The 7 Worst Calls in Sports History

VIDEO: Jerry Meals joins other officials who have gotten it wrong.
ABCNEWS.com

Last night the Atlanta Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 on a hotly contested play at home plate that is now being touted as a blown call by the umpire.

Julio Lugo of the Atlanta Braves was racing to home plate when the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez threw the ball to catcher Michael McKenry. The ball easily beat Lugo to the plate, and McKenry went in for the tag -- which Lugo tried to avoid using a pop-up slide -- but while instant replays show that McKenry tapped the runner, umpire Jerry Meals called Lugo safe.

"I saw the tag, but he looked like he ole'd him and I called him safe for that," Meals said. "I looked at the replays and it appeared he might have got him on the shin area. I'm guessing he might have got him, but when I was out there, when it happened, I didn't see a tag."

To make matters worse, the game was also the longest in the Major League season -- clocking in at 6 hours and 39 minutes, with 19 innings of play.

Here is a list of the top seven worst calls in sports history.

Worst Calls in Sports History

The Imperfect Game: Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians -- 2010

Picture this, it's the bottom of the 9th inning, 2 outs. You've successfully retired 26 straight batters without a hit, just one batter away from achieving the legendary perfect game, a feat only accomplished 20 times in baseball's entire history.

This was the situation facing Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers on June 2, 2010. Galarraga pitched the ball to Cleveland Indians' shortstop Jason Donald, who hit a short grounder to first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Galarraga ran to first, caught Cabrera's throw and raised his hands in celebration, only to see first base umpire Jim Joyce call the runner safe, ending his bid for what would have been the third perfect game of 2010.

Upon reviewing the replay, which showed that Donald was clearly out, Joyce was quoted saying, "I just cost that kid a perfect game."

Worst Calls in Sports History

Stretched Seconds: U.S. vs. Soviets in Olympic Basketball -- 1972

One of the most controversial calls in sports history took place during the last three seconds of the 1972 Olympics men's basketball final between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union.

The Cold War rivals were tied at 49 points with three seconds left on the clock. As American Doug Collins sank his second straight free throw, putting the Americans up 50-49, Soviet coach Vladamir Kondrashin jumped off the bench, arguing that he had called a time out between the free throws.

By this point, the Soviets had already inbounded the ball and were halfway up the court, where the clock was stopped with one second left. The timeout was ultimately not awarded to the Soviets and the play was reset. However, referees handed the ball to the Soviets early. As the scoring table scrambled to reset the clock, which was set at 50 seconds, the Soviets inbounded the ball but failed to score.

Fans, believing the game to be over, rushed the court and Americans began to celebrate.

However, the game was not over. The referee's mistake resulted in the clock being reset a third time, giving the Soviets yet another chance to inbound the ball and score. The third time proved to be the charm for the Soviets, who managed to score on a layup by Aleksandr Belov, giving them a 51-50 victory over the Americans.

Members of the American team unanimously voted to refuse their silver medals in protest.

Worst Calls in Sports History

Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' -- 1986

One of the most basic rules of soccer is that you don't touch the ball with your hands. But apparently, nobody told that to Argentinean Diego Maradona.

Roughly six minutes into the second half of Argentina's 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match against England, Maradona punched the ball into the English goal. Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser failed to see the handball and ruled it a goal.

Maradona went on to score a second, legitimate goal, later voted the FIFA Goal of the Century, which gave Argentina a 2-1 victory over its English rivals.

The Argentinean team went on to defeat both Belgium and West Germany to become the 1986 World Cup champions.

When asked about the controversial goal Maradona later quipped, "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."

Worst Calls in Sports History

Winning Walkover: Roy Jones Jr. vs. Park Si Hun -- 1998

Roy Jones Jr. showcased the skills that would later make him a multi-weight division champion in the men's boxing final of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Jones dominated hometown favorite, South Korean Park Si-Hun, throughout the match, landing 86 punches to Park's 32 and even forcing him to take a standing eight count.

At the end of the third round, Jones retired to his corner, assured of victory. However, despite Jones' superior performance, the judges awarded the victory to Park Si-Hun with a score of 3-2.

Both of the boxers and the referee were visibly stunned by the decision and Park Si-Hun was later seen apologizing to Jones.

The three judges who voted against Jones were later suspended for corruption, but the IOC still stands behind their decision, refusing to award Jones the gold medal.

Worst Calls in Sports History

The 'Denkinger' Moment: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Kansas City Royals -- 1985

Game 6 of the 1985 World Series was the forum for one of the most controversial calls in baseball history, perhaps because so much was at stake.

The Kansas City Royals were down 3-2 in a series against their in-state rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals led 1-0 at the bottom of the 9th inning.

The Royals' first batter of the inning, Jorge Orta, hit an infield grounder to first baseman Jack Clark. Clark threw the ball to relief pitcher Todd Worrell who was covering first base.

Though the throw clearly beat Orta to the base, first base umpire Don Denkinger ruled Orta safe. Despite furious arguments by the Cardinals' manager, Whitey Herzog, Denkinger refused to reverse the call.

Although Orta did not go on to score, his hit contributed significantly to the course of the rest of the inning in which the Royals would rally to win the game 2-1.

The Royals would go on to win Game 7, making them World Series Champions for the first and only time in the history of the team.

Worst Calls in Sports History

Football's Infamous Fifth Down: Colorado vs. Missouri -- 1990

The Colorado Buffaloes were trailing the Missouri Tigers 26-31 on the Tigers' home turf when officials made one of the most outrageous calls in college football history.

The Buffaloes had possession just a few yards short of the end zone when quarterback Charles Johnson spiked the ball to the ground, stopping the clock and using up the Buffaloes first down.

Three failed attempts at a touchdown later, Colorado still had possession of the ball. Despite the fact that four downs had occurred, the refs called for another play -- an unprecedented fifth down. The Buffaloes were able to use this fifth down to drive over the goal line for both the touchdown and the win.

The officials claimed to have lost count of the downs, and refused to correct the mistake. Seven "Big Eight" officials were eventually suspended as a result of the folly, which contributed to the controversial naming of the Buffaloes as 1990 joint Division-1A national champions.

Worst Calls in Sports History

Heads or Tails? Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers -- 1998

When the Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and the Steelers went into overtime, referees called representatives from both teams over to the 50 yard line for the coin toss that would determine who would have possession first.

Before the toss, referee Phil Luckett asked the Steelers running back, Jerome Bettis, for his heads-or-tails call. Bettis called tails, and everyone in the stadium and home heard him say it. But somehow, when the coin landed on tails, Luckett gave the ball to Detroit.

The Lions were then able to kick a game-winning field goal with that advantage.

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