Thursday, June 3, 2010

"I really thought he beat the throw."

People who don't follow sports just don't get it, they don't understand the passion, and what sports means to us. Maybe if they watched the end of the Cleveland Indians-Detroit Tigers game tonight then they'd understand why we wear our passion on our sleeves.

Human being makes mistakes every day, but when they happen in sports, there's nowhere to hide, just ask 23 year veteran umpire Jim Joyce, who kept a man from reaching perfection, baseball history, in Detroit, Michigan.

In the history of big league baseball 20 men have taken the mound in the first inning, and then left it after not allowing any of those 27 men to reach base safely...27 up, 27 down...perfection.

Armando Gallagara grasped the baseball in his glove, touched first base with his left foot, a 1/2 step or so before the base runner reached the bag, then started holding the baseball up for the umpire to see it in his glove, smiling as he waited for that out call...out number 27...waiting for perfection, 27 up, 27 down...but the call would not come.

Umpire Jim Joyce called the Cleveland Indians runner safe, even though he was clearly out, and what should have been the first Perfect Game in Detroit Tigers history, and the 21st in big league history, was turned into one of the worst blown calls in the history of baseball.

When Indians shortstop Jason Donald passed first base he spun around, put his hands on his helment, and then looked at his first base coach in utter disbelief...even he knew he was out.

Gallaraga, in the single greatest show of sportsmanship I've ever seen, just looked toward Joyce, smiling, not saying a word...not a single word.

The same couldn't be said for his manager, Jim Leyland, however, who bolted out of the dugout to protest the call, even though he knew he couldn't get the call reversed...that's not why he went out there...he went out there to back up his team, and his pitcher, who should have...heck, he was...perfect...27 up, 27 down, and even though Gallaraga retired the next hitter...28 up, 28 preserve a much needed victory, 3-0, Tigers fans at the ball park, and all over the country were hopping mad, and they should be. 

As Tigers color commentator Jim Price said after the game, every single fan in attendance at Comerica Park, every fan watching, or listening on the radio, they were all  robbed...robbed of being at a special place, at a special time...they were robbed of watching a Tiger ballplayer achieve big league baseball history.

After the game Joyce asked a Tigers employee to cue up the video tape...remember, he thought the runner had beaten the throw to first...then, in the second most remarkable show of sportsmanship I've ever seen, Joyce admitted that he blew the call. "I took a perfect game away from that kid who pitched a perfect game," Joyce said. "I'm sorry, I had a great angle, and I missed the call."

Human beings make mistakes, and one asks for forgiveness for those mistakes, and after pacing back and forth in the umpires room, trying to make sense of what he had done, the 23 year veteran umpire broke down as he headed for the shower. 

Upon hearing about what was going on with Joyce, Leyland, who had ripped into the man just a short while earlier,  went into the umpires room and consoled Joyce, and then,  after all the dust had settled, Joyce sought out Gallaraga to apologize to the young man, to tell him how sorry he was. 

Forgiveness for our mistakes is often not deserved, nor given, but on a night of near...of perfection...the one person who had every right to be upset, the one person who had every right not to forgive...did just that...Armando Gallaraga forgave Jim Joyce, just as we all should....after all, we're not all perfect, except Armando Gallaraga that is, he was perfect tonight...27 up, 27 matter what the official stats will show.

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