Umpiring and the World Series

Posted on October 28th, 2009 – 9:56 AM
By La Velle

The scene from the 1994 NBA Eastern Conference semifinals between the Bulls and Knicks is branded to my brain.

With 2.1 seconds left in Gane 5, referee Hue Hollins called Scottie Pippen for a foul on Hubert Davis when it was beyond clear that the slight contact came after Davis released the shot. Davis sank two free throws. The Knicks won 87-86 and ended up winning a series in which the home team won every game. This is not revisionist history.

Bulls coach Phil Jackson compared the call to the U.S. Olympic team getting jobbed against the Russians in the 1972 games. Darrell Garretson, the supervisor of officials at the time, at first backed the decision, the next season, admitted that Hollins blew the call.

For the rest of his career, whenever Hollins worked a game in Chicago, he was booed by Bulls fans. I even heard a Chicago fan boo him at Target Center when he worked a Bulls-Wolves game (I swear, it wasn’t me).

I’m not saying that MLB umpires have lined themselves up for such treatment down the road. But right there with managers overmanaging and closers giving it up, this postseason will be known for bad umpiring.

We now know who C.B. Bucknor is after his two controversial calls during the Red Sox-Angels ALDS series,.

We now know about Phil Cuzzi for his call against the Twins in the ALDS against the Yankees.

And we know about Tim McClelleland – if you didn’t already know him for his role in the George Brett pine tar game (yes, he’s been around that long) – for his calls in the ALCS between the Yankees and Angels.

You can make a case for an expansion of instant replay for postseason games. It’s the time of year in which everyone hangs on every pitch and cares less about length of games. So another minute to get a call right doesn’t ruin the pace of the game.

MLB could have added instant replay to this year’s World Series, but commish Bud Selig has rejected those suggestions.

So we’ll just sit back and wait for the next controversy, Bud.

Meanwhile, you can read my man Jim Salisbury’s preview of the umpires for this year’s November Classic. It looks like the league has changed its approach in one aspect.

Sticking with Yankees in 5.

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