No pass interference on Gronkowski in Carolina
Patriots fans were up in arms at the end of New England’s 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers Monday night when tight end Rob Gronkowski was mauled in the end zone by linebacker Luke Kuechly of the Panthers. Even though one official threw a penalty flag on the play, there was no pass interference called because the referees waved it off, claiming that the ball thrown by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was uncatchable by Gronkowski.
This wasn’t the first time a Boston sports team was involved in a controversial play. We take a look back at some other controversial calls in Boston sports, some that were in favor of the local team, and others that left fans crying foul.
Cardinals win Game 3 of World Series on obstruction call
The Red Sox lost a tense and pivotal Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, 5-4, when the Cardinals’ Allen Craig scored the winning run after third baseman Will Middlebrooks was called for obstruction after an errant throw. Umpire Jim Joyce awarded Craig home plate after the runner tripped over Middlebrooks’s legs while left fielder Daniel Nava was retrieving catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s errant throw.
With one out, runners on second and third, and the Red Sox’ infield pulled in, Jon Jay hit a hard ground ball to second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia threw home to get Matt Adams. With Craig heading for third, Saltalamacchia made an ill-fated throw that eluded Middlebrooks and skittered down the left field line. Craig then headed for the plate.
Joyce, the third base umpire, quickly made the call on Middlebrooks. Nava still threw to the plate and it appeared Craig, who was limping, would have been out.
Jets take advantage of second chance to kick Patriots to the curb
In October, the New York Jets defeated the Patriots on a 42-yard field goal by Nick Folk in overtime, but the critical call came just moments prior to the game-winning kick. Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing a teammate in an attempt to block Folk’s 56-yard attempt in the extra period.
The push was a violation of one of the NFL’s new rules for 2013 regarding play on extra points and field goal attempts designed to make sure the game is safer for players in the trenches. Jones was admittedly unaware of the rule, which had been announced by the league in August and shown to each team as officials made their rounds during training camp.
“It was something we probably talked about during camp and it just skipped my mind, it was my mistake and nobody else’s,” Jones said after the tough loss in New York. It was the first time the rule had been enforced.
Close kick costs Belichick in Baltimore
Bill Belichick grabbed a replacement official as he sought an explanation after the Patriots lost a penalty-filled road game to the Baltimore Ravens 31-30 on a last-second kick by rookie Justin Tucker in 2012. New England was flagged 10 times for 83 yards of accepted penalties, while the Ravens were called for 14 penalties and 135 yards. For the Patriots, the most critical penalty was a 27-yard pass interference flag on Sterling Moore that set up the Ravens’ winning field goal.
The team also wanted the winning field goal reviewed to see if the ball had passed through the uprights – it flew very close to the top of the upright. Belichick grabbed an official’s arm while walking off the field at the end of the game and was fined $50,000 for making contact with an official.
“It was inappropriate for me to contact the official. I take responsibility for what happened,” Belichick said in statement released by the team. “I accept the discipline and I apologize for the incident Sunday night in Baltimore.”
The Tuck Rule helps Patriots advance
In 2002, the Patriots faced the Oakland Raiders in a divisional playoff game in January in Foxborough. Pats fans will remember the game as the “Snow Bowl”, while Raider fans will remember it as the “Tuck Rule Game”.
Quarterback Tom Brady was attempting to bring New England within field goal range down 13-10 late in the fourth quarter. Brady dropped back for a pass and was seemingly sacked by cornerback Charles Woodson, and the ball came out of his hand. The Raiders recovered what they believed was a fumble.
However, referee Walt Coleman invoked the “Tuck Rule,” which then stated: “NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble..’’
The next play, Brady completed a pass to wide receiver David Patten that put New England within range for kicker Adam Vinatieri to send the game into overtime. Vinatieri then kicked the winning field goal in the extra period.
But the Tuck Rule is now history, as its elimination passed overwhelmingly at the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix in March 2013.
Phantom tag on Jose Offerman in 1999
Here is one that the readers of ESPN’s Page 2 voted the “worst call in history.’’
The Yankees were leading the Red Sox two games to one in the 1999 American League Championship Series. Jose Offerman was leading off first in the bottom of the eighth during Game 4 with the Yankees leading by one run. John Valentin was at the plate and grounded to second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who reached out to tag Offerman and then threw to first for the double play.
One problem: He never tagged Offerman. In fact, he didn’t even come close. Replays showed that Knoblauch’s swipe at Offerman didn’t touch him. A furious Red Sox manager Jimy Williams argued to no avail. With star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra coming up with the bases empty instead of the tying run in scoring position, one could see why fans littered the field in protest.
The umpire who made the call was Tim Tschida, who admitted blowing the call after the game. Unfortunately, Red Sox fans still had to watch as the Yankees went on to win the series and eventually, the World Series.
Too many men on the ice in Montreal
During the 1979 NHL playoffs, the Bruins lost Game 7 of the infamous “too many men on the ice’’ semifinal series at Montreal. Leading 3-1 heading into the third period at the Forum, the Bruins were on the verge of knocking out the Canadiens, who were looking for their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup after beating Boston in the previous two finals. After Montreal tied the game 3-3, Rick Middleton beat the venerable Ken Dryden and Boston had a 4-3 lead with under four minutes remaining.
But with 2:34 left in the game, the Bruins were called for having too many men on the ice during a line change. On the power play, Guy Lafleur beat Bruins goaltender Gilles Gilbert with just 1:14 to go to tie the game. And Yvon Lambert finished off Boston at 9:33 into overtime.
It was the right call, but controversial for Boston fans to see a foolish penalty to be taken at such a critical juncture in a championship playoff.
“It was my fault,” Bruins coach Don Cherry later told the Toronto Globe and Mail regarding the too many men on the ice infraction. Cherry was fired following the season.
Before the Middlebrooks obstruction, there was Ed Armbrister in 1975
In Game 3 of the 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and Reds, in the home half of the 10th inning at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, one of the most famous controversial plays in Boston sports occured.
With the score tied, 5-5, the Reds’ Cesar Geronimo opened with a single, prompting manager Sparky Anderson to order utility outfielder Ed Armbrister to attempt a sacrifice bunt. Armbrister got his bat on the ball, which took an uncharacteristically high chop off the the ground. Fisk flung off his mask as he bounded out to field it. Thus ignited the controversy.
The rigththanded-hitting Armbister, after initially breaking a step toward first, moved slightly back toward the batter’s box, initiating a collision with the bigger, hard-charging Fisk.
“I just stood there for a moment, watching it,’’ Armbrister explained in the moments after the mayhem. “Then [Fisk] came up from behind me and bumped me as he took the ball. I just stood there because he hit me in the back and I couldn’t move.” The two finally disentangled, Fisk collected the ball and pegged it toward second in hopes of cutting down Geronimo.
The wild throw eluded shortstop Rick Burleson and sailed into center field. Geronimo scooted around to third, Armbrister wheeled all the way to second, and the stage was set for impending disaster when Reds second baseman Joe Morgan stroked the game-winning single that gave Cincinnati a 6-5 win and a 2-1 lead in the Series.
In the photo, home plate umpire Larry Barnett explained his verdict to a hostile jury of catcher Carlton Fisk (left), manager Darrell Johnson (center), and third baseman Rico Petrocelli.