What's the most blatantly incorrect officiating error in sports history?

What’s the most blatantly incorrect officiating error in sports history - one just immediately obviously, *obviously *wrong?

I don’t mean something like Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup - that was simply a human ref’s eye not seeing a goal in real time speed, perfectly understandable. I mean something like a line judge calling a wide receiver in bounds when he was fully 20 feet out of bounds - something mind-bogglingly incorrect.

Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game

That was a reasonable error at high speed. I wouldn’t call it a truly *blatant , dumbfounding *officiating error.

Now, if the umpire had called the runner safe when the baseman touched base with the runner still 30 feet away, that would be something else.

That was the first thing to come to my mind when I saw the title. What’s nice about that story is how both Joyce and Galarraga responded afterwards. They each showed a lot of class.

The Joyce call was wrong but I have seen a hundred more blatantly wrong calls. The Joyce call was just at a really, really inopportune moment.

Worst call I can think of in baseball was probably the fly ball in the 2009 Twins-Yankees hit by Joe Mauer which was actually a fair ball* twice.* It hit Melky Cabrera’s glove in fair territory, then landed in fair territory. The umpire, Phil Cuzzi, maybe 15, 20 feet away and looking right at it, called it foul. It was a stunning call. There was no ambiguity at all; it was a fair ball, quite clearly. And it was technically fair under two different rules, at two different moments.

I mean, it’s one thing to blow a call, but to manage to blow it twice on the same play takes some doing.

This is the one I thought of first. It wasn’t thirty feet fair or anything, but good lord, as **RickJay **says, the umpire was right there, supposedly watching the play as it unfolded. There wasn’t anything bang-bang about it. Fair ball, clearly fair, ruled foul.


The other one I thought of was the Jeffrey Maier interference that wasn’t. Always wondered if the umpire was caught out of position on that one–had he been further toward the foul pole the call would’ve been more obvious.

Andre the Giant over Hulk Hogan, where Hogan’s shoulder was clearly off the mat…

As seen here :smiley:

There are probably hundreds but my first thought was the Joyce call on Armando Galarraga’s last out, because I had been reading about it again only days ago. Probably inspired by this incident.

I think both of these incidents are memorably stupid because the official has to go out of their way to interject themselves into the event. The Donald incident just looks like a routine out, even Donald shows no hustle to beat the throw. Everyone bar the umpire correctly thought it was out. Similarly in the recent cricket incident, speaking as a qualified umpire, I can only think the official was looking for a reason to call a no-ball and just arbitrarily picked one. I would bet that going through all the footage there would be many balls more dubious that that one.

As bad as that call was it is a very unusual play, being viewed from a greater distance than many bad calls and at an angle, from the ump’s perspective, that was not conducive to seeing what happened. It happened really fast - Maier snaps his glove out and it’s over, just like that - and in real time it wasn’t obvious what had taken place. It had to be TEN times harder than the Mauer call.

And even then the Mauer “foiul ball” probably isn’t even close to being the worst call ever. How about this one?


I mean… holy shit, was the umpire drunk? High? Did Jerry Hairston sleep with his wife? WTF was that, and thank God for instant replay. Even the Rockies thought it was a joke. Still, most people have forgotten about it 'cause it was not a meaningful game.

To be honest I’ve probably seen even worse than THAT, but what happens is you forget the ones that don’t have a memorable impact; the Denkinger call in the 1985 World Series is famous but is probably not one of the 100 worst calls made just in the 1985 season. It was, however, the only bad call that happened in the ninth inning of a 1-0 World Series game.

A counterexample to 1985; In the 1992 World Series, Roberto Alomar attempted to score on a wild pitch and was called out at the plate despite the fact that his body, in full contact with the plate, had slid probably three or four feet right across the plate before he was tagged. The ump, Mike Reilly, was right on top of it, looking right at the call, and simply blew it. It was an absolutely horrific call, so much so that the announcers said so - I believe Tim McCarver’s precise words were “He was safe. Not even close” - which they normally shy away from. But the Blue Jays won the game anyway, so the call didn’t matter, so it was largely forgotten, because nobody had a reason to be bitter about it. Had the Jays LOST the game, different story.

1990, Division I-A football. Colorado over Missouri thanks to a “fifth down,” where the refs did not flip the down marker and permitted Colorado to run five downs – the touchdown on their fifth down was the deciding one.

I was gonna mention that one. Still a sore spot here in Mizzou country.

For a misapplication of the rules in baseball, how about the umpires allowing this in a game in 2013:

The crew was disciplined: http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9262019/fieldin-culbreth-suspended-2-games-pitching-change-rule-misapplied-los-angeles-angels-houston-astros-game

I’m not an umpire or an expert on the rule book, but I would probably at least stop to think that I’d never seen a pitcher get pulled during his warm up pitches before. Maybe, just maybe, that wasn’t OK…


This play was so offside everybody stopped playing, but Duchene quickly realized that no whistle had gone and scored.

(Although there is this alternate angle which isn’t clearly so clear-cut :wink: )

Not much a sports fan, but the first thing that came to my mind was the 1998 Lions / Steelers game. I’m not sure it was possible to mess up a coin toss, but they figured out a way.

Another one that was probably worse because of the situation: Chuck Knoblauch’s phantom tag on Jose Offerman in the 1999 ALCS. At full speed you can kind of understand how the ump missed it, but that tag was not close.

Jorge Orta safe at first, 1985 World Series.

The Soviet Union getting three chances to inbound the ball, final three seconds, Olympic men’s basketball final, 1972.

Being a Seahawks fan I found a lot wrong with the calls in Super Bowl XL but for the purposes of this thread. The call where Hasselbeck was flagged for a low block when he was making the tackle after an interception. It’s something I have never seen before or after.

That one was the all the more worse because it enabled Colorado to go on and win one-half of the national championship that season. If the officials had done their job, Colorado would’ve lost and Georgia Tech would’ve been the undisputed #1 in both polls at the season’s end.

I’m also a Seahawks fan but I still find the “Phantom Touchdown” call in their 1998 game against the Jets a lot more infuriating. That goof resulted in the Seahawks losing the game, missing the play-offs, and their coach, Dennis Erickson, getting fired.

It was a horrible f-up by the refs, for sure, but what you say isn’t true. Colorado spiked the ball on 3rd (4th) down in that game. If the marker had been right, Colorado just would have run a play on 4th and one foot, which scores 99% of the time.

It was The Long Count. Dempsey vs Tunney. Tunney was down. Got counted to 14 seconds out of 10. Kind of the winner here.