The Most Baffling Umpire Calls in MLB Postseason History
Umpires are human, too.
If only we could remember that fact at their lowest moments, they would probably be spared a lot of grief. But when you play a game passionately nicknamed "America's Pastime" in this country, people expect results.
If you get paid to make fair and accurate calls as an umpire for Major League Baseball—fans want fair and accurate calls, especially in the postseason.
When everything is on the line and a loss could help send their favorite team home, fans want umpires to be rock solid. They don't want to hear about the "human element" or listen to heartfelt apologies later.
Those aren't going to help them when their team is on the golf course.
So when calls go the wrong way in the postseason, the situation tends to escalate quickly and bad things tend to happen. Here are a few examples.
15. Berkman Gets Rung Up, Catches Break, Comes Up Big
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Lance Berkman's tenure with the New York Yankees wasn't a long one and didn't produce many memories (which is perhaps the reason that I could not find video of this play), but there definitely was at least one memorable moment in the ALCS.
The Texas Rangers had Berkman on the ropes. Down in the count and already with two strikes on him, they caught him looking at an obvious third strike.
The only person who didn't feel the same way was the home plate umpire, who ruled the pitch a ball.
The Rangers were furious, but it was Berkman who got another shot. He made the Rangers pay (or rewarded the umpire?) by collecting a hit and RBI.
The Rangers would eventually win the ACLS, however.
14. Young Wins Check Swing Appeal, Hits Home Run
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
I couldn't find a video of this one, but it was one of the more memorable moments of the 2010 World Series for the Texas Rangers.
Michael Young was at the plate and already had two strikes on him. He was thrown a nasty breaking ball that forced him to check his swing. Replay showed that he definitely went around, but the umpires didn't think so.
Young was given new life.
In that same at-bat, after he had obviously been struck out, Young mashed a home run. No harm, no foul for the San Francisco Giants, however, who would eventually win the World Series.
13. Dropped Third Strike?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Video: A.J. Takes First
In hindsight, I think it is safe to say that A.J. Pierzynski caught a break on this play.
During the 2005 ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels, Pierzynski got away with one when the home plate umpire ruled that a called strike three was dropped by Angels catcher Bengie Molina.
Molina, who caught the ball, obviously had no idea that the umpire had ruled it a dropped ball. Pierzynski busted it down the first base line as the Angels came off the field.
The Angels would eventually lose this series.
12. Is He Safe?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Video: Holliday Safe at Home
Before the 2012 season, wild-card play-ins were a rarity, and the 2007 campaign ended in a good one between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres.
The game comes down to a close call at the plate. With Matt Holliday on third base, Jamey Carroll sends a fly ball into the outfield that should be deep enough for a sacrifice fly.
Holliday comes chugging home, but Padres catcher Michael Barrett does an excellent job of blocking the plate, seemingly keeping Holliday from touching it with his foot.
Holliday, who busted his face up on the slide, just lies beyond the plate for a moment as Barrett scrambles for the ball to put the tag on him.
There was no call until that moment when the umpire signaled safe. Was he safe? I'll let you be the judge.
11. Posey's Highway Robbery
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
It seems as though it is very easy for an umpire to miss a call at second base, especially on a steal attempt.
Nine out of 10 times, you're looking at a bang-bang play here, and to the umpires' credit, they get the call right more often then you think they would be able to.
But this steal attempt by Buster Posey from the 2010 NLDS is just ridiculous.
Here you have a man that certainly is not the most fleet-footed player on the San Francisco Giants roster, who uses one of the most ridiculous slides of the entire season and who is obviously out, but is called safe.
To make matters worse, Posey would score the game's only run and the Giants would go on to win the series.
10. The Infield/Outfield Fly
So at the end of the day, the umpires got this call "right." If you read the rule book (because everyone reads the rule book, am I right?), the infield fly rule is left purposefully vague for situations like this.
It's basically up to the umpire's discretion.
But there is a part of me that thinks that the Atlanta Braves were seriously cheated on this play. It was not a simple play. It was not a fly ball hanging around the infield.
We see this play a million times per season and because Pete Kozma made it close as a shortstop, the umpires called for a very late infield fly rule.
That was not "ordinary effort."
9. That's Interference!
In case you weren't aware, the Boston Red Sox didn't need much help losing in the postseason prior to the 2004 season, but they were going to get some from the umpires during the 1975 World Series anyway.
Ed Armbrister is at the plate with runners on base, and he squares up to drop a bunt down. The ball drops right out in front of home plate, catching Armbrister by surprise and causing him to pause for a moment.
Then there is a mad scramble. Armbrister takes off for first base and Red Sox's catcher Carlton Fisk collides with him trying to field the ball, but no umpire signals for interference.
Darrell Johnson goes insane—and it is hilarious.
8. Holliday Gets Away with One
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Video: Holliday Called Safe
Everyone loves a close play at first base, but this one wasn't particularly close.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers put on one of the most memorable World Series in recent memory in 2011, and Matt Holliday and Mike Napoli had their fair share of moments, including this one.
Holliday, who busted it down the line on a ground ball, attempted to duck under the tag when the throw pulled Napoli off of the bag. The real problem was that he didn't make it and Napoli's tag landed with a solid thump on his helmet.
Holliday runs through the bag anyway and, to Napoli's disbelief, is called safe.
7. "He's in the Way!"
You don't get to have Reggie Jackson's postseason pedigree without having a few tricks up your sleeve. This one just has the added bonus of Tommy Lasorda freaking out at the umpire.
Jackson is on first base and the batter smashes a line drive to the shortstop, who catches the ball on the fly and tosses it to second. So, Jackson, who is caught between first and second, is still alive on the play. There was no force out.
The second baseman throws the ball back to first base to double up Jackson, who cleverly sticks his hip out into the ball's path and deflects it into right field. Sadly, the umpires see nothing wrong with this play.
This sends Lasorda into a rage and the video is worth it just for the commentary.
6. Gant Pulled off the Bag
I'm not sure why the user who uploaded this video to YouTube titled it "gantcheats," because that is certainly not the way I see it.
Ron Gant steps to the plate with Lonnie Smith on first base and collects a single that seemingly puts runners on first and third for the Atlanta Braves with one out. That's when all hell breaks loose.
The Minnesota Twins try to nail Smith at third base, but the throw gets away, only to be corralled by the pitcher backing up the play. He fires to first base trying to catch Gant leading, but Gant gets his foot back in there—or so you would think.
At that point in time, Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek seems to nudge him off the bag, but the umpire doesn't see it that way and Gant is tagged out.
5. Gregg's Strike Zone
Without having done any research to backup this claim, I'm pretty sure that this really is the worst-called game in the history of baseball—at least in the postseason.
Livan Hernandez had a huge role in helping the then Florida Marlins to a World Series title in 1997, and while he was plenty good in this start against the Atlanta Braves, he got a little help from home plate umpire Eric Gregg.
Hernandez struck out 15 Braves that day, and if you watch the video, this was undoubtedly because Gregg's strike zone was the size of a football field.
4. Cano's Quick Feet
Jacob de Golish/Getty Images
This is a strange play and an even stranger call.
With Jorge Posada on third base and Robinson Cano on second, the New York Yankees seemed set up for a big inning, but a soft hit ball would leave Posada caught in a run down between third and home.
Cano did the sensible thing and moved to third base, only he never put his foot on the bag. Posada runs by the bag as well, and now they're both just standing around the bag when Mike Napoli tags them both.
They should both be out.
But Cano pulls a quick one on the third base umpire and sticks his foot on the bag quickly, giving the impression that he had been standing there. He's called safe. I don't know how he could have been more blatantly out.
3. Come on Denkinger!
Video: Denkinger's Missed Call
If an umpire blows a call, you at least want him to be in the right position when he does it. It just makes it easier for the average fan to accept and harder to blame the umpire.
Don Denkinger was not in the correct position when he made his infamous blown call during the 1985 World Series.
The video does this call the best justice, but let's just say that on a close play at first base like this one, the only person who should automatically be in the correct position to make the call is the first base umpire.
Denkinger not only missed the call by a mile, but he wasn't even in the right spot until the last second.
It's a name that has become synonymous with Chicago Cubs baseball and a word that—if you squint hard enough—kind of looks like "Batman."
Okay, so only one of those facts is important. We'll talk about the Cubs here. After all, they were a club trying to break a curse.
The Cubbies hadn't been to the World Series since 1945 and hadn't won one since 1908. Needless to say, the fans were hungry.
So, when left fielder Moises Alou had a chance to catch a fly ball past the third base foul line, they were ready to rock and roll. It was just one step closer. Apparently, Steve Bartman didn't get the message.
The now-infamous Cubs fan reached over Alou and interfered with the play, becoming one of the most hated men in the city of Chicago.
The fact that the umpires refused to call this fan interference is just an afterthought.
The Cubs still haven't been back to the World Series.
1. Jeffrey Maier
It has become one of the most infamous plays in the history of baseball and made a fan a household name.
The Baltimore Orioles were squaring off against the New York Yankees, and the former held a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom half of the eighth inning.
Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball to right field, but O's right fielder Tony Tarasco seemed to have a beat on it. Suddenly, as the ball descended back to earth, it disappeared into the stands and Tarasco went bonkers.
O's reliever Armando Benitez ran all the way out to right field to argue with the umpire, who had been standing right there to watch the play, convinced that a young fan had reached over to grab the would-be out.
Surely enough, a young fan did interfere, and his name is Jeffrey Maier. It became known as one of the worst calls in the history of baseball, let alone the postseason.