Detroit Tigers pitcher shows great sportsmanship when denied a perfect game by umpire's blown call
Home plate umpire Jim Joyce, left, shakes hands with Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga before the Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians game in Detroit, Michigan, on June 3, 2010. (Photo: Paul Sancya/AP Images)
It was the top of the ninth with one batter left in the Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians matchup on Wednesday night. Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had retired all of the Indians batters so far—26 up, 26 down. Getting Indians rookie Jason Donald out was the final obstacle in Galarraga's quest to achieve a great feat in Major League Baseball—pitching a perfect game.
Only 20 Major League Baseball (MLB) players had done it before. Detroit's Comerica Stadium sparkled with suspense as fans watched this rare event unfold before their eyes.
Donald hit a ground ball toward the second base hole on Galarraga's second pitch. Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera left his position to scoop up the grounder. He threw it to Galarraga who had run from the mound to cover first.
Galarraga caught the ball, and almost everyone around him thought that Donald was out—except for first base umpire Jim Joyce. He called the Cleveland batter safe, and Joyce was sure of his call.
Galarraga wanted to argue but said he was too shocked to lodge a complaint. Tigers Manager Jim Leyland did argue the call, but umpire Joyce stood firm.
The Tigers went on to win the game 3-0, and Galarraga was credited with a one-hit shutout. But the umpire's call denied Galarraga and the Tigers their first perfect game.
After the game, Joyce watched a video replay of his call. He saw that Galarraga had clearly beaten Donald to first base for the out. In an unusual move for an MLB umpire, Joyce admitted that he had blown the call. The veteran umpire was heartbroken.
"It was the biggest call of my career," an emotional Joyce told reporters. "I just cost that kid a perfect game."
The Big Apology
Joyce met with Galarraga later that night. Joyce apologized and told Galarraga how terrible he felt. Galarraga was gracious despite his disappointment.
"I give [Joyce] a lot of credit for saying, 'I'm sorry,'" Galarraga told MLB.com. "He apologized to me and [said] he felt really bad. He gave me a couple hugs."
Joyce expected to face a rough reception from fans when he came out to serve as home-plate umpire at the Thursday afternoon Tigers and Indians game. But in a very public gesture of good will and sportsmanship, Galarraga came out to greet Joyce for the pregame meeting. As the two shook hands, Joyce was once again brought to tears. The crowd cheered in support of Galarraga and gave Joyce a break.
On Friday, Galarraga talked about how he dealt with the blown call.
"I understand nobody's perfect. It's part of the game," he said on the CBS Early Show. "And that's why baseball is so important, so difficult."
The pitcher got a consolation prize for his winning efforts and handling of the situation. Detroit carmaker General Motors gave Galarraga a 2010 Corvette convertible to commemorate the "almost perfect" game.
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