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. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Baseball is the only one of the big 4 sports that doesn't use replay. It's high time they did! I only wish this had happened in a 7th game of the World Series–then everyone would be clamoring for using replay.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      They do use a limited form of replay.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • moosh

      Since when do they use replay in basketball? Besides, baseball does use replay for home runs.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      you would think CNN could afford a better video/audio than from a smartphone

      July 27, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kell

      I agree about replay. At this point, there is no excuse. At the very least, have replay be available on any play that results in a run. Grant it, that won't fix everything, but it would have fixed last night's fiasco....

      July 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jano

    How about a few calls for strikes against the Braves, such as the one on Nate McClouth? Who knows what would have happened if those calls had been correct. Game might not have gone for 19 innings. I watched the entire game and he made some terrible calls behind the plate. Maybe in the end it was "poetic justice".

    July 27, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. blowme

    who cares. Baseball sucks now anyway. Besides, It's one game out of 180 in a season.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ArcFire213

      162 games in the season. If you're going to diss the game, at least know what you're talking about.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Or how about the fact that division champions frequently win with a 3 game lead or less in thier division. One game is huge.

      July 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • moosh

      basketball is basically glorified pong (the old atari game).

      July 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Santore

    He was safe, if you look at the glove and his right knee, and slow it down you will see that he just missed. Giving the distance from the plate, the catcher should have giving a more aggressive tag.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Clint

    If you watched the first 9 innings you would have seen many other bad calls especially by Home Plate Umpire. Balls and Strikes were so inconsistant that Nate McClouth and Freddie Gonzales were tossed from the game. Couple of close plays at first, but only in super slow motion could you tell what the right call was.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ibanezerscrooge

    I don't even like baseball and that dude was so out. That ump just blew it. I think they definitely need the replay in baseball just like they have in Football. Give the coaches a couple of challenges where calls can be reviewed. And Mike in SD, it's the same with the end game ritual in MLB for teams to congratulate and shake hands with members of their own team instead of lining up on 1st and 3rd and giving the other team 5 and saying, "good game."

    July 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. willie

    My guess is he wasn't watching for a tag that far from the plate. Clearly he muffed the call but fatigue may have played a factor. It was after all, the 19th inning. Controversy is at the heart of baseball and often times the umps are right in the middle but I'm glad MLB hasn't given in to the pressure and taken the human element out of officiating. We are all human and we all make mistakes. In a perverse way, that is part of the attraction of this great game.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MikeRI

    Bad calls are part of baseball. I don't want that to change.

    Instant replay wouldn't help this situation. It's not a clean tag.

    If you aren't winning enough to be in first place,and aren't playing well enough to win in the first 18 innings, you can't complain becauase a call went against you in the 19th.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ghags

    how much money $$$$ changed hands

    July 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Various Authors

    The catcher was just trying to be a gentleman. He figured the guy was sooooo out that he didn't tag aggressively, even though he DID tag him. Watch for future plays at the plate to involve broken noses and fractured forearms.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    He might have missed the leg, but he got him on the arm/shoulder area, watch the video at the 1:18/1:19 mark, you see the runners jersey move.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Wendy

    Replay is a joke! It is a joke in football and any sport that uses it! Bad calls and good calls go both ways in ALL sports. There are several plays in Football that you cannot challenge and the are game changers! What about that elusive holding call when your team just broke out for a 90 yard run and scored a TD...nope...called back, no challenge there.

    The point is, bad calls are a part of life, you cannot control them in Major league sports, or even pee wee leagues. It was 2 oclock in the morning for crying out loud! The upmpires eyes were probably just as glossy as the fans in the stands. He called it the way he saw it and you know what, 99 times out of 100 they get it right! Human error is a part of life and a factor in organized sports. We have delt with it all of our lives...what is next...computers calling balls and strikes so it is "fair"...bunch of cry babies!

    July 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. geeeno

    if you say he was tagged, then on what part of the body? a little wrinkle on the uniform touching a string on the catcher's glove is not a tag. the glove must touch the body. if that happened, where exactly did you see the uniform pressed by the glove? where? it did not happen. a tag should make a sound. the ref didn't hear any contact. show some evidence and stop defending that wuss of a catcher.

    July 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Larry

    That tag was a lot better than the "no foot on the base" the umps allow at second base during a force play or double play. Normally if the ball beats the runner he is called out but for some kind of spectacular slide.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. H

    If you're not going to do instant replay then you should have umpires fined for stupid mistakes. Meals probably had money on the game because no one could missed this call.

    MLB should investigate.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dew

      if thats the case, then your mom should be fined for having a "stupid mistake" like you

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