Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Imperfect Perfect Game

Armando Gallaraga was a perfect gentleman about it. The Tigers' young pitcher threw a perfect game Wednesday night, a feat so rare that there have only been a couple dozen of them in the history of baseball. If you don't follow the sport, a perfect game means the pitcher retires all the opposing team's batters....27....with none of them reaching base.

In the top of the 9th with two outs and Cleveland's Jason Donald at bat - the 26 prior Indians' batters retired - Donald hit a weak grounder toward first. The first baseman scooped up the ball, and tossed it to the pitcher, young Armando Gallaraga, who caught the ball and stepped on first base before Donald got there. 27 outs; nobody got on base; perfect game.

Except for one thing.

First Base Umpire Jim Joyce signaled "safe". A stunned silence fell over Tiger Stadium. The Tigers salty old manager, Jim Leyland, rushed to first base and argued for his young pitcher. But, baseball is baseball. Umpires never change their call because somebody else saw the play differently.

The next batter grounded out and what will become known as baseball's most famous one-hitter was over.

To his credit, immediately after that, the ump went to the locker room and asked their assistant to cue up the play. And to his further credit, Joyce says he immediately realized he'd blown the call. He went to the Tigers locker room and apologized to Jim Leyland and to Armando Gallaraga. And then on the sports talk shows following the game, Joyce "manned up" and owned his mistake.

Doesn't change anything, but it was classy. Everybody involved was classy.

This morning, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm went live on a Detroit radio station (WJR-AM) and "issued a proclamation" setting aside the blown call and declaring it a perfect game.

One step remains. The Commissioner of Baseball, a strange man named Mr. Magoo, must act in the best interests of baseball and declare it to have been a perfect game. But many of the talking heads in sports say "slippery slope - nope - don't do it."

I think it would be a rare, decisive, and courageous thing to do.

But I don't think Mr. Magoo has it in him.

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