It wasn't a championship game or a potential perfect game, but I blew a call once. Badly blew it in fact. Now I am not implying I only made one bad call ever during my time as an umpire. That would be silly and wrong. What I am saying is that there was one particular instance where I made a call and as the words came out of my mouth I knew them to be incorrect.
It was so completely surreal for me too. I was working the bases one night as part of a two man crew and a kid tried to steal third. I moved into a perfect position where the whole play happened in front of me. The catcher slid out from behind the batter and made a snap throw down to the base. The kid stealing slid into the bag and was easily tagged out by the third baseman. Yet for some reason I have not been able to figure out for the nearly twenty years since this happened I called him safe. I did it loudly too.
I quickly turned to walk away from the play which was something I learned early on as an ump. Make the call loud and walk away to reduce the chance there will be a complaint. Well, this call was so blatantly wrong a complaint was inevitable. The worst part was the coach I had screwed over was one of my favorite coaches around. I had worked many of his games and I loved how he treated his players. He ran out to me and quietly asked, "Jeff what happened there? He looked out by a mile."
I lifted my head up and made eye contact and simply said, "I fucked up. He looked out to me too and I have no idea why I called him safe."
Dumbfounded the coach just stared at me for a second. Then he asked, "What do we do about it?"
I just shook my head and said, "I have no idea." By this time the home plate ump was out there with us. I asked him if he had seen the play and he said no. I turned to the coach and said, "I guess the play stands. I'm really sorry."
He stared at me for a second and as he turned to go back to the dugout he dropped this on me. "You are better than this Jeff."
Most of the time I would like to think I was better than that. On this particular play I wasn't though and like I said above I have no idea why. My brain just flat out failed me.
Obviously the events of last night have brought this story back to mind for me and I write this down because I want to hear feedback from both sides of the table. Personally I would prefer rules be in place to easily reverse such a blatantly missed call. I think umpires should not be so proud that they cannot accept being caught being wrong. I also feel that since replay exists at a level where the umpire is going to be scrutinized then they should utilize it.
However there is a sizable number of folks who think that such brain failures are a positive part of the game experience. Tell me why you feel the way you do. If it is some romantic notion about humanity then tell the story of that romance. I am genuinely interested because I feel sorry for everyone who was involved in that game last night. An evening that should have been special for players, coaches and fans turned into a sad affair.