This call from umpire CB Bucknor might be one of the worst in history

A true legend was born on Tuesday night during the game between the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves. It wasn’t the legend of Max Scherzer or Freddie Freeman or Bryce Harper. It was the legend of CB Bucknor, terrible umpire.

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From top to bottom, Bucknor called what might be one of the worst games in recorded umpiring history. Bucknor was behind home plate, which means he had a lot of control over the game. And boy, did he ever control it. Let’s start with the call that everyone is talking about, the now-famous phantom foul ball.

Home plate umpire CB Bucknor, left, talks with Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker, right, during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The Nationals defeated the Royals 13-2. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
In the world of bad umpiring, CB Bucknor is now a legend. (AP)

It was the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Braves were down 3-1 with the bases loaded. A walk-off was in sight. Chase d’Arnaud was at the plate, battling with Nats reliever Shawn Kelley. On the 1-2 pitch d’Arnaud swung at the ball and missed for strike three, and even though catcher Matt Wieters missed catching the ball, he snagged it off the ground and stepped on home plate, ending the game via force out.

At least that’s what anyone with a functioning set of eyes thought. The players had started giving high fives and leaving the field when Bucknor called the umpires in to confer. The call on that final pitch was changed from a game-ending strikeout to a foul ball that Wieters hadn’t held on to. If you think that maybe it could have been a foul ball, here’s a closeup of that fateful swing.

D’Arnaud obviously missed that pitch by at least six inches, which is what makes the call so, so bad. The simple way to clear this up would be to review the play, right? If only they could. Foul tips aren’t reviewable under the current rules, so instead of asking the umpire back in New York to take a look at it, the umpires stood around, and then Bucknor changed the result of that pitch to one that didn’t actually happen.

It could have changed the outcome of the entire game. It was the bottom of the ninth inning and the Braves had the bases loaded at home. They were down by just two runs, and they’d already scored one in the inning. It doesn’t matter that d’Arnaud struck out anyway and no further damage was done. Anything could have happened with that final, extra, unnecessary pitch that Kelley had to throw.

As you might expect, there were a lot of angry, confused feelings after the game. Ray Knight, TV analyst for the Nationals, nearly exploded as he delivered his commentary.

Here’s what Knight had to say:

“That’s ridiculous. I mean, you’re supposed to be a major league umpire, which means you’re the best of the best. This guy’s struggled forever. I’m just gonna be candid with you, he has never been a good umpire. And I hate to cut people down, but gosh darn, how long are they going to go with this guy? Honestly, Johnny, that was the worst game I’ve seen called, except the last game I saw him call behind the plate. He is brutal back there.”

Even the Braves radio broadcaster had to comment on it, and the Braves were the team that actually benefitted from that bad call.

These people weren’t the only ones utterly amazed by Bucknor’s terrible umpiring. Jayson Werth had some words for him after the game, though that’s a bit of an understatement. Werth essentially tried to devour Bucknor so his umpiring would never be a danger to anyone ever again.

Later on, Werth actually used his words to explain why he was upset, instead of trying to somehow breathe fire out of his mouth like a dragon.

Werth was definitely angry about Bucknor’s foul-ball shenanigans, but that call was just the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae made entirely of terrible calls. (Spoiler: that sundae tastes horrible.) Bucknor’s strike zone was horrendous throughout the night, with calls that hurt both the Nationals and the Braves. Here’s something else Werth was probably angry about.

Woof. But that’s not all. Here’s more info on Bucknor’s inconsistent strike zone.

Bucknor called this pitch a strike.

And this pitch he called a ball.

That is egregiously terrible. And what’s worse, the Nationals and Braves have experienced one of his bad fair/foul calls before. Back in 2015, the Braves won on a walk-off against the Nats when Bucknor ruled a ball fair without even looking at it.

So congratulations to CB Bucknor for becoming a legend of bad umpiring Tuesday night. He can be sure that fans will never let him forget it.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher