Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Worst Call In Officiating History?

Call him the new poster child for Southwest Airlines’ “Wanna Get Away?” Ad campaign. Major League Baseball Umpire Jim Joyce will probably “wanna get away” permanently after perhaps the worst call in sports history during the Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians game Wednesday night. Detroit’s Armando Galarraga had a perfect game (no hits, no walks) going into the 9th inning. Just how rare is a perfect game in Major League Baseball? Since 1880, it’s only happened 20 times. Amazingly, two of those have come this season, one last week by Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay. It was about to happen for the second time in less than a week when Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson mad a miraculous, over-the-shoulder catch, sending Detroit fans into a frenzy with one out in the 9th. Galarraga then induced an easy ground out for out number two. Then, with fans on their feet, Cleveland’s Jason Donald hit a ground ball that forced Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera to range toward his right, and make a quick throw to first where Tigers pitcher Galarraga clearly had the runner beat by a full step. Only problem was, first base umpire Jim Joyce didn’t see it that way, calling the runner safe, destroying what should have been a history-making night.

I found an old article on that listed the top ten worst calls in officiating history according to their writers. Here’s the list:

1. Denkinger calls Royals' Orta safe at first
2. Colorado's fifth down
3. Soviets get extra time in 1972 Olympic hoops
4. Jeffrey Maier assists Jeter home run
5. Brett Hull's skate in the crease
6. Maradona's "Hand of God"
7. Thanksgiving Day coin flip flap
8. Mike Renfro ruled out of bounds
9. Eric Gregg's wide strike zone
10. Charles White's TD and fumble in 1979 Rose Bowl

Based on this list, and what I know about sports history, I think one could easily make the case that Joyce’s blown call with two outs in the ninth inning of a perfect game may top that list. Something that’s only happened 20 times in 130 years shouldn’t have been denied on a play like that. Granted, it was close, but you have to give the benefit of the doubt to the man on the verge of history in that case. It’s a call Joyce (and Galarraga) will have to live with the rest of their lives, much like the Bill Buckner between-the-legs error and umpire Tim McClelland and George Brett’s pine tar incident. If I’m Joyce, I’m grabbing the first flight out of town and taking a month-long hiatus, cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride for a while!

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