MLB History: Worst Missed Calls of All-Time

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Despite only being the first week of the 2021 MLB season, fans potentially witnessed MLB History with the first walk-off hit by pitch where a player possibly intentionally leaned into a pitch. With the bases loaded and the score tired, Mets outfielder, Michael Conforto was hit by a pitch, however, replays showed that the ball was clearly in the strike zone and Conforto should not have been awarded first base.

While the play was a pretty blatant missed call, it doesn’t even place in the worst missed call throughout MLB history.

Jeffrey Maier robs Baltimore

Before the Yankees late-90s dynasty, Baltimore, led by Cal Ripken Jr., ran the AL East. After a competitive regular season that saw the Yankees edge out the O’s for the division, the two teams faced one another in the ALCS.

Baltimore looked to steal an early road game and held a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth when Rookie of the Year Derek Jeter came up to bat. Jeter hit a long fly ball to right field and O’s right fielder Tony Tarasco raced to the wall.

Before the ball could settle in Tarasco’s glove, a 12-year old fan, Jeffrey Maier, reached over the wall and snagged the ball. Despite the clear interference, the umpires ruled that it was a game-tying home run. The Yankees would win the game in extra-innings and eventually take the series.

The missed call potentially led to the most recent dynasty in MLB history. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Maier became a New York City celebrity.

Armando Galarraga‘s Imperfect Game

Throughout MLB history, there have been only 23 perfect games. In 2010, it looked like Armando Galarraga would be joining that list when the unspeakable happened.

With two outs in the ninth, Cleveland outfielder, Jason Donald, hit a ground ball in-between first and second base. Tigers first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, ran over and fielded the ball before firing to Galarraga who was covering first. What should have been an easy call quickly turned into horror as umpire Jim Joyce ruled Donald safe.

Replays clearly showed that Galarraga had beaten Donald to the bag but the damage was already done. Without the ability to challenge plays, Galarraga would have to settle for a one-hitter.

The missed call quickly led to more calls for the ability to use instant replay. For Galarraga, his imperfect game was one for MLB history books.

AJ Pierzynski’s Dropped Third Strike

In Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS, the Chicago White Sox found themselves tied with the Los Angeles Angels with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Having dropped the first game in Chicago, the White Sox didn’t want to go to LA down two games to none.

Things looked to be headed to extra-innings when AJ Pierzynski swung through a low pitch to strike out and end the inning. After taking a couple of steps towards the home dugout, Pierzynski started racing towards first while the Angels started walking off the field.

Despite replays showing that Angels catcher, Josh Paul, appeared to catch the ball on the fly, Pierzynski was ruled safe at first. Pierzynski would be replaced by pinch runner Pablo Ozuna who would steal second and score when the next batter, Joe Crede, hit a walk-off double.

MLB history was changed and instead of being down 2-0, Chicago went to LA with the series tied. The White Sox would eventually win the World Series.

Ron Grant is Pushed Off First

The 1991 World Series saw the Atlanta Braves battling the Minnesota Twins in one of the most interesting World Series in MLB history. After winning the first game, the Twins found themselves pitching up 2-1 with two outs in the third inning.

With a runner on first, Braves outfielder Ron Gant hit a single to left field. Scott Leius, successfully went from first to third on the play. Gant tried advancing to second on the throw but found himself caught between the bases. Gant quickly scampered back to first while the ball was thrown to first baseman Kent Hrbek.

Despite beating the throw, Gant and Hrbek became entangled, and in the commotion, Hrbek pulled Gant off the bag with his glove. Despite the interference, umpire Drew Coble called Gant out. Instead of runners on first and third with two outs, the inning was simply over.

The Twins eventually won the game 3-2 and would win the World Series in seven games.

The Worst Call In MLB History – Don Denkinger

While all of the plays listed above were bad, this play usually tops the list for worst calls in MLB history. During the 1985 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals found themselves up 3 games to 2 and leading 1-0 in the ninth.

Leading off the inning for the Royals was Jorge Orta, who hit a slow grounder to first. Cardinals first baseman, Jack Clark tossed the ball to the covering pitcher, Todd Worrell to easily record the first out.

However, Don Denkinger inexplicably called Orta safe, despite replays showing Orta clearly being out. Things quickly unraveled for the Cardinals and they would eventually surrender two runs and the game.

In Game Seven, with Denkinger behind the plate, the Cardinals were clearly rattled and lost 11-0. MLB history was likely changed on one bad call at first.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Stephen Leonardi is a passionate Yankees, Jets, Devils and Nets fans. He is an avid writer covering his favorite teams and interesting topics around his favorite sports.