1. Jackie Robinson's Steal of Home in the 1955 World Series
It was Game One of the 1955 World Series, the year when the Bums would finally get over on the Yankees, who had won five of the previous six championships. Jackie Robinson, then a Dodgers veteran, took off for home in the top of the eighth with his team trailing 6-4.
It’s really hard to tell safe or out with 1955 camera technology, we’ll suppose a more modern look with the innovation of replay. But Berra maintains to this day that Robinson was out, and the museum in his honor even got a little shot in on Twitter when the idea of replay in baseball came to fruition.
BREAKING: New MLB video replay wayback version reverses 1955 call. Jackie was out.
— Yogi Berra Museum (@Yogi_Museum) August 16, 2013
Here’s the thing though. The play didn’t matter. Say what you will about stealing home with a run that still left the team trailing, and the batter at the plate at the time, Frank Kellert, singled anyway in the 6-5 game (full play-by-play here). Either way, the Dodgers didn’t score again, so the run proved to be meaningless in the first game of what would be a seven-game series.
Still, Berra seems bitter about it, and if there’s a way to make an old man happy or shut him the hell up, I’d like a chance to retroactively do it. —Zachary Levine
2. Armando Galarraga's (Im)Perfect Game
For me, this is the big one: the one that cost a journeyman—a minor-league journeyman, basically, at that—his immortality. Barker, Braden, and Browning have their places in history, right along with Koufax and Catfish, El Presidente and King Felix; these otherwise forgettable footmen are exemplars of the attainability of greatness by anyone who dares attempt it. Galarraga, on the other hand, lives forever as soiled, embarrassed proof, a walking stain, of the vulgar, ineradicable unfairness of unchecked authority, and the horrific irreversibility of error. The only other umpire gaffe of such crushing, miserable weight—that springs immediately to mind, anyway (because of the association of the name in question with a singular misdeed)—is Don Denkinger’s. —Adam Sobsey
3. Joe Mauer's "Foul" Ball in Game Two of the 2009 ALDS
Let’s set the scene: It’s Game Two of the 2009 ALDS. The Twins were down one game already and had pushed Game Two to the top of the 11th inning. Tied 3-3, Minnesota’s hometown hero, Joe Mauer steps to the plate. Lefty specialist Damaso Marte (don’t laugh, his line against lefties was .120/.214/.280 that year. No word on his ERA against lefties though) was brought in to face Mauer. On a 1-1 count, Mauer sent a fly ball arcing down the left-field line that Melky Cabrera failed to get to, careening into the wall instead.
Perhaps distracted by Mauer’s side burns, or overwhelmed by the mere presence of The Captain, left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi signaled “foul” almost immediately. This was an egregious call on many levels. Firstly, the ball landed, quite clearly, in fair territory. Secondly, Cuzzi was mere feet from the ball when it landed, quite clearly in fair territory. Lastly, the ball HIT MELKY CABRERA’S GLOVE while he was in fair territory before landing, quite clearly, in fair territory.
While Mauer did single later on in the at-bat, he would have scored from second when Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer followed him with base hits. Instead of taking the lead though, the Twins had to settle for a bases-loaded, no-out situation. Not so bad, right? Wrong. David Robertson was brought in and wiggled his way out of the jam, allowing no runs. The consequences of this terrible call were not as drastic as they may have seemed, of course. The Yankees were a 103-win team compared to Minnesota’s 87 wins in 2009, so it’s fair to assume that even if Minnesota did take Game Two, the Bombers would have gone on to take the series and, as it happened, the World Series championship. Then again, perhaps Joe Mauer’s good looks, great hair and charming personality would have sent the Twins all the way. I guess we’ll never know. —Craig Goldstein
4. A.J. Pierzynski Reaches on a Strikeout in Game Two of the 2005 ALCS
When this play happened, just eight years ago, very few people seemed to be in favor of reviewable calls—even in postseason play. Mike Scioscia, the manager whose team got the raw end of the deal, wanted nothing to do with a proposed replay system: “I’m not in favor of replay at all. … Certainly not on something like that. There might be some replay that can come in on a home run fair or foul or fan interference, something like that, but as far as plays around the bases or home plate or pitches like that, I don't think the replay is anything that we should bring into the game.”
And yet, a challenge system could very well have altered the course of that series and postseason. In a 1-1 game in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, and the Angels boasting a 1-0 series lead in Chicago, A.J. Pierzynski was facing Kelvim Escobar. On a two-strike pitch, Escobar buried a changeup low that Pierzynski swung over. Home plate umpire Doug Eddings signaled strike three, and Angels backup catcher Josh Paul—who’d come into the game as a replacement for Jose Molina only because the slow-footed Molina was pinch-run for—rolled the ball back to the mound and walked toward the Angel dugout. Pierzynski, later claiming he never heard Eddings call him out, tiptoed down to first base and was called safe.
The official ruling was that Paul had “trapped” the ball in the dirt, and thus needed to apply a tag to Pierzynski or throw him out at first to record the out. Eddings, without instant replay, had absolutely no way to determine whether Paul caught the ball without it hitting the dirt. So he ended up getting the call wrong. And the White Sox won later in the inning when Joe Crede doubled home Pablo Ozuna, who was pinch-running for Pierzynski. And then the White Sox won the ALCS, and then they won the World Series, and then Ozzie Guillen got a contract extension.
So, 2013 Mike Scioscia: If your Angels make the playoffs next year and the same play happens, would you hesitate to use a challenge if a World Series appearance is on the line? Would instant replay be something we should “bring into the game”? —Dan Rozenson
5. Julio Lugo Called Safe at Home in the 19th Inning on July 2011
It was The guy running the replay booth at MLB headquarters was sound asleep in his room. He gets a call from his emergency cell phone.
"Ungh … hello, this is Collins."
"Collins, get down to the situation room. We have a replay situation."
Collins looks at the clock. "There's still a game on?"
"Yes. 19th inning. Pittsburgh-Atlanta."
"What in the world."
He climbed out of bed. He considered waking his bride to let her know where he was going, but Melissa had put up with his long hours all summer. He keeps telling himself he needs to do more to keep this relationship together. But for now, he has a baseball replay to examine.
Collins gets to work and looks at the replay. "Well, of course he tagged him. I got out of bed for this? Jesus Christ. I need a new job."
The Braves went on to beat the Pirates 4-3 in 23 innings. —Matt Sussman
6. The Rockies Walk Off in Game 163
The Diamondbacks won the National League West in 2007, leaving the Padres and Rockies to battle for the wild card. And, since both teams finished game 162 with their records at 89-73, they met at Coors Field to settle the score.
Game 163 was a seesaw affair. The Rockies led, 3-0. The Padres raced ahead, 5-3. The Rockies came all the way back to lead, 6-5. The Padres tied it up at six, and then grabbed an 8-6 lead in the top of the 13th. The champagne was on ice in the visitors' clubhouse. And then, the Rockies rallied.
Trevor Hoffman served up a double, and then another double, and then a triple. He intentionally walked Todd Helton to load the bases. Then, Jamey Carroll lifted a fly ball to right field that brought home Matt Holliday and ended the game, sending the Rockies into the playoffs and, eventually, into the World Series.
Truth be told, the game probably should have been over, and the Rockies should have won it. Holliday beat the throw home by a split second, and the ball got away from catcher Michael Barrett. But with the benefit of a slow-motion second look, home-plate umpire Tim McClelland might have noticed that Holliday slid right past home plate, which Barrett ably blocked, without ever touching it.
Making the correct call at game speed was virtually impossible, as McClelland tried late to give himself a clear view of the plate. Barrett recovered to tag Holliday, but by then, the verdict was in and the game was over. With a runner still in scoring position, the Rockies might have won the game in the 13th anyway—or, they might have won it later. But replay would have, justifiably, given the Padres another life. And, in doing so, it might have ended Rocktober on the first day of the month. —Daniel Rathman
7. Elrod Hendricks Misses the Tag in Game One of the 1970 World Series
1970 was one of those watershed years for the Fall Classic, as it was the last year of the World Series that had only afternoon games. Baseball fans who worked 9-to-5 jobs missed most of the defensive clinic put on that October by Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson.
Because Game One took place on a Saturday, something baseball fans didn’t miss was the Reds Bernie Carbo sliding into home plate in the bottom of the sixth inning eluding the tag of Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks. The trouble was that what millions of fans at home saw, home plate umpire Ken Burkhart didn’t.
With one out in a 3-3 game, Carbo stood on third base and Tommy Helms on first, Ty Cline chopped a ball into the ground right in front of home plate. Hendricks scrambled forward and fired to first base. Burkhart did what umpires were trained to do, which is move toward third base to get a vantage point on the ball in play and get out of the batter’s way.
The problem was no one expected the speedy Carbo to sprint home. Burkhart—straddling third and home—was upended by Carbo and wound up with his back to the play. The ball got to Hendricks before Carbo did. It was an easy call to make, except for the fact that Hendricks never got the ball in his glove. The ball stayed in Hendricks’ non-glove hand, he tagged Carbo with his glove, and Burkhart—his back to the play—called Carbo out.
Burkhart’s rationale was that he saw the play over his shoulder as he was falling in the opposite direction. While it certainly is possible that Burkhart saw some of the play, a camera would have had captured the play more clearly. One thing that was clear is that Burkhart was clearly out of position to make the correct call.
8. Jeffrey Maier's Stolen Homer
There are few moments that stand out in my life like when I’ve been wronged. I’ve always found the idea that someone could do or say something completely false and then tell me to my face that they didn’t to be fantastic. I don’t mean fantastic in a positive way, I mean I struggle to believe how such a thing is possible. That anger, incredulity, and shock is how I felt when Jeffrey Maier reached his 11-year-old arm down and blatantly stole a fly ball out of Tony Tarasco’s glove. It was a thievery perpetrated in front of 50,000 fans’ faces, and millions upon millions of people watching on television. It was made worse by the fact that immediately everyone knew both the crime and its culprit. Everyone, that is, except the very people responsible for restoring justice to the moment.
Right-field umpire Richie Garcia was feet from the play and should have been able to see what was plain to everyone else, but he was not, and that is exactly why baseball needs instant replay. Replay would have fixed the call immediately, and anyone who has a question about that need only watch this clip and see that within seconds this shot was available.
Jeter’s non-home run home run came in the bottom of the eighth inning with one out, and tied Game One of the American League Championship Series, a game the Yankees would go on to win in the 11th inning.
It’s impossible to say if replay would have given that game to Baltimore and the one game lead in the series with it, or if that had happened, what affect it would have had on the series, but none of that is really the point. The point is a crime was committed at that moment and to this day, nobody has been brought to justice. Sadly, nobody ever will. That fly ball out will forever be recorded as a home run. Instant replay can’t fix the past, but it can prevent future crimes and keep future fans from feeling the way I, and many others, did that day. —Matt Kory
It wasn’t the least accurate call ever—heck, this was ruled an out. But it was one of the worst, both in terms of its on-field influence—it may have altered the outcome of a World Series—and the off-the-field ugliness it spawned. Nowadays, Denkinger does decent business appearing at autograph shows and copping to the call, but he received death threats for years after it happened, and the legacy of his 30-year career as a major-league umpire boils down to a single blown call. This is exactly the kind of miss MLB hopes to prevent by expanding replay view, not just because of its in-game impact, but because of its effect on the man who made it. If replay review works as designed, no future umpire’s name will ever carve out as prominent a place in our collective memory as Denkinger’s did. —Ben Lindbergh
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now