French soccer “star” Thierry Henry’s “hand of Gaul” go-ahead goal against Ireland in the World Cup qualifier has once again shown the need for the instant replay. American sports are no stranger to human error, and bad calls that could have been solved by modern technology.
Here’s a list of the ten of greatest blown calls in American sports history that could have been reversed with instant replay:
• Brett’s skate in the crease / Buffalo Sabres vs. Dallas Stars 1999 Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 6
The Stars’ Star Brett Hull in the game’s third overtime notoriously places his skate in the crease before shooting the Stanley Cup-winning goal game past the Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek. The league reacts by changing the “skate-in-the-crease” rule.
• Jeffrey Maier: Yankee MVP / New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles 1996 ALCS Game 1
Derek Jeter gets a “little help from the fans” as 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier plays the role of Yankee’s tenth man by snatching a fly ball hit by the captain that is ruled a home run in spite of the fan interference. The Yankees go on to win the ALCS and the World Series.
• Knoblauch’s missed tag / Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees, 1999 MLB American League Championship Series Game 4
The Yankees have made the list again, this time against their arch nemesis the Boston Red Sox. In this pivotal playoff game, Yankees Shortstop Chuck Knoblauch missed tagging out runner Jose Offerman by a mile while completing a double play. Offerman was called out by the second base umpire. The Bronx bombers would clinch the pennant in game 5 and go on to sweep Atlanta in the World Series.
• Run, A.J., Run / Chicago White Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels 2001 ALCS
No stranger to controversy, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski ran to first base on what was a called a wild pitch third strike by the home plate umpire. Upon further review, the ball was cleanly caught and should have been called strike three and resulted in an out. Chicago would go on to capture their first Championship banner since 1917.
• The Robbery of Renfro / Houston Oilers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1980 AFC Championship
Houston wide receiver Mike Renfro was ruled out of the end zone after making a dazzling catch. Replays showed that both of his feet were in bounds while maintain control of the ball. The Steelers went on to win 27-13 and the NFL quickly mandated instant replay in its games.
• Jorge Orta’s safe call / Kansas City royals vs. St. Louis Cardinals 1985 World Series Game 6
In the ninth inning of game 6 the Royals’ Jorge Orta is ruled safe at first. Replays show Cardinals’ pitcher Tod Worell clearly fielding the ball and beating him to the bag. This proved to be a big play for the Royals who went to the World Series that after beating the Cardinals in seven games.
• Scottie Pippen's foul on Hubert Davis / Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks 2004
In a very close series between the Knicks and Bulls, a phantom foul is called against the Bulls’ Scottie Pippen who is guarding the Knicks’ Derek Harper. He would hit the free throws and give the Knicks the crucial win and an eventual series win.
• Giant missed call / New York Giants vs. San Fransisco 49ers 2003 NFL Playoffs
In a very close game with the Giants trailing by one point, the men in Blue were charged with a questionable ineligible man down field on a botched field goal try and desperation pass. The 49ers committed pass interference for which they were not penalized and rewarded with a win.
• The Communist-blocked gold / USA vs. USSR, 1972 Olympic basketball finals
The Americans were shafted not once but twice in this game considered one of the most controversial of all time. The referees put time back on the clock twice in closing seconds of the medal round. The Soviets took advantage, scoring a game-winning shot at the buzzer. The US still protest the decision and have yet to pick up their silver medals.
• Say it is so, Joe / Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees 2009 ALCS Game 2
In the top of the 11th Joe Mauer hit a left field line drive that was clearly fair. The Twins were defeated in this game by the Yankees who went on to become MLB champions. This play influenced the league in adopting instant replay measures.
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