Five controversial calls that left Detroit fans spitting mad

Nothing gets the home fans more ornery than a bad call that goes against their team. Every team experiences some bad calls and they usually even out over time, but some are hard to forget. Here are five that sent Detroit rooters into a tizzy.

Phantom foul on Laimbeer
With less than 30 seconds left in Game Six of the 1988 NBA Finals, the Detroit Pistons were leading the Los Angeles Lakers at The Forum. The Lakers passed the ball to their legendary center, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Guarded by Bill Laimbeer, Jabbar turned to take one of his patented sky hooks, but missed the shot. The whistle blew and Laimbeer was called for a foul. Except there was no foul. Video replay showed clearly that Laimbeer made very little incidental contact with Jabbar. Of course, the Detroit center had a reputation as one of the most physical (and according to some dirtiest) players in the NBA. The foul not only sent Kareem to the foul line with 14 seconds left, it also sent Laimbeer out of the game with six fouls. Jabbar made both free throws and the Lakers won the game by one. They went on to defeat the Pistons in Game Seven as well, delaying by one year the Pistons championship hopes. There are many who believe the Bad Boys should have won titles in ’88, ’89, and ’90.

“I can’t believe I shook his friggin’ hand.”
During the 1996 Western Conference finals, Claude Lemieux checked Kris Draper into the boards in Game Six, resulting in a horrific injury to Draper’s face. Lemieux received a penalty and was ejected from the game, exiting amod howls from the Detroit bench. After the Avalanche defeated the Red Wings in the game, ending their season, the two teams exchanged the traditional end of series handshakes at center ice. “I can’t believe I shook his friggin’ hand,” Detroit’s Dino Ciccarelli moaned. Given the severity of the hit and injury to Draper (his jaw was wired shut for a month and titanium plates had to be inserted into his cheekbone), Lemieux should have received more than a $1,000 fine and a two-game suspension.

Galarraga robbed: The 27th out that wasn’t 
This bad call cost pitcher Armando Galarraga immortality. The Tiger righty had mowed down 26 consecutive Cleveland batters at Comerica Park. Rookie Jason Donald hit a little bouncer to first base and when Galarraga took the toss from first baseman Miguel Cabrera it should have completed a perfect game. But umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe. A brief, incredulous argument ensued, but the play could not be overruled. Galaragga retired the next batter for a one-hitter, but many in Detroit called it a 28-out perfect game. The TV replay showed that Donal was out by a full step, that Joyce had blown the call. The umpire, devastated that he had cost Galarraga a perfecto, issued an apology. The next day he shook Galarraga’s hand as the game started. “Nobody’s perfect,” the Tiger pitcher said, ironically.

Inge doesn’t get to take his base in Game #163
The Tigers and Twins ended the 2009 season in a dead-heat tie atop the AL Central, forcing a one-game playoff for the division crown. The game was played in the Metrodome and it became a classic as the two teams traded runs throughout the contest. After nine innings the game was tied 4-4. The Tigers scored a run in the 10th, but the Twins responded with a run in their half of the inning. In the top of the 12th the Tigers loaded the bases with one out, bringing up Brandon Inge. Minnesota reliever Bobby Keppel threw a pitch that appeared to hit Inge on his jersey, but home plate umpire Randy Marsh ruled that it did not hit Inge. Manager Jim Leyland and Inge pleaded to no avail, as the play would have forced in a run. Inge grounded out and the Tigers failed to score a run. The Twins scored in the bottom of the 12th to win the game. After the game, Leyland said “The replays show that [the pitch] kinda did hit him.” Marsh refused to admit what replays obviously showed – Inge being hit in his jersey by the ball.

Megatron makes a touchdown catch but doesn’t get the credit
The more times you look at this play the more upset you’ll get. In the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears in the first week of the 2011 season, Calvin Johnson caught a pass from Matthew Stafford with seconds left in the game. Johnson leapt, caught the ball, came down with both feet, landed on his butt, and spun around as his momentum brought him to the corner of the end zone. But when his hand hit the ground with the football, the ball came out. Even though Johnson had obviously secured the ball in his hands, came down with both feet, and landed on his rump clearly in the end zone, the play was called incomplete. The referees ruled that Johnson had not “completed the football play” with full possession of the ball. Whatever the hell that means. The Lions lost the game, and there was nearly universal outrage over the interpretation of the rule (even most Chicago fans were amazed at the call). The rule is still on the books, though it has never been enforced in that way so blatantly wrong.

Take a look at the Johnson play in this video, and let us know what you think of the NFL’s ruling.

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He was formerly the Web Producer for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @twebman or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.