It’s still just a game


What would happen if real issues got people as worked up as a baseball game?

You know by now that an umpire cost a pitcher — who most people had never heard of — a perfect game last night when he blew a call at first, declaring a runner safe who was clearly out.

A rising chorus has called for baseball commissioner Bud Selig to overturn the call and declare it a perfect game. Even a U.S. senator — rumor has it there are more important problems facing the U.S. Senate than baseball games — called for action.

“Last night’s performance deserves its place in the record books,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in a statement. “It is clear that Commissioner Selig should make an exception in this case and invoke the ‘best interests of the game clause’ to grant a perfect game to Armando Galarraga and the Detroit Tigers organization.”

(Update: A Michigan congressman has introduced a resolution in Congress over the incident, too)

The governor of Michigan says she’ll issue a proclamation that Armando Galarraga did pitch a perfect game. Perhaps she’ll follow that up by declaring that Michigan’s unemployment rate isn’t really 14.9%.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig considered all of this and today decided not to overturn the umpire’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the umpire who is the target of the pitchforks, has been giving everyone a lesson far more meaningful than any baseball statistic — how to own up to a mistake and take responsibility for it.

Let’s see a politician — any politician — approach this kind of honesty:

(Video link)

Today in Detroit, pitcher Galarraga was given the honor of taking the lineups to home plate before today’s game, where Joyce was waiting. In tears:


… which forces us to acknowledge how much the game has changed.

But back to our story. The umpire’s son reported on his Facebook page that his father has received death threats. “This isn’t surprising, considering he deserves to be killed,” a commenter said.

[Update 12/8/15] – Galarraga has announced his retirement from baseball. Jim Joyce is still an umpire. In 2012, he saved the life of a woman when he performed CPR on a fan having a heart attack at Chase Field.

  • Lesli in Minneapolis

    A colleague made an interesting observation over lunch today. What if the ump had made the bad call on the first play of the game? Would he have needed to apologize? Would it even be a story?

  • Bob Collins

    Same scenario I was kicking around. Whether after making the tremendous over-the-shoulder catch earlier, the centerfield had dropped the ball while transferring it to his throwing hand and the ump had ruled he dropped the ball?

    In the end, this is baseball. A perfect game means a lot BECAUSE you overcome all the challenges to throw one. If that means a bad call, then that means a bad call.

    Plus, he wasn’t pitching against an actual big-league team so it wouldn’t have counted anyway.

  • Xopher

    @Bob: He wasn’t pitching for one either. Detroit has 39 errors this season. (3 times the number the Twins have committed.)

  • Jake K

    Maybe he should have got his butt over to 1st sooner. Then it wouldn’t have been such a close call.

    The politicians should just shut up and get back to work too.

  • Sam

    Lost in all this is the fact that Jim Joyce is one of the more universally respected umps in MLB, and renowned for his consistency behind the plate. The fact that you don’t hear his name come up in the sports media anywhere near as often as guys like Joe West and Laz Diaz is testament to that. No surprise that he owned up to this awful mistake in the humblest way he could think of.

    It’s just sad that so many see a simple human error as an excuse to either pile on or further their own sad careers. Exhibit A: Sid Hartman is prominently featured on the Strib’s website tonight calling Joyce a “stupid imbecile” who should be suspended for the rest of the season. By that standard, for how long should Sid be suspended from his job for the umpteen thousand stories he’s gotten dead wrong over the decades?

  • Noelle

    I don’t think the call should be overturned. This is what you deal with in baseball; we let it go when Joe Mauer’s hit was clearly fair in last year’s postseason game, but the ump called it foul. There are much larger issues out there to be addressed in the news other than this, in my opinion.

  • Noelle

    (No offense Bob – I appreciate your coverage of Joyce’s reaction to all the animosity)

  • BJ

    Jim Joyce talking about it is very hard to listen to. He is clearly upset he missed it.

  • kennedy

    Everyoner should take a cue from the two people most directly involved and affected by this. Both the pitcher and the umpire have handled this as gracefully as could be expected. The people driving this into conflict are merely observers and bystanders freely spouting their opinions.

  • John P.

    “What would happen if real issues got people as worked up as a baseball game?”

    But they do! Think of the Tea baggers, Glenn Beck, Rush, Keith Olberman, and the various demonstrators for any cause you can name.

  • Bob Collins

    I meant normal people, not people who are paid for their outrage.