This has been a remarkable season in baseball. There have already been 3 perfect games, which is a signficant statistical aberration, given that there have only been 20 such games in the entire history of baseball. In a sport that prides itself on the consistency of its numerical heritage, we can only assume that either the steroid era has come to a screeching halt or that pitchers worked very, very hard over the winter. As amazing as the pitching prowess has been, though, something far more impressive took place this Wednesday in Detroit’s Comerica Park.
The Tiger’s pitcher, Armando Galarrago, had a perfect game going, when with two outs in the 9th inning, umpire, Jim (“Don’t Call Me James”) Joyce blew an easy call. What may be more amazing than a near perfect game with an umpire with the near perfect name (Ok. Ok. I really like “Dubliners” but you can have “Finnegan’s Wake.”), is that both the pitcher and the umpire handled everything so gracefully afterwards.
Galarrago remained calm after the call. He gave that little half smile that most of us offer, when we’re not quite sure what we should do. And then, instead of badgering, screaming, or cursing his fate, he went back to the mound and quietly went about his business. He struck out the next batter and won the game.
After the game, Umpire Joyce looked at the replay, realized his mistake, and immediately admitted his error. He then went over to the clubhouse and apologized. (I needed to pinch myself when I heard about this.) Joyce told the world, “I just cost the kid a perfect game. It was the biggest call of my career and I got it wrong.”
The very next day, before Thursday’s game began, the Tigers had Galarraga bring out the lineup card and give it to umpire Jim Joyce. As they embraced behind home plate, you could see one sign in the stands, a sign that captured the moment: “It was perfect.”