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LEEInks list: Controversial calls in Boston sports history

06.07.10 at 9:08 am ET
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It’s always unfortunate when a closely contested game comes down to a ruling by a referee or umpire. Officials don’t want to decide the outcome, much less make a controversial call that is disputed or argued over.

The nature of sports, however, is such that referees have to sometimes make crucial rulings, and the human element of people officiating games often lends itself to having missed or blown calls. It’s just the way it is.

With last week’s missed call by umpire Jim Joyce in Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game, here is a list of 10 controversial calls in Boston sports history.

10. Dec. 30, 2008: Six players on the court

With line changes in hockey and the amount of players shuffling in and out in football, teams sometimes get confused and have too many players on the ice or field. But in basketball, that’s something that’s rarely seen. In a regular-season game in 2008, the Trail Blazers actually benefited from having six players on the court when the referees missed the call. Only after Portland scored on an alley-oop did the officials notice and assess a technical foul, which Ray Allen converted. Nevertheless, the basket counted and the Trail Blazers managed to earn an extra point on a delayed call.

9. May 26, 2010: Kendrick Perkins ejection

In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals in Orlando, referee Ed F. Rush tacked two technical fouls on Kendrick Perkins in a span of less than two minutes to eject him from the game before halftime. On the first technical, it seemed that Perkins’ hand slipped as he attempted to help up Paul Pierce, causing him to elbow Magic center Marcin Gortat, who was directly behind him. The second technical came as Perkins angrily (and vocally) turned and walked away from Rush after being called for an entry pass foul on Dwight Howard. Not only did the second technical eject Perkins from the game – which the Celtics lost 113-92 – but it also gave him his seventh technical of the playoffs, which calls for a one-game suspension. After Game 5, however, the NBA reviewed the technical fouls and rescinded the second one to keep Perkins on the floor for Game 6. (Skip to 1:20 mark)

8. April 26, 1998: Tim Taylor toe in the crease

After winning Game 2 in double overtime, the Bruins were in position to take a 2-1 lead against the Capitals in the first round of the 1998 NHL playoffs. P.J. Axelsson seemed to score the game-winning goal in overtime, but the play was immediately reviewed to see if there was interference at the net. The replay showed that Tim Taylor did in fact have his skate slightly in the crease, although it in no way interfered with goaltender Olaf Kolzig. The since-changed rule, however, forced the goal to be disallowed and led to Boston suffering a heartbreaking loss when ex-Bruin Joe Juneau scored in the second extra period to give Washington the series lead.

7. Oct. 10, 1990: Rocket blasts off on umpire

Roger Clemens was known to get fired up for his starts. In Game 4 of the 1990 ALCS, as the Red Sox tried avoid a sweep at the hands of the A’s in Oakland, Clemens was at a fever pitch. When he become unhappy with home plate umpire Terry Cooney, he blew his top. Clemens’ expletive-filled tirade earned him an ejection in the second inning, and it led to a 15-minute argument from the Sox, with second baseman Marty Barrett also getting tossed. Water coolers, sunflower seeds and paper cups were thrown onto the field from the Boston dugout. The stunned Sox lost the game and the series in four straight. For his part, Cooney took a lot of heat for giving the ace an early exit.

6. May 10, 1979: Too many men on the ice

In another case of having too many players participating, a controversial too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in Montreal cost the Bruins a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. On May 10, 1979, Boston had a 4-3 lead over the Canadiens in Game 7 with only minutes remaining in the contest. With 2:34 left in the final period, the Bruins were caught on a line change for too many men on the ice called by linesman John D’Amico. The penalty allowed the Canadiens to respond with a tying goal from Guy Lafleur to force overtime. In the extra period, Yvon Lambert scored the game-winner to send the Habs to the finals where they defeated the Rangers for their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. Though it was Boston’s fault, the disputed penalty was surprising at the time because of the magnitude of the moment.

5. Jan. 14, 2006: Ben Watson rundown

One of the best hustle plays in Boston sports history came in a Patriots loss to the Broncos in a 2005 AFC divisional playoff game. Though New England lost 27-13, Ben Watson provided a great moment when he ran down Champ Bailey, who nearly ran the length of the field for a return touchdown on a Tom Brady interception. It looked like Watson tackled Bailey before the goal line to force a fumble through the end zone for a touchback, but when the play was reviewed, the camera angles made the play inconclusive and unable to be overturned. Denver instead received the ball at the 1-yard line and scored a touchdown on the next play.

4a. Oct. 13, 1999: Chuck Knoblauch’s dropped relay

Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was part of two dubious calls in the 1999 ALCS, the first of which came in Game 1. On a relay throw from third baseman Scott Brosius, Knoblauch dropped the ball at second base as he attempted to relay it to first. Umpire Rick Reed still called Red Sox baserunner Jose Offerman out at second, claiming Knoblauch had control and dropped the ball on the transfer. Instead of being in great position to score with men on first and second and no outs, Boston had its 10th-inning rally killed. The Yankees would go on to win the game in the bottom half on a Bernie Williams home run.

4b. Oct. 17, 1999: Knoblauch’s phantom tag

Again in Game 4, the Red Sox were on the wrong end of a bad call while Knoblauch and New York were the beneficiaries. With the Sox trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning, Offerman was on first base with one out. On a John Valentin grounder, Offerman headed to second and was called out as Knoblauch reached to tag him. Umpire Tim Tschida made the call even though replays showed that Knoblauch clearly whiffed on the tag. The out was part of an inning-ending double play. The Yankees blew the game open in the ninth inning and went on to win the series in five games.

3. Dec. 18, 1976: Roughing the passer

In the AFC divisional playoff game on Dec. 18, 1976, the Patriots fell 24-21 to the Raiders after allowing 14 points in the fourth quarter. New England was up by four points in the final minute, and Oakland faced a third-and-long. On an incomplete pass, Patriots tackle Ray Hamilton was called for a highly questionable roughing the passer (and unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing) to give Oakland an automatic first down. That set up Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler for the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 10 seconds left in the game.

2. Jan. 19, 2002: Tuck rule game

One of the most controversial calls in NFL history came in 2002 when the Patriots and Raiders faced off in snowy Foxboro. With New England down 13-10 late in the fourth quarter, Brady dropped back for a pass and was hit by Charles Woodson for what seemed like a sack and a recovered fumble for Oakland. After reviewing the play, however, the referees ruled that Brady was trying to throw the ball and had not tucked it away, despite Brady having both hands on the ball. According to the letter of the law, the referees made the right decision. It wasn’t a missed call as much as it was a poorly constituted rule (since changed) that worked in the Patriots’ favor that game.

1. Oct. 14, 1975: No interference

The 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and Reds provided several memorable moments, including the Carlton Fisk game-winning home run down the left field line in Game 6. It was a questionable call, however, that played a factor in Boston’s Game 3 loss. With the score tied in the bottom of the 10th and Cesar Geronimo on first, Ed Armbrister attempted to sacrifice bunt to move the runner. Fisk tried to collect the ball but was blocked by Armbrister at the plate and made a wild throw to second, allowing Geronimo to move to third with no outs. Home plate umpire Larry Barnett refused to make the call for interference, and the Reds went on to win the game that inning.

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