Ranking the 10 Blindest Umpire Calls in MLB History
Baseball umpires are generally good at their job, but there are times when they make massive mistakes. Every now and then, an umpire makes a call that we just cannot forget.
These bad calls have happened in big moments and in big games, as well as games that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
It is understood that every umpire will make a mistake every now and then, but it is hard to justify most of the calls on this list. Almost every year, there is another call or two that garners consideration for being the worst of all time.
Maybe one of these days, a blown call like this will lead to the expanded use of instant replay in baseball.
Photo Credit: MLB.tv via Fangraphs
10. Tim McClelland Costs the San Diego Padres a Spot in the Playoffs
After 162 games in 2007, the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies were tied for the wild-card spot. They would go to a sudden-death game 163 at Coors Field to determine who would advance to the playoffs.
The game was a tight one that went to extra innings after being tied at six through the first nine innings. In the top of the 13th, the Padres scored two runs. During the bottom half of the inning, the Rockies tied it up following doubles by Kaz Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki, as well as a triple by Matt Holliday.
Closer Trevor Hoffman walked Todd Helton to bring Jamie Carroll to the plate. Carroll drove a ball to the outfield and Holliday tagged up.
Catcher Michael Barrett was blocking the plate and there was a close play. Umpire Tim McClelland called him safe, and the Rockies won and secured a spot in the playoffs.
Some believe that Holliday never touched the plate even though McClelland called him safe.
9. Ron Gant Gets Pushed off of First Base
During Game 1 of the 1991 World Series against the Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant hit a single and rounded first base.
After he got the ball back, pitcher Kevin Tapani threw over to first base and Gant hurried to get back. First baseman Kent Hrbek caught the ball and then pushed Gant off of first base.
He made the tag and umpire Drew Cobel called Gant out. The illegal play and the bad call cost the Braves a baserunner, and they ended up losing the game.
8. Eric Gregg Has a Big Strike Zone
There are games when umpires have wide strike zones, but their calls are usually reasonable and consistent throughout the game.
During Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS between the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves, Eric Gregg had a big strike zone throughout the game.
Fred McGriff came to the plate with the Braves down one in the top of the ninth. After working it to a 3-2 count against Livan Hernandez, McGriff took a pitch that was about a foot wide of the plate.
Gregg rung up McGriff and ended the game when he should have sent him to first base, where he would have been the game's potential tying run.
7. Jerry Meals Gets It Wrong
After teams play 18 and a half innings, it is not surprising that some of the players and umpires are tired. However, umpires should not be able to blow calls that are very easy.
The Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates played in a hard-fought game that was tied, 3-3, entering the bottom of the 19th. Atlanta had runners on second and third base.
A ground ball was hit to third base. Julio Lugo hustled home, where Pirates catcher Michael McKenry promptly tagged him out a few feet before the plate. For some reason, umpire Jerry Meals called Lugo safe, and the Braves won the game, 4-3.
6. Jeffrey Maier Gives Derek Jeter a Home Run
The New York Yankees won the World Series in 1996, but the biggest moment of the postseason likely came during Game 1 of the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles.
Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball to right field. Outfielder Tony Tarasco settled under it right in front of the wall and was ready to make the catch. Then, 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and made the catch.
Tarasco was furious when umpire Rich Garcia call this a home run when, indeed, it should have been called fan interference. This tied the game up at four, and the Yankees went on to win it in extra innings. The Yankees had momentum during the series following this spark.
A video of the play can be seen here.
5. Tim McClelland Misses a Big Call
During Game 4 of the 2009 ALCS, the New York Yankees took a 3-0 lead into the top of the fifth inning. They scored two more in the inning, and then the most interesting play of the game occurred.
With Robinson Cano on second and Jorge Posada on third, Nick Swisher came to the plate. He hit a grounder to Los Angeles Angels pitcher Darren Oliver, who threw home. Posada was caught in a rundown and headed back to third.
Cano was standing a few feet off of third base, and Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged him and then turned around and tagged Posada. Both of the runners should have been called out.
For some reason, umpire Tim McClelland ruled that Posada was out and Cano was safe. There is no excuse for missing this call.
Video of the play can be found here at around the 1:45 mark.
4. Denkinger Calls Orta Safe
Being on the field during the World Series is an honor for umpires. Don Denkinger did not make the most of his opportunity, as he blew a huge call during Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.
The Kansas City Royals were down one to the St. Louis Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth inning. If the Cardinals won the game, they would have taken the series.
Jorge Orta came to the plate and hit a grounder to first. The throw beat Orta to the base, but Denkinger inexplicably called Orta safe. Kansas City went on to score two runs in the inning and tied up the series.
The Royals won Game 7 and the World Series, partially as a result of the blown call.
To see the video, click here.
3. Jim Joyce Blows Armando Galarraga's Perfect Game
Players in baseball widely regard Jim Joyce as the best umpire in the game, which makes the egregious call that he made in a June 2010 game even more shocking.
Journeyman pitcher Armando Galarraga was putting in the start of his life and was one out away from a perfect game. He induced Jason Donald into hitting a ground ball, and it looked like Galarraga was about to complete his perfect game.
The ball beat Donald to first base, but Joyce called him safe. There was disbelief, and after the game, Joyce was quick to point out his mistake. Galarraga was an incredibly good sport about the situation and accepted Joyce's apology.
2. Chuck Knoblauch "Tags" Jose Offerman
When middle infielders are turning a double play, they occasionally get the benefit of the doubt.
Umpire Tim Tschida made a terrible call on a double play during the 1999 ALCS between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Chuck Knoblauch reached out to tag Jose Offerman and missed him by a few feet. That did not stop Tschida from calling Offerman out.
1. Tim Welke Might Need Some Glasses
It seems as if there is a bad call every year or so, and Tim Welke has given us one of the worst calls that baseball fans have seen in a long time.
A simple ground ball to the shortstop by Jerry Hairston against the Colorado Rockies became controversial when Tim Welke made a call that surprised everyone.
Todd Helton was more than two feet off of the base when he caught it, and Hairston was safe. Or, so everyone watching the game thought. Welke clearly wasn't paying attention, and he made the shocking call that Hairston was out.