Biggest Blown Calls in Sports History

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIIJune 26, 2011

Biggest Blown Calls in Sports History

0 of 50

    While sports are meant to feature stellar athletes battling against each other in a match of wits, scratching and clawing for victory, there is often an outside force that affects the outcome...


    It's a sad prospect that this neutral party, which is required to be fair and follow the rulebook, can greatly influence the outcome of a game.

    In history, and seemingly in a plethora of crucial moments, these officials have chosen to ignore the rules, or perhaps just lose their sight, and blow a call that results in a significantly different conclusion.

    The only solution seems to be superfluous replay technology, which ultimately eliminates the human element.

    But that facet of sports is important, albeit imperfect, and clogging sports with excessive technology seems counter-traditional.

    Perhaps it's time for an infusion of more focused officials to call these games.

    Here are the 50 biggest blown calls in sports history.


50. 1979 Rose Bowl Phantom Touchdown

1 of 50

    Some may say this one is too close to call, but we disagree.

    Running back Charles White tried to score on a three-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the 1979 Rose Bowl, but Wolverine linebacker Jerry Meter had other ideas.

    After hitting White hard and causing a fumble, Meter came up with the recovery on the 1-yard line.

    The line judge decided that White crossed the goal line before he lost control.

    USC beat Michigan 17-10.

49. Hopkins-Pascal

2 of 50

    Bernard Hopkins outdid his opponent, Jean Pascal, for 12 rounds to become the WBC Light Heavyweight champion.

    Amazing considering he was 46 years old and Pascal was only 30.

    Also remarkable since the refs failed to call three of his knockdowns.

48. Tar-Zan

3 of 50

    George Brett was naturally ecstatic when, in the top of the ninth inning with two outs, he hit a two-run homer to put the Royals up 5-4.

    That enjoyment turned into fury when the umpires said the pine tar on the bat extended too far off the end, following a protest by Yankees manager Billy Martin.

    Brett was ejected from the game.

    The controversy revolved around whether the home run should've still counted.

    The game was eventually played from the point of his home run, and the Royals won the game.

    Well played.

47. A Poke in the Eye Burns

4 of 50

    Anthony Johnson couldn't continue to fight after getting poked in the eye by opponent Kevin Burns.

    This fight ended in TKO at 3:35 left in the third round.

    Most believe that Johnson should have won the fight through disqualification since Burns had been warned about the eye pokes in earlier rounds.

46. Brock Lesnar Pats Frank Mir in the Head

5 of 50

    This sure is the same referee from the Kevin Burns fight.

    As Lesnar beat down Frank Mir, referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped it, saying Brock was striking Mir to the back of the head.

    Lesnar believed differently.

    Mir then gained momentum and caught Lesnar in a leg lock, forcing him to tap. 

    Lesnar requested that Mazzagatti never referee his fights again.

45. Florida's Gift

6 of 50

    Tennessee fans are still crying.

    With Florida down 23-20 in the final moments of this 2000 game, something strange happened.

    After driving all the way down the field against the Tennessee defense, quarterback Jesse Palmer threw the ball to receiver Jabar Gaffney.

    Naturally, the elite receiver dropped the ball, but the refs called it a touchdown.

    To say the least, fans were not happy.

44. Hamilton Touches the Quarterback

7 of 50

    Call this the Ken Stabler treatment.

    Referee Ben Dreith called "roughing the passer" on New England's Sugar Bear Hamilton after he hit Oakland's Ken Stabler in the 1976 NFL playoffs.

    With the Patriots up by three points in final two minutes, the refs picked the perfect time to screw it up.

    The Raiders went on to score in the final minute to win 21-17.

    They would win the Super Bowl as well.

43. Ed Hochuli Hocks a Loogie

8 of 50

    This may be one of the most aesthetically displeasing fumbles in history.

    Jay Cutler rolled out on a pass play but forgot how to throw the ball and lost it behind him, but usually trustworthy referee Ed Hochuli called it a forward pass.

    Even the best refs make mistakes, although Hochuli was probably too busy checking out his own unnecessary muscles to be involved in the game.

42. Eric Gregg's Strike Zone

9 of 50

    The problem with umpire Eric Gregg was that he was seemingly staring at the ground when the pitch was thrown.

    In Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS, Gregg called Fred McGriff out on strikes on a Livan Hernandez pitch that appeared to be at least a yard outside

    The Marlins went on to beat the Braves in the NLCS and eventually won the World Series.

41. Jordan Hides the Push

10 of 50

    In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan hit one of his epic game-winners.

    What most don't realize at first glance is that Jordan actually pushed off Bryon Russell to free himself up for an uncontested jumper.

    The refs failed to make a call, and this shot won it for the Bulls against the Jazz for their sixth NBA championship.

40. Thanksgiving Day Coin Flop

11 of 50

    It's not a good sign when the referee can't get the coin flip correct.

    In the Thanksgiving Day game between the Steelers and Lions in 1999, the teams had just gone to overtime after a rough battle.

    During the coin toss, Steelers bruising running back Jerome Bettis called "tails," but ref Phil Luckett heard "heads." The Lions won the toss and ended up winning the game.

    The NFL changed its coin-tossing system after this debacle

    Since when does heads sound like tails?

39. Refs Don't Like Celebrating

12 of 50

    After a miraculous touchdown, Washington quarterback Jake Locker was just ecstatic and celebrating with his loyal teammates.

    The ref ruined the party and called him for unsportsmanlike conduct.

    Can't they have any fun?

38. A.J. Gets Lucky

13 of 50

    Call this one a productive strikeout.

    In Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS, catcher A.J. Pierzynski struck out on a low pitch in the bottom of the ninth.

    Umpire Doug Eddings, however, ruled that the ball came out of catcher Josh Paul's glove, awarding Pierzynski first base.

    Wrong call, wrong time.

    He was lifted for a pinch runner who eventually scored the winning run.

37. Matt Holliday Misses Home Plate

14 of 50

    One game was played following the 2007 MLB season to decide who would win the wild card, a tiebreaker if you will.

    With the Rockies down 8-6 to the Padres in the bottom of the 13th inning, outfielder Matt Holliday tripled with two men on to tie the game at eight.

    The Padres then intentionally walked slugger Todd Helton to bring Jamey Carroll to the plate.

    Carroll hit a line drive to right field that was caught by the Padres’ Brian Giles, and Holliday was anxiously awaiting to tag up.

    After the catch, Holliday tried to beat Giles’ throw to home.

    A perfect throw followed by a perfect tag.

    Holliday slid. Umpire Tim McClelland called him safe.

    Replays show that Holliday never touched the plate.

36. Last-Second Fiasco

15 of 50

    Julio Cesar Chávez nailed Meldrick Taylor with a vicious right hook that sent him to the floor.

    Taylor managed to return to his feet with the routine eight count.

    Referee Richard Steele then decided that Taylor was unfit to continue and stopped the fight. 

    With a controversial TKO victory in favor of Chávez with only two seconds left, people were dumbfounded.

35. Achilles Heel

16 of 50

    Deion Sanders avoided only the second triple play in World Series history in 1992 during Game 3.

    With Terry Pendleton on first and Sanders on second, David Justice hit a deep fly ball to center field that Blue Jays center fielder Devon White jumped and caught.

    Pendleton passed Sanders on the bases for the second out, but umpire Bob Davidson called Sanders safe after he barely got back to second base.

    Replays, however, make it clear that Toronto third baseman Kelly Gruber got Sanders' heel before he returned to second.

34. 1975 World Series Interference

17 of 50

    This no-call is said to have ruined the Red Sox's chances at the 1975 World Series title.

    In Game 3, the Reds' Cesar Geronimo led off the 10th inning with a single. Pinch hitter Ed Armbrister then dropped down a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate.

    Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk went to field the ball and was leveled by Armbrister, throwing it wild of second in an attempt to throw out Geronimo. The Red Sox protested that Armbrister should have been called out for interference.

    Home plate umpire Larry Barnett rejected their plea, and Fisk was charged with an error on the play.

    Joe Morgan then hit a single that scored Geronimo and won the game for the Reds 6-5.

33. Enough

18 of 50

    Apparently in those days it took a coma to stop the fight.

    In Round 12 of this 1962 match between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret, Griffith struck Paret repeatedly for more than several seconds before referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight.

    Paret never regained consciousness and died 10 days later.


32. 2003 Fiesta Bowl Shattered

19 of 50

    In the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, most people remember Ohio State beating Miami 31-24.

    Known for its defense, Miami had the Buckeyes on a 4th-and-3 on the 5-yard line.

    The Buckeyes threw it to Chris Gamble in the end zone, and the ball was wrestled down, resulting in an incomplete pass.

    After approximately 30 minutes, one ref threw a flag for pass interference.

    Not only was the call incorrect, but it came after the celebrations as well.

31. Immaculate Reception

20 of 50

    The 1972 AFC divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders was one for the ages.

    The Steelers faced 4th-and-10 on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the game and no timeouts.

    Under pressure after the hike, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw to halfback John "Frenchy" Fuqua.

    Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua the moment the ball arrived.

    The ball flew into the arms of Steelers fullback Franco Harris, who ran for a touchdown.

    The Steelers earned a 12-7 lead and the eventual win.

    The controversy revolved around which helmet it bounced off.

    Many believe that the reception was illegal.

30. Elrod Hendricks

21 of 50

    Hendricks' career can be summed up by this play.

    In Game 1 of the 1970 World Series, the game was tied with one out in the sixth inning. The Reds had runners on first and third with pinch hitter Ty Cline up.

    He hit a chopper in front of the plate, and Hendricks grabbed it with his bare hand.

    Bernie Carbo, who was on third base, ran home.

    Umpire Ken Burkhart collided with Hendricks and spun as Hendricks tagged Carbo with an empty glove.

    The distracted umpire called Carbo out on the basis of the glove tag, even though the ball was in his right hand.

    The play was argued unsuccessfully.

29. Pippen's Phantom Foul

22 of 50

    This was life without Jordan for Scottie Pippen. Bad things happen.

    Hubert Davis shot a three-pointer in the final seconds of Game 5 against the Bulls in the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals

    Instead of stealing Game 5, the Bulls were shot in the heart by this "foul" and lost the series in seven games.

28. Testaverde Gets Benefit

23 of 50

    Phil Luckett makes another historical appearance on this list.

    Against the Seattle Seahawks in 1998, Vinny Testaverde was ruled in the end zone on a quarterback sneak on the last play of the game to win it for the Jets

    Unfortunately for the Seahawks, replays clearly showed that he was down more than a foot from the goal line before stretching his arms for the score.

    The Jets went on to win their division and get to the AFC Championship Game, while the Seahawks missed the postseason.

27. Frank Lampard Rejected?

24 of 50

    This might be the most disgusting no-call in the history of the World Cup, occurring in 2010.

    The ball is so clearly over the goal line that it's sickening to watch.


26. The Long Count

25 of 50

    Jack Dempsey knocked Gene Tunney down in the seventh round but forgot the new rule, which required a fighter to go to a neutral corner.

    Tunney stayed down for a nine-count but turned out to have been down for 14 seconds because of Dempsey's mistake.

    Very strange.

25. The Play

26 of 50

    It is arguably the most memorable play in college football history.

    The Play refers to the last-second kickoff return during the battle between the University of California Golden Bears and the Stanford University Cardinal in 1982.

    Stanford had taken a 20-19 lead with four seconds left in the game on a field goal.

    The Golden Bears received the kickoff and lateraled the ball five times to score and get the controversial 25-20 victory.

    Not only were two of the laterals thought to be illegal, but the Stanford band had also come onto the field, creating excess mayhem.

    The Bears couldn't be stopped.

24. Losing Control with Clay

27 of 50

    This footage is incredible and shows us why we must continue to appreciate Muhammad Ali.

    Every Ali fight was epic, but this one against Sonny Liston was especially significant.

    In this battle for boxing's world heavyweight championship, Ali and Liston heard the bell ring and continued to fight.

    The ref did a great job of not stopping them; he might be good doing a hockey game.

23. Brett Hull's Skate in the Crease

28 of 50

    There's a reason Buffalo fans think that God hates them.

    In Game 6 of the 1999 finals, Brett Hull won the Stanley Cup for the Dallas Stars after beating Dominik Hasek in the crease.

    People complained that Hull's skate was in the crease and that the goal shouldn't have counted as a result.

    The refs never went to a replay, but the league did change the "skate-in-the-crease" rule in reaction to the play before the next season.

22. Ron Gant Muscled Off First

29 of 50

    The Braves lost to the Minnesota Twins in the 1991 World Series thanks in part to a controversial call.

    During Game 2 of the 1991 World Series, Ron Gant's leg was pushed by Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek as Gant tried to make it back to first base to avoid Twins pitcher Kevin Tapani's pickoff.

    He said Hrbek pulled his leg off the base as he was trying to grab the base.

    First base umpire Drew Coble claimed that Gant's momentum would have carried him off the bag either way.

    The benches cleared, and tempers ran high.

21. Jerry Rice Ruled Down

30 of 50

    Fast-forward to 7:00 in and you will see one of the worst calls in history.

    With Jerry Rice's only catch in the 1998 NFC Wild Card game, he fumbled but was ruled down.

    Replays showed he had lost possession before falling, and this blown call led to a dramatic game-winning touchdown throw from Steve Young to Terrell Owens.

20. Offensively Ruled in Super Bowl XL

31 of 50

    This game had plenty of no-calls, making this one even more disheartening.

    Seattle was called for offensive pass interference after scoring a touchdown, and it became clear that this one would be the Steelers' game.

    The Seahawks are still crushed.

19. Knoblauch's Phantom Tag

32 of 50

    Two years after this play, Chuck Knoblauch was traded to the Royals, but he was still closer to New York than this tag was to Jose Offerman during the 1999 ALCS.

    Ruining a potential rally, this blown call by umpire Tim Tschida turned into a double play and ended any chance for the Red Sox to make a comeback.

    People began to question whether the Yankees' payroll included the umpires.

18. Bert Emanuel Rule

33 of 50

    In the 1999 NFC Championship Game, an apparent first-down catch by Bert Emanuel was ruled incomplete.

    Though it was clearly in Emanuel's possession, the refs concluded that the ball hit the ground.

    This blown call led to the Bucs losing 11-6 to the Rams.

17. Jeter's Home-Field Advantage

34 of 50

    The ultimate 10th man.

    In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, Derek Jeter hit a deep fly ball to right field.

    Right fielder Tony Tarasco believed he has a play on the ball right before the fence, but 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier had other ideas.

    He reached over the wall and directed the ball into the stands, while Tarasco continued to wait for it.

    Umpire Rich Garcia ruled it a game-tying homer, and the Yankees ended up winning in the 11th inning on a Bernie Williams bomb.

    Maier, featured on ESPN after becoming Wesleyan University's career hits leader, had major league aspirations, and it was once rumored that the Orioles, ironically, might draft him.

    They dispelled those rumors.

16. Tim McClelland in 2009 ALCS

35 of 50

    With Jorge Posada on third base and Robinson Cano on second in the fifth inning of Game 4 during the 2009 ALCS, Melky Cabrera came to the plate.

    He hit a bouncer back to the mound, and Darren Oliver decided to go home with it.

    Catcher Mike Napoli caught the ball and chased Posada back to third.

    With Cano running to third, Posada slowed down.

    Napoli tagged Cano off the base and then Posada.

    While it was clear to every viewer, it wasn't as obvious to the only opinion that mattered.

    Umpire Tim McClelland wasn't watching the same game, as he thought Cano was on the base.

15. Don Denkinger Calls Orta Safe

36 of 50

    This call defined Denkinger's career as an umpire.

    In Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, St. Louis pitcher Todd Worrell ran to cover first base on a ground ball by Jorge Orta.

    He clearly beat Orta to the bag, but Denkinger called Orta safe.

    This set up a two-run Royals rally in a monumental 2-1 victory.

    Kansas City went on to win the series in seven games.

14. Joe Mauer Gets Robbed

37 of 50

    Well, at least the umpire is focusing, but that's not helping him much.

    In Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS between the Yankees and Twins, Joe Mauer hit a ground-rule double that was clearly on the line.

    With Melky Cabrera charging in from left field, the ball nicked his glove, landed in fair territory and bounced into the stands.

    Phil Cuzzi called the ball foul and angered many, including analysts, who were angered with the terrible calls throughout the series.

13. Roy Jones Not at Home in 1988 Olympics

38 of 50

    Roy Jones Jr. landed 86 punches to Park Si-Hun's 32 but still lost in a 3-2 decision during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. 

    Not only did Si-Hun allegedly apologize to Jones, but two of the three officials in the fight were banned for life and admitted they made the wrong decision.

    This led to a new scoring system for Olympic boxing.

12. Maradona's Hand of God

39 of 50

    God actually refers to the referee who missed the play.

    Argentina beat England in a 1986 World Cup quarterfinal after Diego Maradona punched the ball into the net.

    The referee didn't notice the handball and counted the goal.

    Maradona later said the goal was scored "partly by the hand of God and partly by the head of Maradona."

    That's deep.

11. Steve Bartman Incident

40 of 50

    Many Cubs fans will blame Bartman for ending the Cubs' chances at making the World Series.

    However, the team was up 3-0 with a 3-2 series lead in Game 6 and went on to give up eight runs in the inning and eventually lose the series.

    The Cubs lost it on their own, but Bartman sure didn't help.

10. All You Need Is No Feet In

41 of 50

    This stung most because the Nebraska Cornhuskers finished 12-1, with this call resulting in their first and only loss.

    Facing Penn State in 1982, an out-of-bounds catch was surprisingly ruled a catch.

    This one is comically bad.

    The University of Nebraska football team still repeated as Big Eight champs.

9. Giants' Ineligible Interference

42 of 50

    Sure, the Giants squandered a 38-14 lead to the 49ers in the 2002 Wild Card game, but they still could have won the game.

    Then something strange occurred.

    Following a botched field goal attempt, holder Matt Allen scrambled to find a receiver and threw it downfield.

    The eligible receiver, guard Rich Seubert, was wrestled to the floor on blatant pass interference from Chike Okeafor. Seubert was eligible, but the refs called an ineligible man downfield on Giants lineman Tam Hopkins. The penalties should have offset, with the Giants getting another shot at a field goal.

    The next day, it was proved that the call was incorrect.

    Ya think?

8. Henry's Handball

43 of 50

    Why didn't he just grab it with both hands if that's legal?

    Thierry Henry's handball in the World Cup qualifying game could not have been more obvious.

    As his fingers lingered on the soccer ball, the refs were mesmerized.

    It led to a goal that took away any hope the Irish had.

    Another Hand of God.

7. Music City Miracle

44 of 50

    This catastrophe happened with 16 seconds left in the 1999 Wild Card playoff game between the Titans and Bills.

    Titans fullback Lorenzo Neal received the kickoff and handed the ball off to Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, who then threw a clearly forward lateral across the field to another Titans player, Kevin Dyson, who ran for a 75-yard touchdown.

    The booth called for a review, but referee Phil Luckett said the video was inconclusive, and the ruling on the field was upheld.

    The Titans held on to win 22-16.

6. Mike Renfro Ruled out of Bounds

45 of 50

    This is a perfect example of why video replay had to be implemented eventually.

    In the 1979 AFC Championship Game, Houston Oilers receiver Mike Renfro clearly caught the ball for a touchdown, with both feet down, but the officials ruled him out.

    The Steelers went on to win this game 27-13, sending them to their fourth Super Bowl.

5. US Robbed in 2010 World Cup

46 of 50

    Referee Koman Coulibaly became infamous during the 2010 World Cup.

    During the match between the United States and Slovenia, Coulibaly called a foul against the U.S. just as Maurice Edu was kicking the ball into the Slovenian goal.

    The goal would have put the U.S. up 3-2, but instead the call led to a 2-2 draw.

    To this day, Coulibaly has yet to publicly state what the foul was or who it was on.

4. Colorado's Fifth Down

47 of 50

    This is just embarrassing.

    Colorado came from behind to beat Missouri 33-31 in 1990 in an epic yet erroneous performance by scoring the game-winning touchdown on "fifth down."

    When Colorado spiked the ball to stop the clock, the officials coincidentally forgot to change the down marker.

    The Buffaloes scored the winning touchdown on the final play.

3. Brady Tuck Rule

48 of 50

    This was the start of the recent Patriots dynasty.

    Nearing the end of the 2001 AFC Divisional Round game, Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson sacked Tom Brady and caused a fumble that was recovered by Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert.

    The refs determined from review that Brady's arm was moving forward, making it an incomplete pass.

    The Patriots got the ball back and eventually got the ball into field goal range.

    Kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal to tie the game at 13 in the waning minutes, sending the game into overtime.

    The Pats eventually won on a Vinatieri 23-yard field goal.

2. Armando Galarraga Almost Perfect

49 of 50

    He may have been an unknown commodity, but Armando Galarraga almost made history, if not for a blatant blown call by umpire Jim Joyce.

    While Joyce did apologize and admit he ruined the game for the young pitcher, there is nothing he can do to fix this.

    You only get one moment to make a name for yourself.

1. Soviets Get Extra Time in 1972 Olympics

50 of 50

    Fool me, once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

    That was the essence of the clock in the 1972 Olympic basketball match between the Soviet Union and the United States.

    Referees allowed the Soviet Union to score a basket at the buzzer and win the gold medal with a 51-50 victory in the final of the 1972 Games after putting time back on the clock twice in the final seconds.

    It was USA men's basketball's first loss in Olympic history.