Jim Joyce and Armando Gallaraga
Armando Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers was on the verge of pitching a perfect baseball game this week when in the ninth inning with two men out, umpire Jim Joyce called a runner safe. Both Gallaraga and his manager argued vehemently but Joyce would not be swayed. Gallaraga went back to the mound, got out the next batter and finished the game.
It became clear from looking at the videotape that Joyce was absolutely wrong in calling the runner safe. This was so clear that he himself went to Gallaraga afterwards in tears and apologized for making a mistake and taking this milestone away from him.
Baseball has always been a game of human judgment: one umpire’s strike zone is very different from the next, safe/out calls look different on video than they were called in the game. Yet MLB only allows instant replay in very specific situations and this was not one of them.
As a result of Wednesday’s events, two things happened yesterday: One perfect, one not.
First, Gallaraga presented the Tigers lineup card to Joyce prior to yesterday’s game. In an incredible show of sportsmanship, humility and grace, the two men shook hands and acted like perfect gentlemen. Then the Tigers presented Gallaraga with a brand new Corvette in appreciation of his imperfect perfect game a day earlier.
Second, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, given a chance to demonstrate the same kind of grace, showmanship and civility totally sidestepped the issue–putting out a statement that said MLB would review the use of replays in the future, but not revisiting the blown call.
I understand the desire to keep the human element in baseball. However, there isn’t a person alive who believes the box score fairly captures what happened in Detroit on Wed–including the man who made the call. The Tigers won the game, Gallaraga got the win–none of that would change. But Selig missed the perfect opportunity to take a leadership position for his sport.
Luckily, a young pitcher named Armando Gallaraga didn’t flinch from taking the high road in what was obviously an emotional situation. He was a perfect gentleman and a great role model. In fact, I’d say he had two perfect days in a row.