Top 10 blown calls

Inspired by Jim Joyce's head-scratching ruling, which the umpire admitted cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, a list of the most egregious botched calls by officials in various sports over the years.

Sins of commission and omission litter history of sports officiating

First-base umpire Jim Joyce, right, got an earful after his costly blunder, and later admitted he got the call wrong. ((Paul Sancya/Associated Press))

Inspired by Jim Joyce's head-scratching ruling on Wednesday night in Detroit — which the umpire admitted cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game — here's a list of the most egregious botched calls by officials in various sports over the years.

Not in the Cards

In a play similar to Galarraga's, Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell ran over to cover first base on a grounder to Jack Clark in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. Worrell took the flip and looked to have Jorge Orta easily beaten, but umpire Don Denkinger called the runner safe. That sparked a two-run rally for the Royals, who won 2-1 and went on to take the championship in Game 7.

The Hand of God

In Argentina, they call it the "Hand of God" goal, but it was actually the paw of Diego Maradona that propelled the ball into net, helping to defeat England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals. From the referee's angle, it appeared Maradona had knocked it in with his noggin, and the flamboyant star later said he scored "partly by the hand of God and partly by the head of Maradona."

La Main de Dieu

Replays showed Thierry Henry handled the ball in a World Cup qualifier. ((OFF/AFP/Getty Images))
In France's answer to the Hand of God goal, striker Thierry Henry twice put his mitts on the ball before setting up a William Gallas strike that gave the French a key 1-1 draw against Ireland in a November 2009 World Cup qualifier. The result earned France a trip to South Africa while eliminating the Irish, who furiously demanded a replay of the game. A shamed Henry agreed, but FIFA rejected the request.

No Goal

Brett Hull's shot in triple overtime of Game 6 won the 1999 Stanley Cup final for the Dallas Stars. The goal, though, shouldn't have counted. When Hull whacked the puck in, his left skate was in the crease of Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek, violating an unpopular (and now defunct) NHL rule. The play went down in Buffalo's hard-luck lore as "No Goal."

The thin white line

With the score tied 2-2 in the final of the 1966 World Cup, England's Geoff Hurst fired a shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced down onto the West German goal-line. The referee, in consultation with his linesman, ruled it a goal, and England went on to win 4-2 on home soil for what is still its only World Cup title. Debate rages on to this day over whether the ball actually went in, though at least one study determined the entire sphere did not cross the goal-line.

Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle... Maier?

Jeffrey Maier, top with glove, helped the Yankees snap their title drought. ((Mark Lennihan/Associated Press))
Twelve-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier earned a place in Yankees lore when, in Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, he reached over the right-field wall at Yankee Stadium to deflect Derek Jeter's eighth-inning fly ball away from the glove of Baltimore outfielder Tony Tarasco and into the stands. Umpire Rich Garcia missed the fan-interference call. Jeter's homer tied the game, and New York went on to win in extra innings. The Yanks would take the series in five games en route to their first World Series title in 18 years.


The Flames were one win away from clinching the Stanley Cup on home ice in Game 6 of the 2004 final when Calgary's Martin Gelinas appeared to snap a 2-2 tie in the third period. At least one angle showed the puck crossed the goal-line before Tampa Bay goalie Nikolai Khabibulin brought it back, but the play was never reviewed. The Lightning went on to win 3-2 in double overtime and capture the Cup back in Tampa in Game 7.

Five alive

With his team trailing 31-27 in the final minute of a 1990 college game, backup quarterback Charles Johnson led the University of Colorado into the shadow of Missouri's goal-line. After a second-down run was stuffed and the Buffaloes called time out, officials neglected to flip the down marker. When another running play went nowhere, Johnson hurried to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball to stop the clock. Four and out, right? Not according to the marker. Johnson plunged into the end zone on the fifth play of the series, Colorado won the game and went on to capture a co-national championship.

Error Jordan

Michael Jordan pushed Bryon Russell, bottom left, out of the way before making an iconic shot. ((Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images))
It's one of the most iconic pictures in basketball history: Michael Jordan, his right arm frozen in perfect shooting form, watching from above the foul line as his jump shot caresses the mesh to clinch the 1998 NBA finals for the Chicago Bulls. Jordan would retire (briefly) after capturing his sixth championship, and for a time, his title-winning play seemed the perfect ending to a legendary career. The only problem? Jordan should have been whistled for a foul after pushing off on defender Bryon Russell just before he launched the shot.

Blind justice

Lennox Lewis stood incredulous after the decision for his 1999 heavyweight unification bout against Evander Holyfield was announced. Lewis, and most boxing observers, scored the British champ the winner by anywhere from two to six points, but the judges ruled the fight a draw. The culprit? Eugenia Williams scored the seemingly lopsided bout for Holyfield, 115-113, most egregiously giving Holyfield the fifth round even though Lewis peppered him with jabs for over a minute while Holyfield was pinned to the ropes. Final punch stats showed Holyfield connecting on just 11 of 30 punches in the round, with Lewis landing 43 of 75. Williams later said her view of the critical exchange was obstructed by Lewis's back. "You're told to ... score what you see," she said.

Bonus: Heads or tails?

Phil Luckett turned into the turkey of the 1999 U.S. Thanksgiving Day game between the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to overtime, the referee awarded the coin toss to Detroit even though Pittsburgh captain Jerome Bettis appeared to correctly call "tails." Over Bettis's protests, the Lions got the ball and won the game. Luckett insisted that Bettis had originally called heads, and enhanced audio replays later confirmed the ref's story. Luckett, who would go on to referee the controversial "Music City Miracle" playoff game between Tennessee and Buffalo, has since been demoted to the less important position of back judge.