Ten Years Ago Today a Blown Call Cost Armando Galarraga a Perfect Game
It was ten years ago today (June 2nd, 2010) that Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had his perfect game taken away from him because of a blown call by first base umpire Jim Joyce (pictured with Galarraga above at the 2010 ESPY Awards).
There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Tigers were hosting their American League Central Division rival Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park.
The only other time I was this close to witnessing a perfect game (either on TV or in person) was on April 15th, 1983 (I was eight years old watching on TV). That was when Tigers pitcher Milt Wilcox retired the first 26 Chicago White Sox batters he faced before Jerry Hairston, Sr. sent a clean single through the infield at old Comiskey Park to break up the perfect game. I was crushed when the ball got through (the Tigers won that game 6-0).
So Cleveland's Jason Donald was at the plate. And with an 1-1 count on him, Donald sent a bouncer towards Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Miggy, moving to his right (away from the bag), fielded it cleanly and flipped the ball towards the covering Galarraga at first. First base umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Donald safe. Cabrera was in disbelief, Donald was in disbelief, and the nearly 18,000 people in Comerica Park were in disbelief. Galarraga just smiled.
I was watching the ninth inning here at the radio station (I was here doing production work in another studio, but following the game on the web). I went into the break room to watch the ninth inning. And it looked like that Galarraga would lose his perfecto when Indians infielder Mark Grudzielanek hit a deep fly ball to left center field, but Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson flagged it down near the wall for the first out of the inning. After retiring catcher Mike Redmond on a grounder up stepped Donald. And when Joyce called Donald safe, I originally thought it was a close play (close enough to give the umpire the benefit of the doubt).
But after the replay was shown and it was obvious that Donald should've been called out, that's when I got upset. This umpire (Jim Joyce) blew a call that cost a journeyman pitcher a piece of immortality. I was so crushed just like I was back in 1983 for Wilcox's near perfect game. Armando regrouped and retired Trevor Crowe to finish off the 3-0 shutout victory. And immediately after the game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland ran to Joyce and CHEWED HIM OUT for missing the call.
To his credit, Joyce admitted after the game that he, in his words, "kicked a call" that cost Galarraga the perfect game. Before next afternoon's game against Cleveland, Galarraga presented the lineup card to Jim Joyce (who was the home plate umpire the next day), you could clearly see that Joyce was in tears when Armando exchanged the lineup cards. In my opinion, it was this call (and a few others) that convinced Major League Baseball to use instant replay to correct obvious mistakes by the umpires.
And BTW, Armando Galarraga did achieve immortality. He had the first 28 batter perfect game in MLB history. No one who ever watched it that night will ever forget it.