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. abkohler06

    I just don't see how this is the worst call ever. The catcher swiped too soon and even on paused replay you can barely see that he grazed the pants. It should have been a forceful tag and instead he swung through and I could see how the ump didn't see it in full speed. Make the tag count, not the worst call I have seen at all.

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

      Totally agreed. Everyone, once again, overreacting. In real speed, there is definite doubt as to a legit tag. And that's all the ump had – no replays for him. Doesn't matter if ball beat the runner by five feet. Where's the tag?

      July 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abloo bloo

      I was watching this game, and watched the replays, and I'm a huge Braves fan. I love the Braves, but the guy absolutely missed the call.

      The runner actually makes contact with the catcher, stumbles around him for a bit, and then touches the plate. It isn't a matter of the tag or not. Lugo collided with the catcher, while the catcher had the ball, when he was still SEVERAL feet from home plate.

      It wasn't remotely close. And further, you can actually see the Umpire's head as he watches the play. Unless he had his eyes closed, there is really no way to miss that.

      Like I said, I love the Braves, and I'm glad they won, but it was a bad call.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Figs

      @ Abloo bloo It doesn't matter if he collides with the catcher. On a tag play the tag must be applied with the ball or the glove with the ball in it. Read a rule book. I agree with abkohler06 that in real time there was a question of whether he really tagged him. There was no need for a quick swipe. The catcher should have made a better tag

      July 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • AR

      abloo bloo...if he ran into the catcher, but the catcher did not touch him with the ball or with his mitt with the ball in it, then the runner was safe.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      "It isn't a matter of the tag or not"

      Uh, actually Einstein, it is. If there was no tag, there was no out.

      July 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scott

    In baseball, there are a lot of times where "close calls" shouldn't end in wins. Yes, it might be close, yes it's hard tos ee the tag, but there's NO QUESTION the ball beat him to home base by a mile. In situations like this, do you really want to trust your eyes or the fact that the catcher had probably four five seconds to tag him?

    don't play the tradition call, this was all against tradition. This wasn't close, this was an umpire purposefully ending a game

    July 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Righton

      Scott, you nailed it. I think I saw Ted Turner slip him a $50 during the 7th inning stretch. NOT!!! You're a moron!

      July 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • AR

      Scott..the ONLY thing that matters is what the umpire see's and makes the call based on that. If he didn't catch it..even if he blinked at the wrong moment he may have missed it. That's kind of why there is controversly over replay's in baseball.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Traffik

    Just tried to watch the video...interesting how the video showing a bad game deciding call that gave the BRAVES a win was pulled from CNN...doesn't Ted Turner own both?!?!?!?!?

    July 27, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • eric

      the video is owned by the MLB, and they remove game footage from every website... but don't worry, we didnt land on the moon so you still got that one right.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Don

    The Braves are probably treating it as a "makeup call for last year's NLDS"

    July 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. POPS

    Turner doesn't own the Braves or CNN for over 12 years now!

    July 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kevin in Atlanta

    Over react much America? Seriously, the catcher swiped just a bit too early. The umpire made the right call, it wasn't a clean tag, if at all...

    Though my opinion probably doesn't mean much since I'm a diehard Braves' fan.

    Screw the Phillies!!!!

    July 27, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • eric

      good job, steal a win and remain 6 games back in the division, good luck in that wildcard race bud

      July 27, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • superwhere?

      yea eric, and have fun coasting all season just to lose in round one. Mark my word, it will happen. Go BRAVES!

      July 27, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. POPS

    actually this play was very similar to the one the umpires blew against the Braves in April against the Brewers. McCann made a clear tag at home, and the umpired called him safe, it cost the Braves the game, so i guess they all even out at the end?

    July 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin in Atlanta

      The prevailing wisdom in baseball is that somedays the calls go your way, and on other days they don't. It all evens out.

      July 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Baseball Changes

    Baseball is not going to see any changes to how managers can challenge plays until an umpire makes a call like this that blows game 7 of the World Series. Maybe an ALCS or NLSC...

    July 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 2tired2care

    I watched the replay 10 times and can't honestly tell if he actually tagged him with his glove. It looks as if he wiffed when he swung his glove to the left, just missing his thigh.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jim

    why the hell do you post a video on the site, if you don't have the permission????

    July 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BuccoFan

    Pirates fan.
    The ump called safe.
    He's safe.
    Braves win.
    Move on.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NAVET

    went to http://www.mlb.com, saw the video and damm it was close...i cant call it...it was so close...hate to have that job.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. AR

    Nm..Figs already covered it

    July 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DrewDrew

    a bad call put the Pirates into 3rd place after being in first. that's the kicker. the NL central is way too close. Brave fought just as hard as the Buccos, but it's a shame baseball is so behind the times. no reply, no cap... MLB needs an overhaul. Come on Selig – grow a pair and make some real changes to adapt the sport to the times...

    July 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin in Atlanta

      Put in a salary cap that will break up the East Coast cash cow?

      Never going to happen. As long as the Yankees vs Red Sox games continue to be treated like mega events shown on Fox every weekend, baseball will keep doing what it's doing. Despite all the complaints about rules, money, etc...baseball still makes a crap load of money.

      July 27, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Adam

    It was a pathetic call, it doesn't matter how "quick" the tag was applied, the ump wanted to go home, there is no other reason you miss a call like that.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
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