In one of the most debated and discussed baseball games in years, Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly called a Cleveland Indians’ ground ball to first base with two outs in the ninth inning, safe. A video replay showed otherwise. That one call cost Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga a coveted perfect game.
Fans booed in the stadium and online. That led to not a riot (although if I read correctly, one wasn’t far off), but a most classy and likely unexpected move by Galarraga who met with the highly respected Joyce soon after the game. He said they hugged and Joyce expressed his regret for the call.
As bad as he felt for himself and Tigers’ fans, Galarraga took the high road and recognized that umpires – this umpire – is human and people of all shapes, sizes and professions make mistakes.
It was a day later that the very best of professional sports displayed itself to fans when Detroit manager Jim Leyland asked Galarraga to deliver the Tigers’ lineup to Joyce, who was to man home plate. An emotional Joyce met Galarraga at home plate to receive the lineup with obvious tears in his eyes as the two shook hands.
Later in the afternoon, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig reviewed, and decided not to reverse the call. Many said that Selig’s decision was right; others didn’t think so.
I was one who on Wednesday night, thought the league should reverse the call for Galarraga, the Tigers and Joyce, who was more remorseful than I’ve ever seen any official in a sport, knowing this call would follow him and baseball through history. After the decision was announced by the Commissioner’s office, I changed my mind. To reverse the call would have set a negative precedent for a sport that for the most part, is judged by human beings. This was human error, plain and simple. No one fell ill and everybody walked away from the ballpark. (It’s unfortunate that the league has to provide Joyce and his family with additional protection because of fans’ misguided threats.)
Maybe this episode in professional sports was a blessing in disguise. Of course no one wishes a game so monumental to end like it did. What happened afterward, however, put as positive a light on sports as I’ve seen. Joyce’s effort to speak and apologize to Galarraga, Leland’s comments after the game and move to have Galarraga present the lineup to Joyce the following day all led to unprecedented displays of sportsmanship. While there are some people that are still bitter about the flubbed call, there are others talking glowingly about Major League Baseball and sports. That, especially from a PR standpoint, is a good thing.