Major league umpires are most effective when they spend the game in relative anonymity. Other than a passing mention at the start of the game, nobody sitting in either dugout wants to see an umpire make a call that ultimately decides a game, especially when it's a game in the World Series.
Yet that's exactly what happened in Game 3 of the 2013 Fall Classic, as Allen Craig scored the game-winning run for St. Louis in the bottom of the ninth inning after Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks was ruled to have obstructed Craig's path to home plate.
Say goodbye "walk-off" and hello "trip-off."
While the debate will rage on as to whether it was the correct call or not, it was the latest controversial decision by an umpire to impact a World Series contest. Will that call ultimately serve as a tipping point for the series? Can Boston rebound? Where does it rank among the most heavily debated and scrutinized calls in the storied history of the Fall Classic?
Let's take a look, taking into account the situations and players involved in other controversial calls—and how those series ultimately played out.
With Philadelphia ahead 4-1, Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford led off the top of the seventh inning of Game 3 with a bunt up the first base line. Phillies starter Jamie Moyer made a terrific play on the ball, flipping it to first baseman Ryan Howard as the speedy Crawford flew toward the bag.
Howard made an equally amazing play, snatching the ball with his bare hand while remaining on the bag, clearly having control of the ball and beating the All-Star outfielder to first base for what should have been the first out of the inning.
Instead, umpire Tom Hallion called Crawford safe, and the Rays would go on to put two runs on the board in the inning, cutting Philadelphia's lead to 4-3.
Ultimately, the play proved to be inconsequential, as the Phillies won in the bottom of the ninth inning on a Carlos Ruiz walk-off single.
Still fresh in our minds—and thanks to the above video—there's no reason to go into great detail as to what transpired at the end of Game 3 of the 2013 World Series. If you're looking for a detailed breakdown of the chaos, check out Zach Rymer's terrific piece here, which does just that.
While it's clear that Allen Craig's path to home plate was impeded by Will Middlebrooks, who was lying on the ground after trying to field an errant throw from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Middlebrooks did raise a valid point when he talked to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan after the game:
I tried to get up. His (Craig's) hands were on top of me. I felt something [pushing] on top of me, when I saw the replay, I saw it was his hands. What am I supposed to do?
I was just trying to push myself up. The first thing I thought was [the ball] hit the baserunner, and it was somewhere around close. I was just going to get up and pick it up, as I'm trying to get back up, I get pushed back down, because he was going over me.
It's hard to argue with that, and while umpires Jim Joyce and Dana DeMuth did make the correct call according to the letter of the law, this incident should, perhaps, lead to a reworking of the rule—one that takes into account a defender's inability to get out of the way due to the runner pushing him back to the ground.
It didn't get much better in the 1950s than the battle of the boroughs in New York, and the Fall Classic in 1955 pitted Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers against Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees.
With the Yankees leading 6-4 in the top of the eighth inning, Jackie Robinson took off from third base toward home plate, trying to beat Whitey Ford's delivery to Berra behind the dish.
Ford's throw beat Robinson, and Berra applied the tag, but umpire Bill Summers called Robinson safe, prompting the normally mild-mannered Berra to lose his mind, making a passionate argument that led absolutely nowhere.
The Yankees would hold on to win the game by a score of 6-5, but the Dodgers went on to win the series in seven games.
Love him or hate him, Tommy Lasorda is one of the all-time great managers and owner of some of the greatest tirades that we've seen skippers go on when faced with a controversial call by an umpiring crew.
With the Dodgers holding a 2-1 series lead over the Yankees and a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning, New York's Lou Piniella stepped to the plate with Thurman Munson on second and Reggie Jackson on first with one out. Piniella hit a line drive right at Dodgers shortstop Bill Russell.
Russell dropped the ball, picked it up and stepped on second for the force out of Jackson. He threw to Steve Garvey at first base to try to turn the double play, but the ball wound up in right field when Jackson, standing in the base line, appeared to stick his hip out to deflect the throw.
Munson scored on the play, cutting the Dodgers' lead to 3-2, and the Yankees eventually won it in extra innings on an RBI single by Piniella that tied the series at 2-2. New York went on to win the series in six games, with this play being the one that many point to as the turning point.
As you can hear in the video, Lasorda did his best to convince the umpires that they had made a mistake, but the crew was adamant that Jackson did nothing wrong.
While most remember Carlton Fisk's dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the fiery backstop was involved in a controversial play in the top of the 10th inning of Game 3, one that may have cost Boston a shot at ending the Curse of the Bambino 29 years before it finally did.
With the game tied at five, Cincinnati's Cesar Geronimo led off the 10th inning with a single. Pinch hitter Ed Armbrister then dropped a bunt that bounced high in front of the plate. As Fisk went to play the ball, he collided with Armbrister, forcing him to throw wildly to second base while trying to get Geronimo.
Despite Boston manager Darrell Johnson's objections—he claimed interference by Armbrister and that Geronimo should return to first base—home plate umpire Larry Barnett didn't flinch, and Fisk was charged with an error.
Two batters later, Joe Morgan singled home Geronimo with the game-winning run, and Cincinnati went on to win the series in seven games.
The late Elrod Hendricks, Baltimore's longtime bullpen coach, who set team records for most seasons as a coach (28) and most seasons with the organization (37), was part of one of the most controversial World Series plays of all time.
In Game 1 of the 1970 Fall Classic between the Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, the score was tied at three as the Reds stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out and runners on the corners, Cincinnati's Ty Cline hit a chopper in front of the mound.
Bernie Carbo raced home from third base, and home plate umpire Ken Burkhart went to position himself in front of the plate to make the call, but he got in the way of Hendricks, who was catching for the Orioles. Burkhard had his back to the play as Hendricks tagged Carbo with his glove—but the ball was in his other hand.
When Burkhart turned around and saw Hendricks with the ball, he called Carbo out—despite having never actually seen the play.
Baltimore would take the lead in the top of the seventh on a solo home run by Brooks Robinson and held on for a 4-3 victory, eventually winning the series in five games.
Perhaps the most famous blown call in World Series history, this one likely cost the St. Louis Cardinals a championship ring.
With closer Todd Worrell on to close things out, St. Louis headed into the bottom of the ninth inning with a 1-0 lead—three outs away from hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy high in the air.
Kansas City pinch hitter Jorge Orta hit a slow grounder up the line and was clearly out as first baseman Jack Clark fielded the ball and flipped it to Worrell on the bag for the first out of the inning. But umpire Don Denkinger ruled Orta safe.
A few batters later, the potential tying and winning runs moved into scoring position thanks to a passed ball by Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter and, after an intentional walk of Hal McRae to load the bases, pinch hitter Dane Iorg smacked a game-winning, two-run single to right field that forced a Game 7.
Kansas City blew out a deflated St. Louis squad in the clinching game by a score of 11-0.