x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Galarraga's imperfect game stands

An umpire's tears and admission that he blew a call failed to move Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, to award Armando Galarraga the perfect game he pitched.

Armando Galarraga, the Detroit Tigers pitcher, right, hands the line-up card to Jim Joyce, the umpire, before their game against the Cleveland Indians.
Armando Galarraga, the Detroit Tigers pitcher, right, hands the line-up card to Jim Joyce, the umpire, before their game against the Cleveland Indians.

NEW YORK // The imperfect game stands. An umpire's tears and admission that he blew a call failed to move Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, to award Armando Galarraga the perfect game he pitched. The play and its aftermath quickly became the talk of the sports world and beyond, even to the White House.

Selig said Major League Baseball will look at expanded replay and umpiring, but did not specifically address umpire Jim Joyce's botched call on Wednesday night that cost Galarraga the perfect game - 27 batters up, 27 batters down. No hits, no walks, no errors. A baseball official familiar with the decision confirmed to The Associated Press that the call was not being reversed. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because that element was not included in Selig's statement.

Joyce said he erred on what would have been the final out in Detroit, when he called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe at first base. The umpire personally apologised to Galarraga and hugged him after the Tigers' 3-0 win. Joyce was the home plate umpire on Thursday night, and Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager, picked Galarraga to present Detroit's line-up before the game to set up the emotional meeting with Joyce. They shook hands, and the umpire gave the pitcher a pat on the shoulder.

"I didn't want this to be my 15 minutes of fame. I would have liked my 15 minutes to be a great call in the World Series. Hopefully, my 15 minutes are over now," Joyce said. Bad calls are part of the mix in sports, but something about this one - the chance to right a wrong, the emotions of everyone involved - reached a new level. "I've got to say we'll never see it again in our lifetime," Joe Girardi, the New York Yankees manager said.

Joyce, a longtime umpire with a solid reputation, declined to comment on MLB's statement after Thursday's game, saying he hadn't read it. What Selig said was: "There is no dispute that last night's game should have ended differently." "There's no doubt he feels bad and terrible," Galarraga said. "I have a lot of respect for the man. It takes a lot to say you're sorry and to say in interviews he made a mistake. I'm sad, but I know that I pitched a perfect game. The first 28-out perfect game."

Denied the 21st perfect game in history, the record third this season and the first for a Detroit pitcher, Galarraga still got a prize. The Tigers and Chevrolet presented him with a new Corvette. Opinions poured in from all over, on both sides. "I was thinking if the umpire says he made a mistake on replay, I'd call it a no-hitter, perfect game. Just scratch it," Tony La Russa, the St Louis Cardinals manager, said. "If I was Mr Selig, in the best interest of the game, the guy got it and I'd give him his perfect game."

To others, rewriting sports history would open a Pandora's Box. "It's in the books and, unfortunately, that's the way it goes," Jim Qualter, a fan, said at Fenway Park in Boston. Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said: "I hope that baseball awards a perfect game to that pitcher." Told that MLB were not going to reverse it, he joked, "We're going to work on an executive order." Alyssa Milano, the actress, tweeted: "Personally, I agree with Selig on this one. Part of the game [as it is played now] is human error."

The umpire who made perhaps the most infamous call of all thought Selig got it right. Don Denkinger's missed call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series - like Wednesday night's play, it involved a pitcher covering first base - helped cost the Cardinals a chance to clinch it. St Louis later lost to the Kansas City Royals. "No, you can't change it," Denkinger told the AP in a telephone interview. "It was Jim's call, and it's got to go down that way. You can't run from it, it's a part of life."

* AP