Ranking the worst calls in sports history
No. 8: Jordan pushes off vs. Jazz
ATLANTA — Where will it rank?
Does Jim Joyce leapfrog Don Denkinger and Eric Gregg?
Let's take a look at our list of the top 10 blown calls in sports history.
1. Don Denkinger calls Jorge Orta safe
In 1985 the St. Louis Cardinals were on the verge of clinching their 10th World Series title, leading 1-0 in the ninth. Denkinger called Orta safe despite the fact that pitcher Todd Worrell, covering first, clearly beat him to the bag. The Royals rallied for two runs to tie the series, then blasted the Cards in Game 7. Denkinger now supports instant replay.
2. USSR gets extra time
The U.S. men lost for the first time in Olympic history, 51-50 to the Soviet Union, after referees twice put time back on the clock enabling the Soviets to score at the buzzer. The Americans protested and never accepted their silver medals.
3. Colorado's fifth down
Referees failed to change the down marker when Colorado spiked the ball on its last drive. The Buffaloes scored a touchdown on "fifth down," the final play in a 33-31 win at Missouri that helped Colorado go on to share the national title with Georgia Tech.
4. Brett Hull in the crease
Brett Hull's goal in the third overtime of Game 6 of the 1999 finals was allowed even though his skate entered the crease before the puck. The controversial goal lifted Dallas to its only Stanley Cup win and further devastated Buffalo's long-suffering sports fans.
5. Hand of God goal
Diego Maradona punched the ball into the goal in a 2-1 quarterfinal win against England, helping Argentina claim the 1986 World Cup. He described it as "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God."
6. Eric Gregg's massive strike zone
Livan Hernandez rang up 15 strikeouts thanks to Gregg's oversized strike zone in Game 5 of the 1997 NLCS. Pitches nearly a foot outside were called strikes. The Marlins beat the Braves in six games.
7. Hochuli costs Chargers
With Denver trailing San Diego in the final minute early in the 2008 season, the ball slipped out of Jay Cutler's hands and bounced into the arms of a Chargers linebacker. Referee Ed Hochuli ruled the obvious fumble an incomplete pass. Denver scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion to win 39-38. Hochuli apologized repeatedly.
8. Jordan pushes off
Shoving Utah's Bryon Russell out of the way, Michael Jordan calmly sank the game-winning shot to end the 1997-98 NBA season. No foul was called, and Jordan had his sixth NBA title and sixth NBA Finals MVP award.
9. Rice's non-fumble
In the 1999 NFC Wild Card game, the 49ers trailed 27-23 with under a minute left. Jerry Rice caught a short pass, then was stripped of the ball. Green Bay recovered and began to celebrate an apparent victory. The refs wrongly ruled Rice was down, and the NFL did not have instant replay at the time. Four plays later, Steve Young hit Terrell Owens for the game-winning touchdown.
10. Yanks get lift from 12-year-old
In Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier reached over the right field fence and grabbed Derek Jeter's fly ball before Baltimore's Tony Tarasco could snatch it. Umpire Rich Garcia opted not to call fan interference. The 8th-inning "homer" tied the game and the Yankees won 5-4 in 11 innings. New York went on to win the series 4-1.
Larry Hartstein writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: Larry.Hartstein@ajc.com.
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