After the June 2 blundering horrible call by umpire Jim Joyce negating Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga’s perfect game, Major League Baseball has come out better and stronger than before. The actions of Galarraga, Joyce and Commissioner Bud Selig have proved that the human element in the pro sport is still one of its most important assets – something other pro sports are straying away from.
With just one out left to go in the ninth inning to complete the third perfect game of this season and only the 21st in baseball history, Joyce ruled that Cleveland’s Jason Donald beat Galarraga to the first-base bag as he took a throw from first baseman Miguel Cabrera. That missed call immediately erased Gallaraga’s name from the history books as having pitched the 21st perfect game in baseball history.
Joyce, who has been a longtime standup umpire in the majors since 1989, admitted with tears in his eyes after seeing the replay that he blew the call and that in fact, Galarraga had beaten Cabrera to the bag. It really was a perfect game.
Immediately after Joyce admitted that his call was wrong, the sports world went buck wild with statements that this would be the call to bring instant replay to baseball. This extremely poor call changed history. Selig initially told the press he was going to review the play and possibly consider giving Galarraga the perfect game anyway, by somehow reversing the call after the game was completed. Thankfully, Selig, decided not to open that super-sized can of worms and overturn the call, as every pro player still alive who believes they have been wronged by a bad call would have been lining up at his door with a sob story.
Joyce could have stuck with his call and continued to say that he had made the correct call at first base. I believe many umpires would have been hard nosed, showed no humility and stuck by their call even though replay clearly shows it was wrong. Joyce immediately went to Galarraga and issued an apology, showing obvious remorse for blowing one of the biggest calls in the past 20 years. He was obviously devastated.
Galarraga and most of the world saw this remorse and understood that it was a human mistake, and that baseball still has a human element of poor judgment within the game. I know I was impressed that he went to Galarraga and apologized.
With the international spotlight on the whole mess, everyone wondered just how Galarraga would react to having a pitcher’s dream taken away from him and once again, I think he surprised everyone with his understanding and forgiveness. A lot of players would have run to the press and made a bigger stink out of the situation than it already was. That’s the norm these days with pro players, but Galarraga proved he’s not the norm, either.
“He feels so bad – really bad,” Galarraga said of Joyce in the Detroit Free Press, just a half-hour after the game. “I told him, ‘Nobody’s perfect.’ What am I going to say? I’m not the kind of guy who would tell him, ‘I did my job. Why didn't you do yours? Why didn't you do better in that situation?’ I understand that nobody's perfect, and it's a hard job.”
To have a pitcher throw a perfect game and have it not in the books because of a bad call who still shows sympathy toward the umpire who blew the call is mind-blowing, but human, showing a humanity that we all have but seldom see, especially in the professional sports world.
Lastly, to have Selig and the rest of the rulemakers in baseball not jump on some sort of need-for-instant-replay bandwagon is great for baseball, too. The last thing a pitcher needs on the mound in a chilly October game is a 10-minute stop in play because the umpires need to review a questionable call. The game is already too slow for many Americans with hypertension. And it really is the human element of having umpires on the field making the calls as they see them is what makes baseball great. That’s the way it is, that is the way it should be and I for one hope that computers and hooded instant replay machines don’t become a part of baseball any time soon.
I do feel bad for Galarraga. He is not in the official record book as having pitched a perfect game. At the same time, he will be known as the guy who threw the perfect game yet showed grace and respect for the game, in his actions after the bad call. He will be remembered for that – and he alone has won that award. There were two perfect game winners this season already (absolute craziness!), but honestly, I would rather be in Galarraga’s shoes right now, when all is said and done. Hey, General Motors gave Galarraga a 2010 Corvette for his unheralded perfect game. History books or Corvette? I’ll take the Corvette. The history books aren’t valuable until you’re dead.
One last thought: 21-year-old Stephen Strasburg had 14 K’s in his debut on Tuesday. Worth all the hype in the world. It’s good to see pitching back in baseball.