Jun 3, 2010 10:13 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5
One out away from a perfect game. Top of the 9th. Armando Galarraga squeezed the ball in his mitt, stepped on first base with his right foot and was ready to celebrate the first perfect game in Detroit Tigers' history.
What happened next will be the talk of baseball for the rest of this season and likely a lot longer. Umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe and a chorus of groans and boos echoed in Comerica Park.
Then Joyce emphatically said he was wrong and later, in tears, hugged Galarraga and apologized. "It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it," Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires' locker room. "I just cost that kid a perfect game...I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay," he said after the Tigers' 3-0 win.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Joyce asked to speak with Galarraga. The pitcher appreciated the gesture.
"You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry,"' Galarraga said. "He felt really bad. He didn't even shower."
It's rare for an umpire to acknowledge a mistake and, in one of the few sports that relies heavily on the human eye, it's certain to prompt a push for Major League Baseball to use increased replays. Soccer completely rejects using technology to review calls - a position that could create controversy at the World Cup, starting next week in South Africa.
MLB declined comment on Joyce's call.
But New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi think it's worth a second look.
"I think it's something that baseball should look at possibly because if they do change it, it doesn't affect the game. It doesn't affect the outcome." he said after a 9-1 win over Baltimore. "I know it will be the first time that it's ever happened but you're talking about a very unusual circumstance."
As it stands, baseball replays can only be used for questionable home runs. There's no appealing a judgment call, either by replay or protest. A blown call by first base umpire Don Denkinger helped tilt the 1985 World Series, and followed him throughout his career.
"I worked with Don Denkinger. I know what he went through, but I had never had a moment like this until tonight," said the 54-year-old Joyce, who became a full-time major league umpire in 1989 and has worked two World Series, 11 other playoff series and a pair of All-Star games.
Galarraga was trying for the third perfect game in the majors in a month, including Roy Halladay's gem last Saturday night. Until this year, there had never even been two perfect games in the same season in the modern era.