The Imperfect Game

Quote of the Day:

Baseball fits America well because it expresses our longing for the rule of law while licensing our resentment of law givers.” –A. Bartlett Giametti

Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers pitched one of the twenty-one greatest games in the history of Major League Baseball this week. He threw a perfect game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a Perfect Game. First base umpire Jim Joyce blew a call on the twenty-seventh and final out allowing a Cleveland Indian to reach base and ruin Galarraga’s perfect game at his moment of triumph. It’s sickening. It’s terrible. It’s unforgettable. And it’s tragically beautiful. The response to this ultimate sporting sin by both Galarraga and Joyce make it so.

Jim Joyce choked, there’s no getting around that. It happens, even to umpires. What makes Joyce’s sin forgivable is that he asked for it. “It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the shit out of it. I just cost that kid a perfect game.” Joyce didn’t say this after watching two days of Sports Center and reading every sports columnist in America take their shot at him. He said it right after the game while he was still in the locker room. He didn’t read a prepared statement. He said it while pacing in frustration, still at the stadium, visibly distraught. He sought out Galarraga before either of them left their job and hugged him and apologized. None of that erases the enormity of his error. What it does is show how much he wants to get the calls right, and that he owns his mistakes. What happened to Joyce and Galarraga is part of the game. That it occurred in such an important instant really doesn’t make the magnitude of the error any different than the kind that happen daily in baseball, it only heightens the awareness of it and the impact.

For his part, Galarraga was magnanimous. “You don’t see an umpire after the game come out and say “Hey, let me tell you I’m sorry.” He felt really bad. He didn’t even shower.” The next day Galarraga was smiling. He went out to present the lineup card to Joyce and the two exchanged pleasantries. He was asked again about the call. “I thought he made a mistake and nobody’s perfect.”

Heartfelt apologies go a long way with TB. I can put up with just about anything from a restaurant or a business if they acknowledge they have inconvenienced me or wronged me. I can abide most any disagreement with a friend if they extend an olive branch, and I expect the same in return. Same goes for my professional relationships. I don’t think I’m unique in that regard at all, among people.

In baseball, a public show of remorse and an apology are all Jim Joyce can do, and that’s a lot. Some are pushing MLB to retroactively credit the perfect game, but I hope they don’t, and even if they do it will forever be tainted. There is no atoning, though I expect the young pitcher will begin to see the outside corner extended an inch or so as he travels around the league. I wish Armando Galarraga had thrown a perfect game. Failing that, what he did do was, as I said above, tragically beautiful, same goes for Joyce, and I’ll never forget it. There are a lot of politicians, corporations, and others in the public eye lately that I wish would learn from the immortal imperfection of June 2, 2010.

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About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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9 Responses to The Imperfect Game

  1. Madd Dawg says:

    well said TB. The class with which both Joyce and Galarraga handled this unfortunate situation says a lot about each’s high character. very admirable behavior.

  2. Jessie Lou says:

    I would agree with that. Galarraga just kept smiling which he said he does when he is nervous. I always thought the name Laura Galarraga had a nice ring to it.

  3. Barista says:

    Yes, very well said. They handled it infinitely better than many of the fans are.

  4. Fish says:

    Great analysis TB,
    I couldn’t believe the fans of Detroit gave Jim Joyce a warm welcome when he came to the field on Thursday. Surprisely nice gesture by some of the worst fans in sports. That is why baseball and the people who understand baseball are great!

  5. sweet says:

    I second and third the emotions said above but I also noticed the reaction of the batter. might have missed it but have not heard or seen any sports talk discussion about that. It was like he wanted to be called out and couldn’t believe what just happened

  6. face says:

    We wouldn’t be having this discussion if mlb would wise up and use replay. They use it for controversial homerun calls, so please tell me why this play shouldn’t be reviewable.

  7. I’ll buy that Face. But no retroactive changes. To borrow from LOST, “dead is dead.”

    Let me also say, I’m not tryin’ to be self righteous here. The reason I was so impressed was because they rose above what I believe would’ve been the natural inclination of most folks, certainly me. If I’d been in Galarraga’s shoes, and many of you already know this, I’d have been apoplectic. They’d be peelin’ cuss words off the stadium facade for a month.

    I’d like to think I’d have accepted the ump’s apology though. I actually mentioned a similar incident in my schoolboy career not long ago–admittedly, a much smaller stage and not even comparable circumstances.

  8. face says:

    I’m with you, TB. You can’t go back and change it now. I just don’t understand why mlb can use replay to overturn homerun calls, but can’t use it in situations like this.

  9. irvine redd says:

    I just so happened to turn to ESPN right as they switched live to the final inning of that game. I excitedly watched (note that the fabulous catch by the Tigers centerfielder got lost in the mix) the first couple of outs, and that felt horrified in a way that I haven’t, when it comes to sports, since around ’03-’04 when the Malice at the Palace occurred (aka The Artest Melee). It just made me feel sick inside. But the actions of Galaraga and Joyce really made me feel better about it. We rarely see officials, in sports or otherwise, admit mistakes and apologize for them. And Galaraga deserved that corvette for being a class act.

    My assistant and I had the conversation that we were glad that didn’t happen to either of us because we not have been able to keep our cool the way Galaraga did. I know I would have lost it and gotten tossed.

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