DETROIT // Armando Galarraga sat in the Detroit Tigers locker room, bitter and lashing out at Jim Joyce, the first base umpire, for missing a call that cost him a perfect game. A few minutes later, an apology and a hug changed Galarraga's attitude. Joyce, in tears, asked for a chance to apologise after seeing a replay and realising he had blown the call with two out in the ninth inning of the Tigers' 3-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night.
He called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe at first, ending a streak of 26 batters retired by Galarraga - one short of a perfect game. "You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry'," Galarraga said. "He felt really bad." The play reignited the argument that Major League Baseball should expand their use of replays. At present, replays are used only on home runs.
It is rare for an umpire to acknowledge a mistake in a sport that relies heavily on the human eye, but Joyce did. "It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [stuff] out of it," Joyce said, looking distraught as he paced in the umpires' locker room. "I just cost that kid a perfect game." Jim Leyland, the Detroit manager, was livid after the play. He charged out of the dugout to argue the call and got in another heated discussion with Joyce after the final out. Later, though, Leyland tried to give Joyce a break.
"The players are human, the umpires are human, the managers are human," he said. Joyce has been a full-time major league umpire since 1989. He has been respected enough to be on the field for two World Series, 11 other play-off series and a pair of all-star games. But a split-second decision he made will probably haunt him for the rest of his career. Galarraga was vying for the third perfect game in the majors this year. He seemed to do his job for the 27th out, along with Miguel Cabrera, the first baseman, on a standard play.
Donald hit a grounder between first and second, Cabrera fielded it and threw to first, where Galarraga caught the ball at least a step ahead of Donald, replays showed. "I feel sad," Galarraga said. "I just watched the replay 20 times and there is no way you can call him safe." The Tigers huddled around one of the two big-screen televisions in their clubhouse, standing stoically and silently as the play was shown over and over.
Before leaving the field, many of the Tigers angrily let Joyce know how they felt. "Emotions were running high for everybody and I think that is why the guys were emotional after the game," Leyland said. "I wish we wouldn't have been, but we were. But I think it's understandable in that case. That's a pretty sacred thing, something like that." After Joyce's call, Galarraga quietly went back to work as the crowd booed. Cabrera continued to argue as Galarraga quickly retired Trevor Crowe for the final out and a one-hit shutout. "I don't blame them a bit for anything that was said," Joyce said. "I would've said it myself if I had been Galarraga. I would've been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me." * AP