What a Miscarriage of Sports Justice
Wednesday brought one of the gravest injustices in sports history.
A national television audience was treated to the final two suspenseful innings of a bid for a perfect game by the Detroit Tigers’ Armando Galarraga. The 28-year-old starter, a relative unknown who was recently called back up from the minor leagues, got through 26 batters unscathed.
With two outs in the ninth, Cleveland’s Jason Donald knocked a grounder of his own to first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Galarraga came over to cover the bag. The throw was on target and in time. But veteran umpire Jim Joyce inexplicably called Donald safe.
Replays quickly confirmed that Joyce had blown the call. The throw had beaten Donald by almost a full step.
The call not only robbed Galarraga of a once-in-a-career moment but also prevented an unprecedented historical milestone from being recognized. It would have been the third perfect game in less than a month, following the gems by Oakland’s Dallas Braden and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay. Only 20 pitchers in history have thrown perfect games at the major league level. The last time there were two in one season was in 1880.
It’s sickening to think what Joyce must be feeling. A major league ump since 1989, Joyce is respected by players and has an impeccable record. Now, right or wrong, he will forever be remembered for Wednesday’s heartbreaking debacle.
Galarraga and the Tigers deserve praise for the way they handled the situation. So does Joyce, for owning up to his mistake and apologizing — something that’s almost as rare as a perfect game in the world of umpiring.
Most disappointing is the lack of action by Commissioner Bud Selig. Already reviled by many fans for other reasons, he alone had the power to make things right by reversing the call. Even though he acknowledged that the ending of the game should have been different, he issued a vague statement indicating he would “examine” umpiring and the further use of instant replay.
What a balk.
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