“It will be the first line in my obituary.” – Jim Joyce
It’s not that simple: Joyce missed a call and the Astros committed baseball sins that rocked the sport.
It’s not that kind of straight line. From there to here. Much happened in between. And MLB was probably on the road to an elaborate, expanded instant replay if Joyce had never deprived Armando Galarraga of being the author of what would have been the nineteenth perfect game of the modern era at the time.
Please note that the words “deprived of immortality” were not used there. Because as even Galarraga admits these days, a decade later, “I’m much more famous for what happened than if I had gotten the perfect game.”
When the Indians-Tigers game started on June 2, 2010, Joyce was seen as much more capable in his job than Galarraga.
Annual player and executive polls would always place Joyce near the top of the big league umpires. As Johnny Damon, who was the Tigers’ starting left fielder that night, said, “Jim was like Joe West, always fair, people liked Jim.”
Joyce was good at making the right calls and even short-tempered at listening to complaints when his judgment was questionable without appearing authoritative or infallible. He honored that line that so few umpires find to be in charge of a major league game, but still maintaining civil or better relationships with players, coaches, and coaches. If Jim Joyce was making a game, those involved knew they would receive experience, fairness, and composure.
There was another trait for Joyce. It would provide more than the required manual signals, it would offer a loud slam call if it were behind the plate, and if it was on the bases, like first base on June 2, 2010, it would be heard if it thought someone was safe or in a bang-bang move.
“Jim Joyce was an excellent referee, highly respected,” said Jim Leyland, the manager of the Tigers that Wednesday night.
Galarraga was reserved, neither his voice nor his fastball exploded. He finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year vote in 2008, had the third-worst ERA (5.64) for anyone who can pitch at least 140 innings in 2009, and started 2010 as Toledo Mud Hen in the International League. He was making his fourth appearance in 2010 for the Tigers on June 2, trying to prove that he was more than the type of pitcher that was yoyo between the majors and the minors, rather than a long reliever.
At the time, he had appeared in 65 major league games, started 56, and had a 4.62 ERA.
“I had a rotation with [Max] Scherzer and [Justin] Verlander, ”Leyland said. “Galarraga was one of the last guys you would expect to launch a perfect game.”
But on June 2, 2010, Galarraga felt the magic in his hand from the beginning. He wasn’t a question mark with a 4.62 ERA, he was an artist who could do whatever he wanted with his fastball, plumb line, and slider.
Galarraga knew he had a perfect game because of the noise. First he stopped. Normally, when he threw his Venezuelan teammates on the Tigers, he constantly advised and encouraged him on the bench. But as the game went on against the Indians, first baseman Miguel Cabrera, second baseman Carlos Guillén, and DH Magglio Ordóñez followed the game’s protocols, don’t fool him by talking to the pitcher, and turned off the talk.
But his silence was mitigated by the 17,738 at Comerica who began to rise and cheer in the middle entrances when Galarraga reached the last step to return to the mound. Perfection seemed as possible as ever, as even perfection was not uncommon in 2010.
On May 9, Oakland’s Dallas Braden had pitched the 17th perfect game of the modern era with Jim Joyce serving as second referee, and on May 29, Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay pitched the 18th. Joyce, who had cast Bowling Green himself and loved art, recognized the ease with which Galarraga was navigating the game.
“I realized what was going on in the third inning,” said Joyce.
Galarraga had just three strikeouts, but he only needed 75 pitches in the top of the eighth. But Detroit led just 1-0 when Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona, soon to be called Roberto Hernandez, was also taming the Tigers before Austin Jackson’s two consecutive singles Damon and Ordonez led to two runs in the bottom of the eighth. . Galaragga then took the mound in the ninth with a 3-0 cushion, a standing ovation, and televisions clicking everything.
“I had turned in two or three tickets before, so yes, unfortunately I was looking,” said then-commissioner Bud Selig.
Mark Grudzielanek hit the first pitch from the top of the ninth depth to the left center. Jackson played shallow – Andruw Jones shallow – in the center. But he got an excellent read, ran 100 feet, maybe more, and when Jackson reached the edge of the warning track, he did as Jerry Rice, back in the frame, dragging the ball over his left shoulder with a basket.
The crowd and the Tigers’ shelter erupted in euphoria. Galarraga smiled, nothing further than emotion. “It just made me relax,” recalls Galarraga. “It really loosened the tension. I was nervous trying to get over it, trying to get something special. That just loosened me up. “
Perhaps for the first time all night, one of them recorded in the ninth, Galarraga thought that all the good mojo was on his side. I was going to get this.
Mike Redmond fell short, leaving Jason Donald between Galarraga and perfection. But it wouldn’t be Donald who broke the perfect game.
Galarraga knew he wanted to get to his slider when the pitch went against Donald and he threw the breaking ball at 1-1. Donald, a right-hander, threw a ball about 40 feet wide from the first. Cabrera aggressively went right to the field, made an overhead throw that Galarraga caught to the waist, and the pitcher took a quick look down as he touched the bag to realize the deal was done.
Joyce was in an ideal position: about 10 feet beyond the bag, just out of line, unobstructed, head still, and focused on the intersection of Galarraga’s foot touching and Donald coming down the line. If you get over it in slow motion, it looks like Joyce is starting a move to hit Donald. And to this day, Leyland claims that was what the referee was trying to do.
“I think Jim Joyce saw and pointed safely,” Leyland said. “For some reason, he knew he was out. I don’t know if I expected not to go out That is what I have always believed. “
Cabrera was overjoyed with his right arm and Galarraga was raising his arms to celebrate when Joyce with her hands wide open and that resonant voice made a cry of “sure”. Cabrera yelled, “No.” Even Donald raised his hands to his head in disbelief. The Tigers’ players on the field and on the bench screamed, cursed and protested. Galarraga, like after Jackson’s play, just smiled, looked into the distance.
“To this day, honest with God, I don’t know how it happened,” said Joyce. “I was preparing to call, and something happened and I got out safely. I can’t give you an answer about it. I was just safe. That’s what came out. “
Leyland went out to protest, but not with pleasure and not for long. But now both the canoes and most of the crowd had what Joyce didn’t have: a replay. And there was no doubt. Donald stepped out. However, he was standing at first base and on the scoreboard the Indians were now successful.
Galarraga returned to the mound to face Trevor Crowe, his tie now on deck. However, it was out of focus. He doesn’t clearly remember the Crowe sequence that would end with a roll to third. The memory of Galarraga is just how unforgiving Cabrera was after chasing after Joyce throughout the at-bat.
“I heard every word,” he said.
Just like Joyce. I forgive him. He listened to the other players, the crowd. She had known Leyland for a long time, had a strong relationship with him, and when Leyland came out screaming a bit more after the game, Joyce didn’t need to see an instant replay.
However, he asked his team leader, Derryl Cousins, and yes, Cousins told him that Donald was safe. Joyce also looked at the tape. Once.
Joyce retired to this locker in the referee’s room and the chain smoked. But what happened from there in two changing rooms changed the narrative.
At the clubhouse of the house, Galarraga received a phone call from his father, Jose, who said despite the hit in the ledger, “You pitched a perfect game in the big leagues. He was very proud of me. That made me very happy “.
Later, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told Galarraga that Joyce was concerned and recommended talking to the referee.
“I was fighting at that point,” recalls Galarraga. “I was crying, saying,” Sorry, I thought I was safe. I made a huge mistake. I took a perfect game from you. It was red as a tomato. I felt bad for him. “
“To this day, honest with God, I don’t know how it happened. I was preparing to call, and something happened and I came out safe.”
– Jim Joyce
Galarraga returned to the locker, met the journalists, and magnanimously said, “No one is perfect,” and spoke of how proud he was of pitching so well and that he had no hard feelings for Joyce.
In the referee’s locker room, Joyce said Cousins first suggested that Cousins would meet with reporters and save Joyce, after Joyce should face a reporter from the pool. Joyce rejected both ideas. Said bring all the reporters, let them ask what they want for as long as they want.
Joyce owned the moment. Without obfuscation. There are no excuses. Without hiding. He blew on the call. He had no clear reason why. It cost Galarraga a perfect game. He faced the biggest call of his career and missed it. Joyce expressed all of this with tears in her eyes and a frog in her voice.
When everything was ready, Cousins told Joyce that he had received a call from the Commissioners Office and that Joyce did not have to take his place in the field tomorrow. Joyce said no. There was a matinee to legislate, and of all things, Joyce had a home plate.
“I was the most hated man in the world for 10 hours,” Joyce said of what followed.
I was in misery. He would return to his childhood home in Toledo, Ohio, the city where Galarraga launched to start the year, where his mother still resided. This was his routine when he worked in Detroit. He allowed Joyce to see his mother, more important now that his father had passed away.
He didn’t sleep, he spent most of the night talking on the phone to his wife, Kay. The play was in an endless loop throughout, the conversation of the day, sparking the strongest round MLB needed to follow the other three major sports and increase replay revision. Selig was being pressured to reverse the call and give Galarraga a perfect game.
Galarraga returned to the stadium the next day ready for his heavy day of cardiovascular throwing training: 45 minutes on the field, then running up the stairs in the stands. But Leyland told Galarraga that if he got out he wouldn’t do any work and that the journalists would haunt him. That was true. Leyland also wanted to hide that Galarraga was receiving a Corvette as if he had released the perfect game. Besides, Leyland had had another thought.
“It was a great idea,” offers Galarraga now.
When Joyce emerged, he was already struggling to hold back a sob. There were a few boos, but then, when Leyland’s plan kicked in, Galarraga came up with the lineup card. Joyce was crying now. The two shook hands. No words were exchanged. In the end, Galarraga gave Joyce a brotherly blow to the shoulder, Joyce patted Galaragga on the chest. The launcher returned to the house. Standing ovation.
“I had no idea it was coming,” said Joyce. “Jim always came out with the lineup. I broke when I saw [Galarraga] on the top step Peripherally, I was looking over there, waiting to see what happens to me and Leyland today. I see Armando on the top step. I broke I didn’t see the lineup card. They could have put Babe Ruth in third place. I had no idea what he was saying. I could not speak “.
The two were united forever now. Her sporty spirit, grace and humanity changed the tone of the coverage. In 2011, Joyce, Galarraga, and author Daniel Paisner collaborated on a book, “Nobody Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and One Game for Baseball History.” As a result of that mutual financial arrangement, Joyce was prohibited from working in any game that Galarraga was to play.
But that was not the greatest result of this event.
“Absolutely,” says Joyce now.
The question is whether that call was the slippery slope that led to the fully expanded repeat in 2014.
Selig had always been against going too far with replay, worried that the game would slow down. In 2008, MLB became the last of the top four sports leagues to implement a replay review and, in this case, only dispute home runs and started by umpires.
But the day after the Joyce / Galarraga call, Selig issued a statement saying: “Given last night’s call and other recent events, I will examine our arbitration system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related functions.” .
In 2009, Selig had formed a 14-person special committee for matters in the field, including what to do with repetition. After Galarraga’s work, Selig recalls: “I was surprised at how aggressive the four managers were.” [on the committee] “, citing Tony La Russa specifically among Leyland, Mike Scioscia and Joe Torre.
At the January 2011 referee meetings, Joyce recalls that Selig stopped and Galarraga was part of his presentation to the members while the replay was discussed. A misguided call from referee Jerry Meals in July 2011 to end a 19-inning game added to the drive toward replay. By August 2013, MLB was comfortable with the technology and announced that it would greatly expand the replay to 2014, putting the right to challenge in the hands of the team. That led to the multiple monitor system, which, in unintended consequences, showed organizations that they could see the opposing receiver and their signals throughout the game, prompting the Astros to illegally use cameras to steal posters in time. real.
It was probably inevitable that MLB would be able to play again, but when Selig is asked what kind of stimulus Galarraga played to move him firmly against the concept and initiate a process that led to the system, he said, “Did it push us? Toward instant replay? I would say it was a factor along with many other things. “
Joyce is safer. Remember Selig’s presentation in January 2011, he heard his name and perceived the trajectory.
“I said at that time, after the meeting, that repetition was going to be instituted because I was the boy in the cartel. I said this will never happen to anyone again, “Joyce said.
Joyce, a major league referee since 1987, retired after the 2016 season. He lives outside of Beaverton, Oregon, with Kay. In the hallway outside the family room, Joyce has a framed Chicago Tribune photo of him and Galarraga on the plate the day after the worst night of his career. It is your daily reminder.
“It is part of my life,” said Joyce. “I’m attached to the hip with that.” A brilliant career came down to a time when he was wrong. Joyce calls it “my legacy”.
Galarraga had bad seasons in 2011 and ’12, he never managed to get out of the minors in 2013, he played in Taiwan in 2014 and in Mexico in 2015 and finished, they shot his elbow. Now residing in Austin, Texas, he still owns the Corvette and runs the Galarraga Baseball Academy. Oversees launch development programs for students ages 8-24. But it does more than that. He uses the moment that defines his major league career to tell the coaches how important it is to stay in control even in the worst moments on the field.
“I feel good,” said Galarraga. “We change baseball. What happened to me does not happen now due to repetition. In fact, I helped with what happened to me in the past. Of course, I wanted my perfect game. I would love to have things in Cooperstown that say I have a perfect game, but I’m happy with how we handle it. We are human beings. We had a good story for everyone who watched and how children can control emotions when things don’t go well.
“You know what, it’s a great story.”