Jim Joyce's Blown Call Makes Galarraga a True Winner

Frank Doyle | Updated Oct 04, 2017

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Frank Doyle looks back at the extraordinary events in Detroit last night, when a bad call in a ball game taught us about courage in adversity.

Every now and again something happens in sports that transcends the game itself to remind you why we spend so much time watching sports, playing sports, or betting on sports. All the hype and razzmatazz falls away and we see ourselves as we are, as we would like to be and the distance we all have to travel.

Last night in Comerica Park was one of those somethings.

You know the story by now. Botton of the ninth, two out, the count 1-1 against Cleveland’s Jason Donald. Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game. Donald swings, hits a grounder to Migeul Cabrera who throws to Galarraga covering first base for the out and the celebrations.

Except that first base umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe. No perfect game, no no-hitter no nothing.

Joyce quickly realised that enormity of what he had done. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” said the devastated Joyce afterwards. “I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.” Joyce has been an umpire for thirty-one years. He knows what this means only too well.

But the man who knows most what it means Armando Galarraga, the pitcher. And it’s his reaction that makes the moment transcendent.

Because Galarraga immediately forgave Joyce for denying Galarraga his place among baseball’s immortals.

“Nobody’s perfect, everybody’s human. I understand,” said Galarraga. “I give a lot of credit to the guy saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you because I really say I’m sorry.'”

What a man. What a reaction.

This is life. In life, bad stuff happens. And it happens to the best of people. We see it all the time as people who like sports betting. Bad beats happen, and they can happen a lot. It’s like Billy Clyde says in Dan Jenkins’ great football novel Semi-Tough: “that football just isn’t round. It’s going to bounce funny on you once and awhile.”

It bounced funny on Armando Galarraga last night. And he took it on the chin, like a man.

They used to say that you could never tell, looking at Johnny Unitas leaving the field, if the Colts had won or lost. Unitas was in different plane to that.

Galarraga won’t reach the same levels in baseball that Unitas reached in football, but last night he took Kipling’s advice. He looked on triumph and disaster, and treated those imposters just the same. And baseball and we all are better for it. Where-ever you stretch in the seventh inning tonight, raise your drinks for Armando Galarraga of the Tigers. He’s the true measure of a man.

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