Im(perfect) game to stay that way
Posted: Friday, June 4, 2010 5:05 pm
By: By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The imperfect game stands.
An umpire’s tears and admission he blew a call failed to move baseball commissioner Bud Selig 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 reaching the White House.
Selig said Thursday that Major League Baseball will look at expanded replay and umpiring, but didn’t specifically address umpire Jim Joyce’s botched call 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’ve been the final out in Detroit, when he called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe at first base. The umpire personally apologized to Galarraga and hugged him after the Tigers’ 3-0 win, then took the field at Comerica Park on Thursday in tears.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland picked Galarraga to present Detroit’s lineup at home plate before Thursday’s 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, witness the many mistakes last October in baseball’s postseason. But something about this one — the chance to right a wrong, the heartfelt emotions of everyone involved — reached way past the lines.
“I’ve got to say we’ll never see it again in our lifetime,” New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Galarraga, who was barely known outside Detroit before this week, and Joyce, whose career had flourished in relative obscurity, became hot topics on Twitter.
At least one anti-Joyce Facebook page popped up and firejimjoyce.com was launched. Wikipedia blocked editing to the umpire’s page.
Joyce, a longtime ump with a solid reputation, declined 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 after Detroit beat Cleveland 12-6 on Thursday. “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,” he said.
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,” St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday night. “If I was Mr. Selig, in the best interest of the game, the guy got it and I’d give him his perfect game.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “I hope that baseball awards a perfect game to that pitcher.” Told that MLB was not going to reverse it, he joked, “We’re going to work on an executive order.”
Gibbs praised the way Galarraga and Joyce reacted to a play that will define their careers.
“I think it’s tremendously heartening to see somebody understand that they made a mistake and somebody accept the apology from somebody who made that mistake,” he said. “I think that’s a good lesson in baseball. It’s probably a good lesson in Washington.”
Tweeted actress Alyssa Milano: “Personally, I agree with Selig on this one. Part of the game (as it is played now) is human error.”
Selig regularly consults some of baseball’s greatest players, such as Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, before making big decisions. Other senior officials and advisers also have input.
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,” he said.
In 1991, a panel headed by then-commissioner Fay Vincent took a look at the record book and decided to throw out 50 no-hitters for various reasons. None of them, however, involved changing calls made on the field.
The NFL, NBA, NHL and the NCAA all employed some form of replay before baseball started trying it late in the 2008 season, limiting its use to questionable home run calls.
On Wednesday night, hockey twice turned to replay to review possible goals in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.
“Baseball being traditionalists, I guess they don’t want to go that way, and that’s fine by me. For us, it works out great,” Chicago Blackhawks center John Madden said.
Added Philadelphia goaltender Michael Leighton: “Obviously, baseball’s wishing they had it and the guy in Detroit wishes they had it.”
Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia was among those who opposed additional replay in the majors.
“I think there’s too many plays that are close that could possibly be up for review, and I think it would become dysfunctional,” he said.
Soccer remains the biggest sport that wants no part of replay, which could become a focal point when the World Cup starts in South Africa later this month — a tournament that will feature France and not Ireland because of a missed call.
French superstar Thierry Henry touched the ball with his left hand and arm before passing for to score the decisive goal in a playoff last November against the Irish.
FIFA said it could not review referees’ decisions and declined to use replay in the wake of the hand ball.
Replay is a popular part of Grand Slam tennis, and the man who designed the Hawk-Eye system said it could work in baseball, too.
“All decisions in baseball could be resolved definitively and accurately without causing delay to the game,” Paul Hawkins wrote from Britain in an e-mail to the AP.
“In my view, the main benefit of using technology in sport is that you want the story after the match to be about the contest and the players, not about the officials,” he said. “If you want to make artificial stories out of ‘creating controversy,’ then you don’t have much faith in the sport.”
To Hawkins, there are several challenges to a sport deciding to rely more on electronic — and not human — eyes.
“Most governing bodies are made up of former players and do not have anyone with a technical knowledge to have an understanding of what is technically possible,” he said.