball Books, revisits this play in detail and explains how baseball rewrote the rule book after the fact to try to show the umpire (Barnett?) was correct all along as he winged it in this key play of the '75 Series."

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    Barnett is full of it. He might have a leg to stand on if the contact truly was incidental. But it can't be incidental contact when the batter stops right in the catcher's way.

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