Umpire Whose Blown Call ‘Gave’ Kansas City the ’85 Series Has Died
The Major League Umpire who made one of the most infamous blown calls in World Series history has died. I'm talking about Umpire Don Denkinger, who was umpiring first base for game six of the 1985 World Series on Saturday night, October 26, 1985.
The Cardinals and Royals were locked in a pitcher's duel for most of the game with the Cardinals taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when Cards Manager Whitey Herzog pinch-hit Brian Harper for his starting pitcher Danny Cox. Harper got a hit and drove in a run.
The fireworks occurred in the top of the ninth inning when Royals Manager Dick Howser sent Jorge Orta up to pinch-hit. I could tell you what happened, but honestly, it's easier to just watch what happened:
Yeah, Denkinger missed the call. The Royals would rally, and former Cardinal Dane Iorg would hit a bloop single to right field driving in Onix Concepcion and Jim Sundberg to win game six of the World Series.
We all know what happened after the Royals "stole" game six. Apparently, adding insult to injury the Cards walked into their locker room complete with champagne and set up to celebrate a world championship. Then, would just completely self-destruct with a team-wide case of the yips, throughout game seven.
Denkinger, actually was by all accounts a very good umpire. Had it not been for that infamous blown call, his death would probably not be as notable as it is today. Mostly because good umpiring means you don't know the umpires are there. They're anonymous.
How good was Denkinger? Major League Baseball thought highly enough for him to be the plate umpire for the 1987 All-Star Game. As well as the crew chief for the 1988 and 1992 American League Championship Series and the 1991 World Series. Denkinger retired due to a bad right knee and umpired his final game at Kauffman Stadium on June 2, 1998.
Throughout his life, Denkinger was good-natured about the blown call and didn't shy away from talking about it. Even going so far as to appear at sports memorabilia conventions to autograph the iconic photo of him blowing the call. And occasionally talking to reporters about the experience.
“My job is predicated on being right all the time, and I like to be right all the time. But we’re only human, and now it’s history. I can’t change anything. Even admitting I was wrong doesn’t change anything.”
The sad part of the whole thing in my opinion is the hate Denkinger received from blowing the call. He and his family received obscene phone calls, hate mail, and even death threats from Cardinals fans. Let's be honest, none of that is really necessary, and if I had been a Cardinals fan I would have been pretty embarrassed by the neanderthals who felt it necessary to go out of their way to make the umpire's life unpleasant.
Denkinger umpired 3,824 regular games, called Nolan Ryan's sixth no-hitter in 1990, and was on the umpiring crew for two perfect games. Only one of seven umpires who worked two perfect games. After his retirement, he served as an umpire advisor for a year and then spent time with his family in Arizona and Minnesota. Additionally, he enjoyed fishing and golf. Denkinger was 86 years old.