Was Braves win result of the worst call of the year?
Braves player Julio Lugo scored the game-winning and controversial run in the 19th inning.
July 27th, 2011
12:20 PM ET

Was Braves win result of the worst call of the year?

[Updated at 5:42 p.m. ET] A lot of people who love baseball sing the praises of its timelessness. No clock, game goes until somebody wins. Joe Posnanski wrote a long piece about this in Sports Illustrated just last week. And only in baseball can a game go almost seven hours - 19 innings - end at almost 2 a.m., and actually be over too soon.

That’s because what was (in the minds of many) pretty clearly a blown call by an umpire gave the Atlanta Braves a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates early Wednesday morning. It was the longest game ever played at Atlanta’s Turner Field. If the ump had gotten the call right, the game could have moved into a 20th inning. See for yourself.

The umpire, Jerry Meals, told a pool reporter after the game that after he saw the replays, it did appear to him that Pirates catcher Mike McKenry tagged the Braves' Julio Lugo on the shin on a play at the plate when Lugo tried to score on a ground ball to third base. But, Meals said, “when I was out there, when it happened, I didn’t see a tag.”

Of course to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, it was obvious all along.

"I saw (McKenry) tag him three feet in front of the plate” he told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “and that's the way it looked when I went back in there and looked at it again - he tagged him three feet in front."

Major League Baseball's chief of on-field operations, former big-league manager Joe Torre, said Wednesday afternoon that it appears Meals missed the call.

"Many swipe tags are not applied to the runner with solid contact, but the tag was applied and the game should have remained tied," Torre said in an e-mailed statement. "I have spoken with Jerry, who is a hard-working, respected umpire, and no one feels worse than him."

Torre's statement anticipated people calling for MLB to expand video replay reviews. MLB currently allows replay only for home run calls.

"I have heard many discussions on umpiring and technology over the past two years, including both the pros and the cons of expanding replay. However, most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires," Torre said. "Obviously, a play like this is going to spark a lot of conversation, and we will continue to consider all viewpoints in our ongoing discussions regarding officiating in baseball."

The impact of the Braves-Pirates call is magnified because both teams are fighting for division leads or chances for the National League wild-card slot, so every game and every call counts. For those less invested in the outcome of the game, you can check out this top trending hashtag:  #jerrymealssaysitssafe, where people say they’ll do something dangerous - like run with scissors, or put a fork in a light socket, or tell people that nothing bad will happen if the U.S. defaults - all ending with “jerrymealssaysitssafe."

Besides being timeless, the baseball season is also sort of endless. It lasts for 162 games, so the Pirates, Braves, and Jerry Meals will all be back out there tonight for a 7 p.m. game.

SI.com gallery: Worst blown calls

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Filed under: Baseball • Sports
soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Blair Murlin

    Well, it was either one of the best calls in major league history, or one of the worst ones. I think maybe he got it right. It looked like the catcher whiffed.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • DMan

      I have to agree... the slow motion replay looks like a whiff to me!

      July 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike collins

      Every camera angle I saw was horrible – I guess that's what we get after 7+ hours.

      But, from what I could tell, they clearly made contact although the tag was not clear. Yes, I understand the rule that the tag must be made with the ball in hand but part of the problem is the umps themselves. They allow phantom tags or foot off the base at 2nd base all the time but then something like this is not good enough?

      July 27, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Whiff? Every angle I saw was a clear tag and out. It's not even debateable.

      July 28, 2011 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
    • nickb

      Closely watching the catcher's mit as it swept past the players leg did not indicate any impact. You would expect some deflection. The only person in position to make the call was the umpire. Video replay in this case, did not show if there was space between the glove and runner.

      July 28, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Foofoo

      I remember going near ognurd zero 5 weeks after 9/11 and still seeing smoke in the air. Not to mention the air did not smell good.Sad.Every which way.-Peace

      April 22, 2012 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  2. dsavio

    Absolutely terrible call. The players were in CONTACT with each other before the runner touched the plate. The catcher had the ball. The man is out. That ump should be fired.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Whether the players were in contact is irrelevant. A tag has to be made WITH THE BALL or with a hand or glove holding the ball.

      July 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      You might want to learn the rules so you don't look like an idiot next time.

      July 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. George K

    players should also be honest, Lugo would know if he got tagged and in all honesty it would show america that in our top most honored game we can still be honest with each other.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • FauxNews

      He was honest. Did you see his smile of disbelief when the ump called him safe?

      July 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DaveO

    A reviewable instant replay should be allowed for game ending plays like this, not just botched home run calls.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mark C

    If I'd had been out there for 19 innings I think I'd have trouble seeing tags too.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. nicolas

    he was out, but the catcher should of put a harder tag so there is no doubt

    July 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    He tagged him all right. The reaction of the runner says it all when he looks dejected, then elated that he got a break.
    I feel for the ump though. I'm sure he's a good man.
    After 19 innings, he's into his 3rd game without going to the dugout every inning like the players, calling 600 pitches. You gotta be getting loopy after 7 hours and miss something sooner or later. In this case, it was a big one.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sleepyhead

    Maybe the ump was napping. I would have been after 7 hrs of 9 man stand around!

    July 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Melissa

    Still not recovered from when "Sid Slid" in 1992. Rack up another memory with the Brave's that will probably forever haunt the Pirates fans. I hope this does not come back to haunt them for the playoffs.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brandon

    Bad call yes but this game should have never gone19 innings . Pirates had at least 2 chances to take the lead and didn't in the 16 and 17th inning .if I'm not mistaken .but look if it had been Atlanta who got the bad call the pirates would be fine with it. Tonight maybe braves will get the bad call.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Oakland Fan

    And Jeremy Giambi was safe when Jeter made that incredible play!!! Every time I see it, Giambi touches the plate at the exact moment Posada tags him!

    Who cares!? Its human error. What about balls and strikes that are incorrectly called? All of those decisions have an impact on the next play. Get over it

    July 27, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FunkyMark

    The troubling thing for me is that MLB made CNN take the video down. Why is that? Oh, we can't be questioning the umpires, now can we? Terrible. I haven't see the call but plenty of bad calls are made, usually for pitches. It's a mess, but I guess you could say it's equally messy for all teams. Still, we have the technology, let's use it to make the right calls.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Orioles Fan

    I've looked at it over and over. The umpire got the call RIGHT!!!. The catcher missed the tag. Most people think because the ball got to the catcher early that there is no way he couldn't have tagged him. He CLEARLY didn't tag him. He whiffed at the runner but he didn't tag him. PROPS to the umpire for getting the call right.

    July 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jonathan

    Why shouldn't we use all the tools at our disposal? Refs are only human, prone to the same errors, biases, and prejudices that anyone else is. How many games would have gone the other way if there was some ability to challenge when a Ref is clearly biased for/against a team? How many games would have gone the other way if there was a way to challenge a bad call?

    Not that I'm much of a sports fan. There's only one team in one sport that I even bother keeping up on (and by that I mean asking someone whether they won, and maybe what their record is). But thanks to some blatantly bad calls (calls so bad the refs might as well have been wearing the other team's jerseys), they were shut out of a possible SuperBowl win. With the technology we have now, there's no reason why we can't ensure a game is fair, and that the outcome of the game is based on the skills of the players, not the whims of the refs.

    July 27, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gung hoe

    Out by a mile happened to the tigers last year jim joyce blew a call on our pitcher wouldve been last out and a perfect game oh well goes to show umps are human

    July 27, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
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