“The call” needs no further explanation. Even non-baseball fans heard what happened, saw the replay and the blatantly missed call, and the incredible disappointment that went along with it.
And it’s impossible to underscore the significance of the event.
27 batters, 27 outs. The perfect game. Only 20 other pitchers in the history of major league baseball have achieved it. And in the entire existence of the Detroit Tigers organization, more than 100 years, no one has ever completed a perfect game.
So when “the call” was made, not only was it a disappointment for Armando Galarraga, a pitcher who has had his fair share of struggles over the past year including multiple trips down to Triple-A Toledo, but the list of those that were disappointed was long and extensive.
It was a disappointment for Galarraga’s teammates, for his coaches, for team president Dave Dombrowski and team owner Mike Ilitch, and of course, a huge disappointment to the hundreds of thousands of Tigers’ fans that tuned in or followed along, hoping to see history.
As is typical when a team is so blatantly crushed, most fans reacted with rage. And all of that aggression was directed toward Jim Joyce, with thousands of tweets expressing that frustration using language that probably isn’t ideal for public consumption.
But then something happened. Everyone involved in the act took the high road.
Galarraga, who was the one most victimized by the blown call, was calm. Despite the disappointment on his face, he simply stated he was very proud of his work at Comerica Park on that Wednesday evening, and that everyone, umpires included, make mistakes, and nobody’s perfect.
His manager, Jim Leyland, who was visibly angry with Joyce on the field, instead praised Joyce to the media, claiming him to be an outstanding umpire. History was within their grasps and unjustly stolen from them, and the manager has the ability to praise the very man responsible for taking it away.
And of course, there’s Joyce. Having represented the MLB for more than 20 years, his name was virtually unknown, and for umpires, that’s typically a good thing. The only way your name is known is when you screw up.
Joyce became known on Wednesday night.
But rather than defend his actions, a natural reaction to have, Joyce issued a mea culpa. He blew the call; he screwed the kid that pitched the game of his life. And he was visibly crushed over what he had done. By the time he was done talking, it was pretty clear no one felt worse about the situation than Joyce.
To the Tigers credit, they didn’t throw the organizational equivalent of a temper tantrum. They didn’t protest the game, nor would they request that Selig overturn the call, which he (and only he) has the power to do.
The Tigers further extended an olive branch to Joyce, setting up a quick photo opportunity in Thursday afternoon’s game, which featured Joyce behind the plate. The Tigers had Galarraga present the lineup card to Joyce, allowing for a public embrace between the two.
General Motors even got involved in the act, attempting to provide a consolation prize to Galarraga for his lost but rightfully-earned achievement. Before Thursday’s game, GM presented Galarraga with a brand new red Chevy Corvette convertible, honoring him for his hard work and dedication.
And finally, even the angry fans took the high road. Rather than put their rage on display and lash out at Joyce as he was announced before the game Thursday, they gave a light applause, following the path the Tigers paved. Many times, a situation like this would be met with widespread anger, and in some cases even calls for violence. But not this time.
Despite one of the most unfortunate situations to happen in the game of baseball, and the anger many deserved to feel, everyone instead didn’t go down that dark, dreary road. They handled it with class and dignity.
To further go down the path of the bright side, there’s still time to right this wrong. Commissioner Bud Selig has the ability to overturn the incorrect call, award the out that should have been granted, and in turn, award Galarraga the perfect game distinction he earned.
There is plenty more that needs to be done to address the situation when it comes to blown calls and poor officiating on the field. The quality has to be discussed, and expanding instant replay needs to be given a long, hard look.
But that’s for tomorrow. For today, they can still fix this. Selig can right this wrong, and make everything right in the baseball world. There’s no need to set a precedent, this is a one-time only shot.
There will likely be some minor out-cry about changing the results of a completed game. No matter what, some people will be upset about it, and cry about the sanctity of the game, and how once they leave the field, the game should be over.
But there’s a fond old saying that fits well here; “When in doubt, do the right thing.” It’s pretty clear what the right thing here is to do – grant Galarraga the perfect game he earned. Now, it’s on Selig to do it. Everyone involved stepped up to the plate and acted with class, it’s only fitting that Selig completes the circle and follows suit.
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