Robbed! Blown call costs Armando Galarraga a perfect game
It was a bang-bang play that left two victims dead. The first was the masterful perfect game bid of Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga(notes). The second was the reputation of major league umpire Jim Joyce.
Galarraga will likely move on with his major league career with the stinging Harvey Haddix-type knowledge that only one of the worst blown calls in baseball history prevented him from becoming the 21st pitcher to throw a perfect game — and, even more incredibly — the third perfecto this season and second in four nights.
You can’t say the same for Joyce, a 23-year veteran who coupled his name with Don Denkinger when he inexplicably called Cleveland’s Jason Donald(notes) safe at first with an infield hit. Replays clearly showed that Galarraga’s foot beat Donald to the bag by a full step and Tigers manager Jim Leyland chewed Joyce out — deservedly so — both directly after the play and right after Galarraga retired the next Indians batter for what basically amounted to a 28-out perfect game.
It’s not hard to see why Joyce’s Wikipedia page was vandalized within seconds or why FireJimJoyce.com sprung up soon after that. Galarraga was cooler than you or I might have been, but even Joyce knew he screwed up big time.
“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said afterward. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”
“I don’t blame them a bit or anything that was said. I would’ve said it myself if I had been Galarraga. I would’ve been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me.”
Joyce is only human and you can bet that this call will spur another heated debate over expanded instant replay in baseball that might actually go somewhere. (It should.) Joyce will also get plenty of rightful criticism over why he was ruling such a close play safe considering the circumstances. Yes, tie does go to the runner … except when there is no actual tie and there’s a perfect game on the line.
But what’s done is done and Joyce’s latest black eye for his profession prevented the following from occurring:
• Fewest pitches (88) in a perfect game since Addie Joss’ 74 in 1908
• Shortest perfect game (1:44) since Koufax’s 1:43 in 1965
• The third perfect game in the 2010s, which would have put them one behind the 1990s for most perfect games thrown in a decade — one year into it.
Don Denkinger? You have company.