>The Imperfect Game — Life Lessons from an Umpiring Mistake


This is the story of Jim Joyce, an umpire, and Armando Galaraga, a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers. Here’s one account.

Joyce happened to be working first base Wednesday night, June 2, in Detroit for the game between the Tigers and the Indians when infamy did not just tap him on the shoulder, it slapped him upside the head. Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had just thrown the 21st perfect game in baseball history, and a ridiculous third perfecto inside of four weeks, when first baseman Miguel Cabrera threw to him covering first base on a grounder by Jason Donald for the 27th out. Cabrera celebrated. Only one thing was missing.

Jim Joyce called Donald safe.

There is no polite way to say this: Joyce blew the call. Galarraga caught the ball in plenty of time, even if it wedged precariously in the webbing of his glove, and scraped the base, even if inelegantly, with his foot. Immortal fame was his.

Jim Joyce took it away. He called Donald safe. No sign that Galarraga juggled the ball. No sign that he missed the base. Just safe. Pure and simple safe.

Umpires miss calls. It happens. Nobody feels worse when an umpire misses a call than the umpire himself. They are proud men who strive for a 100 percent success rate and are bound to be disappointed. Upon seeing a replay, Joyce was crushed.

“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” the umpired admitted afterward. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”

This was a big play. Galarraga actually got the next out as well, making it the first “perfect” game when 28 runners were out. However, it will go down as a brilliant on-hitter and Galarraga will get no official credit for getting that out that was miscalled.
There’s a couple of life lessons here:

First, Joyce personally apologized. He was one of the few persons who didn’t have access to video replays of that call. At the time, he was sure that the runner was safe. He has a long history in the game and is well-respected. It wasn’t until he could see the replay for himself that he could be sure that he had made the error. And, when he knew that he was wrong, he went to Galarraga and was very sorry. Apparently he was crying as he gave the apology. So, WHEN YOU’RE WRONG, CONFESS.

Second, Galarraga was gracious to Joyce. He said, “Nobody’s perfect, everybody’s human. I understand. I give a lot of credit to the guy saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you because I really say I’m sorry.’ That don’t happen. You don’t see an umpire after the game say ‘I’m sorry.'” So, WHEN SOMEONE SAYS SORRY, BEING MAD ABOUT IT DOESN’T DO ANY GOOD.

I hope we get instant replay soon. Even though we can learn from the classy behavior of Joyce and Galarraga, it won’t come soon enough for the two of them.


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