The Hit List: The 7 worst blown calls in postseason history

(Photo: Jeff Curry, USA TODAY Sports)
Obstruction. Allen Craig “tripped” by third baseman Will Middlebrooks to win Game 3 of 2013 World Series.

As this column has shown in the past weeks, I need a muse to spark imagination and sarcasm. From there, invention begins as another “Hit List” is opined, researched, penned and posted.

And then Game 3 of the World Series happened, specifically the ending of the 9th inning. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, in what had to be the most jacked-up finish in World Series history.

Thanks to America’s most hated rule in your friendly baseball rulebook (That’s 7.06 to you and me), we were introduced to “obstruction” and by none other by Jim Joyce (whose rotund, handlebar-mustachioed behind ruined a perfect game for Armando Galarraga).

“The act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.”

Yes, really, that’s how Game 3 of the World Series was decided. It was the right call, but it still sucked for fans. And so, I had my muse: What the 7 worst blown calls in postseason history? 

7. Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano on 3rd Base. Together?! — No botched play and blown calls list would be complete without the MLB hack Tim McClelland. Thanks for joining us for Game 4 of the 1999 ALCS that posed the Yankees’ 10-1 crushing over the Angels. Ironically, Mike NAP-O-LI was involved here as he caught an inerrant grounder hit to Darren Oliver. Upon the assist from Oliver, Mr. Naptober runs down Posada to third base, where Robinson Cano was waiting as well. Napoli tags out both and McClelland’s glaucoma acts up, so he only called Posada out. Don’t ask me how. Just watch and be baffled again.

6. The San Diego Padres: Play-in. Called out. — In 2007, the Rockies and the Padres were tied all season long. Fitting they met in the play-in game, but the ending was terrible. This was a 13-inning, seesaw masterpiece that ended with Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday scoring the winning run on a Jamey Carroll sacrifice fly ball, by sliding into home plate…only, he whiffed. Slide right past the damn thing and guess who was there for one of the worst blown calls I’ve seen to call him safe? You guessed it: Tim McLelland wearing his Ray Charles glasses.

5. Ron Gant: “You’re Pulling my Leg.” — It was Game 2 of the 1991 World Series featuring the Braves against the Twins. Ron Gant knocked a single but thought he could leg out a double. Not so much. Gant puts on the brakes and heads back to first where Kent Hrbek was waiting. Hrbek, who resembled an oak tree, had quite a size advantage on Gant, so I guess he didn’t think anyone would notice his “forceful tag” on first base. In short, he performs some cheap WWE move and removed Gant’s leg from the base. Drew Coble was the ump on base that night and he overestimated physics assuming momentum pulled Gant off base…so Coble calls Gant out. One of postseason worst blown calls caused the Braves to lose the game, and then they lost the series.

4. Joe Mauer and the Non-Ground-Rule Double — The 2009 ALDS featured the Yankees and the Twins. Game 2 went a little long as no winner had been called by the top of the 11th inning. Joe Mauer was up and cracked a high-fly down the left-field line that Melky Cabrera missed because he was probably talking to some chick in the stands about steroids. And that’s how Phil Cuzzi joined the annals of postseason blown calls because even though that hit was in play by at least a foot or so, and Ron Darling said on the mic, “Fair ball, not even close,” Cuzzi called it foul. No double, no earned bases. And eventually, Twinkies lose the game.

3. Ed Armbrister’s Collision with Carlton Fisk — This freak mishap has already been shared masterfully in TTFB, but the video is something to behold. It was the 10th inning of the 1975 World Series Game 3 between the Red Sox and Reds. This series was one of the best series ever in which Cincinnati pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister laid down a bunt and seemed to bum rush Carlton Fisk. This messed with Fisk’s attempt to gun down a runner at second base and inadvertently launched the ball into center field. Sure, there was a dirt kicking and one of the worst blown calls was born.

2. Jeffrey Maier Mugs Tony Tarasco in New YorkBefore there was Steve Bartman, there was Jeffrey Maier. Only since he gave hometown golden boy Derek Jeter an assist, Maier was celebrated and not given death threats for the next several years. During Gaem 1 of the 1996 ALCS with the Yankees and Orioles, we met the 12-year-old Maier — as did outfielder Tony Tarasco. It was the bottom of the 8th inning when Jeter smacked a hanging curve to deep right field and young Maier decided he would stick his grubs over the wall and in the field of play to snag a souvenir. What should have been interference (or obstruction), turned out to be one of the worst blown calls ever and a home run, thanks to umpire (and dunderhead) Rich Garcia. Oh, the Yankees were behind 4-3…not that I’m starting any rumors or anything.

1. Don Denkinger Makes Jorge Orta “Safe!” — It was Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. The Kansas City Royals were facing the St. Louis Cardinals and first-base umpire Don Denkinger made MLB history for the wrong reasons, as he provided the worst of the worst postseason blown calls ever. With the red birds only three outs away from a World Series title, Don Denkinger calls Jorge Orta safe at first on a routine ground ball where he was clearly out. Although first baseman Jack Clark appeared to have a stroke because of Denkinger’s Stevie Wonder impression, the call stood. This “royally” sucked as Kansas City rallied and scored two runs, won the game and eventually the series. Following the series in a meeting with then-Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, Denkinger says that he received death threats and still refused to admit he botched the call. Feeling the burn from this World Series loss, two St. Louis DJs gave out Denkinger’s phone number and address. You know, in case, fans wanted to send him flowers laced with arsenic or something.


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