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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Worst sports call ever

Jim Joyce's call that cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday night might be the worst call in sports history. Gee, I hate to even suggest that because, from all accounts, Joyce is a good umpire and a heck of a nice guy. He has apologized and is torn up over missing the call. More than anything, you can't help but feel sorry for him. Still, let's think about this for a moment. For starters, replays indicate the play wasn't even that close. But here's the bigger issue: in most every other bad call in sports, you could argue that the team on the wrong end still had other chances to win the game or series, whatever the case may be. Example: A football referee makes the wrong call on a last-second Hail Mary pass. Yes, that call affected the outcome of a game, but so did all the other plays that happened in the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the game. Here's a look at other famous bad calls or non-calls in sports. You can make arguments that those bum calls alone did not solely cost a team or player. Well, all except one.

Denk Denkinger's Cardinal sin
The Cardinals held a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game 6 in the 1985 World Series and were three outs from the championship. The Royals' Jorge Orta hit a bouncer to first baseman Jack Clark, who flipped to pitcher Todd Worrell covering first. Though replays showed Worrell beat Orta to the bag, umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe. That was the start of a two-run rally that salvaged Game 6 for the Royals. Kansas City then won the series with an 11-0 victory in Game 7.
Don't forget: The Cardinals could've scored more than one run in Game 6. They could've won Game 7. So while Denkinger played a major role in the ninth inning of Game 6, the Cards can't pin losing four games on that one call.

The fifth down
In a 1990 college football game, Colorado trailed Missouri by four and drove inside deep inside Missouri territory in the final minute. Two running plays mixed around two spiked throws to stop the clock added up to four downs. But somehow, officials counted only three. On "fifth down,'' Colorado scored a touchdown for a 33-31 victory. It then went on to claim the national title.
Don't forget: You could find dozens of plays that altered the outcome. Missouri gave up two touchdowns of more than 68 yards, so it's hard to say Mizzou lost solely because of one missed down.

Usa Time after time
In the 1972 Summer Olympics, the United States basketball team suffered its first loss ever in Olympic competition thanks to a little (okay, a lot) of help from the officials. Not once, but twice officials added time to the end of the gold-medal game that helped the then-Soviet Union to score a last-second bucket for a 50-49 victory. To this day, the members of the U.S. team have refused to accept their silver medals.
Don't forget: One could scan through the game and find a missed foul shot or two, a turnover or a missed open jumper that would've allowed the United States to lead by more than a point in the final three seconds.

Maier The Jeffrey Maier game
In the eighth inning of Game 1 during the 1996 American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Orioles, New York trailed, 4-3, when Derek Jeter hit a deep fly to right. A 12-year-old named Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall at old Yankee Stadium and knocked the ball back into the stands. Umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a homer even though Maier reached over the fence and prevented Baltimore rightfielder Tony Tarasco from possibly making a catch. The homer tied the score at 4 and the Yankees went on to win in the 11th inning. They won the series in five games and, eventually, the World Series.
Don't forget: It's not a given that Tarasco would've made the catch, but the bigger deal is the Orioles won only once in the best-of-seven series. When you lose a series, 4-1, it's hard to gripe about one call.

The Islanders were off(sides) and running
The 1980 Stanley Cup ended when the Islanders scored in overtime of Game 6 to capture the first of four consecutive Cups. However, replays show and linesman Leon Stickle later admitted that the Islanders were offsides on the play that led to Bobby Nystrom's series-winning goal.
Don't forget: The Flyers lost three other games in the series, including a critical Game 1 overtime loss at home. And who's to say the Islanders wouldn't have gone on to score later in the overtime of Game 6 had they been whistled for offsides?

Maradona Hand of God
In the quarterfinal of the 1986 World Cup, Argentina's Diego Maradona broke a scoreless tie against England in the second half when he rose up between two defenders and punched the ball into the goal. Referee Ali Bin Nasser of Tunisia didn't notice it was a handball and allowed the goal to stand. After the game, Maradona, in Spanish, said the goal was scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.''
Don't forget: It wasn't the only goal of the game for Maradona, who scored a spectacular goal four minutes a later — a goal that was later voted as the "Goal of the Century.'' Still, the final score of the game was 2-1 and, the English argue, the difference was the “Hand of God’’ goal.

Tunney The long count
I'm going old-school. On Sept. 22, 1927, heavyweight champion Gene Tunney was knocked to the canvas by Jack Dempsey. Because Dempsey didn't immediately go to a neutral corner, the referee's count didn't begin for several seconds. Tapes reveal Tunney was on the canvas for 13 seconds, but he rose before the referee reached 10 and went on to win a unanimous 10-round decision.
Don't forget: Tunney claimed (and Dempsey said he believed him) that he stayed down until the count reached nine to recover as much as possible. Tunney said if the referee had begun his count immediately, he would've been back on his feet before the count reached 10. Tunney dominated the fight otherwise.

Far from perfect
Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga lost a perfect game Wednesday with two outs in the ninth inning because umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe at first. It should have been the last out of the game. If Joyce gets it right, Galarraga has a perfect game. Joyce got it wrong, and Galarraga didn't get a perfect game.
Don't forget: Actually, there's nothing else to come up with on this one. Galarraga did everything he could to throw a perfect game. He did throw a perfect game. Only a bad call kept it from being official. As painful as it is to pin this one on a good guy like Joyce, his call single-handedly denied Galarraga a perfect game.

Which bad or infamous calls would you add to the list? Leave your comments below.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 8, 2010 3:17pm]


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