Friday, June 4, 2010

Biggest Referee Gaffs in History

Many of you are now very familiar with what happened Wednesday night at the conclusion of the "Imperfect Game." Umpire Jim Joyce called Cleveland Indians' batter Jason Donald safe when he clearly wasn't with two outs in the ninth to ruin pitcher Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers perfect game.

While all parties involved have handled the situation with class and dignity and the debate to use more instant replay in baseball heats up (of course being baseball it will take forever for that to happen). It got me thinking about some of the biggest gaffs by officials in sports.


Don Denkinger Calls Jorge Orta Safe

In 1985, the St. Louis Cardinals were on the verge of their 10th World Series title. Up 1-0 in the 9th inning of Game 6, umpire Don Denkinger called Jorge Orta of the Kansas City Royals safe although pitcher Todd Worrell, covering first, clearly beat him to the bag. The Royals rallied for two runs to tie the series, then blasted the Cardinals in Game 7 to win the World Series (yes the Royals used to be good).

12-year-old Helps Yankees
In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier reached over the right field fence and grabbed Derek Jeter's fly ball before Baltimore's Tony Tarasco could snatch it. Umpire Rich Garcia opted not to call fan interference despite Maier's glove being obviously over the fence. The home run in the 8th inning tied the game and the Yankees won 5-4 in 11 innings. New York won the series 4-1. Being an Orioles fan, and watching this happen live was unbelievable. What made me even more upset was how Maier was treated like a conquering hero afterwards. If I ever see him in person I will punch him in the face.


USSR Wins Olympic Gold on Third Try

The U.S. men lost for the first time in Olympic History, 51-50 to the Soviet Union, after referees twice put time back on the clock, enabling the Soviets to score at the buzzer. In the confusion legendary Oklahoma State and U.S. team Head Coach Hank Iba had his wallet stolen. The Americans protested and never accepted their silver medals. To this day they remain unclaimed. American player Kenny Davis has a clause in his will forbidding any of his descendants to ever accept the medal. Of course in 1980 in Lake Placid the U.S.A. got their revenge (do you believe in miracles?).


Brett Hull in the Crease

Brett Hull's goal in the third overtime of Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals was allowed even though his skate entered the crease before the puck. The goal lifted Dallas to its only championship and further devastated Buffalo's long-suffering fans.


Hand of God

Diego Maradona punched the ball into the goal in a 2-1 quarterfinal win against England, helping Argentina claim the 1986 World Cup. Later, Maradona described it as, "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God." In reality it was pretty much all hand.


Colorado's Fifth Down

Referees failed to change the down marker when Colorado spiked the ball on its final drive. The Buffaloes scored a touchdown on "fifth down," the final play in a 33-31 win at Missouri. Colorado went onto share the 1990 National Title with Georgia Tech.

In stark contrast to what happened in a similar situation in 1940. Cornell scored a last second touchdown to defeat Dartmouth 7-3. However, when it was later ruled that officials lost track of downs and Cornell had scored on a "fifth down," the president, athletic director, and coach of Cornell ruled that they would forfeit the game. Today the game stands in the record books Dartmouth 3 Cornell 0. The Big Red was ranked second in the nation at the time and gave up the possibility of a National Championship. Imagine what would happen today if say Alabama or Tennessee did something similar with millions of dollars and a BCS Title on the line?

So there you have it. Yes, human error is part of the game, but sometimes you just have to scratch your head and wonder what were they thinking?

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