The Worst Call in Baseball History?

The Worst Call in Baseball History? July 30, 2011

As a former umpire, I took special interest in this story this week. In the wee hours of the morning, in the bottom of the 19th inning, an MLB umpire blew a play at the plate. I mean, he flat out missed it:

Was this a worse call than last year’s blown call that resulted in ruining a perfect game? Maybe, since that call didn’t effect the outcome of a game — an important game in a pennant race, no less. Last year’s call only affected a personal record.

But, it has to be remembered that Jerry Meals, the home plate ump in this week’s game, had umpired the equivalent of a doubleheader behind the plate with no break. He’d called about 600 pitches. Unlike the base umpires, he had to be acutely aware on every pitch of the marathon game. Finally, at 1:50am, surely exhausted, he missed the call that decided the game.

Big deal. There are 161 other games. The length of the season is the main reason that MLB doesn’t need video replay — everything will even out over the long season, including bad calls.

HT: Kenton Self

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  • Yeah, looks like he tagged him.

    Whatever is the best major league game ever played (by a team or an individual player), I guess the fans probably left the game thinking they’d seen one great performance.

    By contrast, my strong suspicion is that whatever is the best officiated game (either by an individual [prob. home plate] ump or by a crew), the fans probably left not only failing to realize they’d seen a well-officiated game, but actually thinking the ump(s) was/were particularly awful. What would the best officiated game be like? Lots and lots of extremely close calls in crucial situations, that the umps get right. People being what they are, when a call is very close, those whose team it goes against think the call was awful, even when it’s right. When there are a lot of close calls, the fans of both teams leave thinking the umps were awful, and against them. Or maybe (not at all unlikely, I think) the *very* best officiated game had lots of close calls, almost all of which were (correctly) called in favor of one of the teams, the umps resisting the temptation to try to even things out, and actually getting the calls right.

  • PG

    So can I flip your last point and recommend that they add instant replay, allowing them to shorten their awfully long season?

  • TC

    I know this is a blog for liberals and heretics, but that is just too far.

  • Kenton

    Thanks for the shout out, Tony!

    So my assertion was that at 1:50 in the morning in the bottom of the 19th with the score still tied, if it’s not just *totally* and *completely* obvious that the tag was made (and it wasn’t here), then the runner is safe. It’s a corollary to the idea that to a post-modern ump “they ain’t balls nor strikes until [he] call ’em.”

    And for the record, it was a bad call.

  • that was such a bad call. I watched the video before MLB even said it was a blown call and I was stunned. The commentator didn’t want to undermine the umpire so he didn’t really say anything – I thought I was crazy because it was so painfully clear he tagged him. In football this would be huge – I like that in baseball it’s not the end of the world.

  • Ben

    Three baseball umpires were having a beer at Tony’s Bar after a long day at the local ballpark. The first umpire was an older guy named Frank, he had been an umpire since he was a young man in the 1940s. The next umpire was named Alan, he was a bit younger. He had met Frank in the 1960s and despite their age difference they had a common love of the game. It was Frank who had got Alan his first job as an umpire. The third umpire was a young guy in his late 20s named Chris. Chris had stared umpiring last year. He had met Frank and Alan through the game and although they did not have much else in common he still liked coming to Tony’s bar on Saturday night to argue about the finer points of the game.

    It was a quite night so when Tony the barman was delivering them a round of drinks he stopped to join in their conversation. The conversation had drifted to an obscure rule about a little known way a player can get ‘out’.

    Tony had never been all that knowledgeable about baseball, so he had to ask how many ways there are to get a player out and how it did not get confusing for the umpire.

    Frank was first to reply.
    “Well, there are five main ways: strikeouts, ground outs, forceouts, flyouts and tag outs and I just call them as they are.” Said Frank.

    “I agree with the first part but not the second” said Alan “There definitely is five main ways to get out: strikeout, ground out, forceout, flyout and tag out, however I call them as I see them.”

    Chris was smiling it was clear he disagreed.

    “For sure, the five most common ways to get out are strikeouts, ground outs, forceouts, flyouts and tag outs.” Said Chris “ but guys as I see it, until I call them they aren’t.”

  • As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I strongly maintain that Don Denkinger’s blown call at 1st base in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series is the worst blown call in baseball history – but then, I might be a bit biased on that count… 😉