Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was just one out away from pitching a perfect game. In baseball history, only 20 perfect games have been thrown.
The 27th batter Galarraga faced was Cleveland Indians Jason Donald. Donald hit a grounder between first and second that was fielded by Detroit’s first baseman who threw to Galarraga, who had moved from the mound to cover first. Although close, it was apparent that Donald had not beaten the throw. However, first base umpire Jim Joyce saw it differently and called the runner safe. TV replays showed that the runner was indeed out. Joyce had made an error, and it was a big error as a perfect game was on the line.
After Galarraga retired the next batter ending the game, Joyce immediately went to check the video. He realized immediately that he had made the wrong call. He quickly admitted his mistake and personally apologize to Galarraga who he had deprived of the perfect game.
Joyce’s honesty mixed well with Galarraga’s grace. Galarraga didn’t protest on the field, but simply smiled. After Joyce apologized, Galarraga told reporters,
“He really feel bad. He probably feel more bad than me. Nobody’s perfect, everybody’s human. I understand. I give a lot of credit to the guy saying, “Hey, I need to talk to you because I really say I’m sorry.” That don’t happen. You don’t see an umpire after the game say ‘I’m sorry.'”
Joyce was scheduled to call the following day’s game in Detroit, but given the circumstances was told he could take the day off. Joyce chose to face what could be a hostile crowd and call the next game. Joyce, expecting boos, heard applause.
It seemed that the good sportsmanship was contagious as Detroit fans cheered the umpire.
My nominations for the biggest story lines by sport this year:
NFL: Saints win Super Bowl
NCAA Basketball: Butler’s Cinderella run to Championship Game
NBA: LeBron’s Decision
MLB: Sportsmanship displayed after Joyce’s missed call
Sports Illustrated — A Different Kind Of Perfect — Tom Verducci (with special reporting by Melissa Segura)