MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

By:  Kurt Snyder

I guess they thought we couldn’t wait.

Next month, we will celebrate 10 years since the ‘almost perfect’ game.

So, why are we talking about it now? Well, FSD has done their best to keep us watching, even without the game. All we have seen over the last couple months are big game replays.

The Detroit Tiger Baseball Classics.

And it’s been fun. Or as fun as it can be.

We have all seen them. The 1968 World Series Game 7. The 1984 World Series Game 5. Mark Fidrych’s victory over the Yanks in 1976 on Monday Night Baseball. Jack Morris’ no-hitter over the White Sox in 1984. Even Matthew Boyd’s 1-hitter from 2017.

And just this past week, Armando Galarraga’s ‘imperfect game’ found its way onto the airwaves.

Ok! If you are going to shove it back in front of us, let’s talk about it. Because the call that stole a perfect game was not as cut and dried as it may have seemed.


We all remember the scenario. On June 10, 2010, Galarraga retired the first 26 Cleveland Indians he faced. The 27th hitter, Jason Donald, hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield, to Miguel Cabrera’s right. Miggy grabbed it and threw to a covering Galarraga at first base.

Donald was clearly out. Or was he? Jim Joyce, the umpire behind first base, said no. Donald was safe.

The perfect game was gone. The no-hitter was gone. But as we all know, what we had witnessed was the game’s first 28-out perfect game.

We all knew it. So what was Jim Joyce thinking?   Well, have you ever heard the theory?

When it comes to the senses, umpires behind the bases and specifically first base, generally use more than just their eyes to make a call.

Close plays demand more than just your eyes. They demand your ears, too. While umps watch the play, they are also listening.

They listen for the thrown ball hitting the glove and they listen for the runner’s foot hitting the bag. And together, they ought to be able to make the correct call most of the time.

OK, well, so what? Are you saying Joyce couldn’t hear the ball hit the glove before Donald hit the bag?

Well, probably not. You see, when Armando fielded the throw from Miggy, he didn’t catch the ball clean. There was no pop into the back of the glove. Galarraga caught the ball at the end of the webbing, the proverbial ‘snow cone’, before the ball rolled into the pocket.

Is it a stretch? Maybe, but certainly something to consider when wondering why Joyce missed the call. He said he was sure that Donald beat it.

Why?

The catch, no doubt, made little or no sound. As a result, it could have been that Joyce heard only Donald’s foot hit the bag and immediately called him safe.


So here we are almost 10 years later, talking about it all over again. It was by far the highlight of Galarraga’s career. And at the same time, one of the most controversial outcomes of any game you can remember.

But what if we had instant replay in 2010? Well, of course, we wouldn’t be talking about a controversy right now.

We would be talking about a perfect game.

We would be talking about how Armando was like a surgeon carving up the Indians lineup. We would be talking more about the incredible catch that Austin Jackson made in centerfield to keep the perfect game alive in the ninth inning.

We would be talking about a perfect game. Or would we?

You see, even with instant replay, calls in baseball have still been screwed up. Even with the greatest of all tools, the game is still struggling with getting calls right.

So let’s take a look at the play again. If that game was played today, with instant replay, could the call still have been screwed up? Could Donald still have been called safe?

My first answer is no. My second answer is yes, because so many seemingly obvious calls have been screwed up both before and after reviewing instant replay.

So look at the play and contemplate what is considered when a close play at first base is further reviewed. Can’t you hear the play-by-play guy saying something like this: ‘Remember, it’s not when the ball reaches the glove, but when the ball hits the back of the glove’ that’s important.

Now take that requirement and look at the play again.

There is probably a second from when Galarraga caught the ball at the end of his glove to when it reached the pocket.

Imagine how many times we would have seen the replay. And how many angles. Imagine if the play was too close to call.

Would the league office and the umps have the guts to call Donald safe?

We will never know. Thank God.


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32 thoughts on “MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

  1. I still get ill when I think about that call. He was out, and it seemed the “safe” call shocked everyone on the field. Remember the look on Galaragga’s face? I’ll never understand how that could have happened.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Had I been at first base umpiring that night, I would have decided before that fateful pitch had even been thrown that in the event of any photo-finish play at first place, I would perform a Ron Luciano impression and throw that runner out in a highly dramatic fashion. Who would argue? Thank Jim Joyce for being the father of the Instant Replay.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. But for Jim Joyce’s massive blunder, Galarraga would have been the first Detroit Tiger pitcher to have pitched a perfect game. It also would have been just the 24th perfect game in Major League history. What Joyce may, or may not have heard is not relevant. Everyone who saw the play knew the Cleveland runner was out. The play was not even close. For his effort that evening, Galarraga deserved minimal competence from Jim Joyce.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. It wasn’t the call or the game itself, it was what came after. Jim Joyce looked at the replay after the game and, in true humility, indicated he was wrong. When does an umpire do that? When that got back to Galarraga he replied, “No one was perfect tonight.” Tongue-in-cheek yes, but not blatantly disrespectful. Overall, this game taught more about grace and how you treat people and I could not see that kind of response today.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Yep. It is my understanding that Jim Joyce shed a tear or two when he went in and watched the replay of the call. He came right out and said he made the wrong call. Few games I have watched in my life hurt more than that one.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. I was watching it and I thought he was out. I also think a ball caught in the webbing is caught, period. I think I remember Galarraga got a Corvette out of it. And isn’t he in the Hall of Fame too?

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  6. My wife and I watched that game and I guess we felt afterwards that the Baseball Gods would make it up to Armando and he would go on to have a long career with many highlights. But alas, after the 2012 season he was gone from the Big Leagues. Was it that one call that changed his trajectory? Was his performance up to that point an aberration and, regardless of the call, he would have been out of the Big Leagues after two years anyway? We’ll never know.

    Liked by 2 people

    • An interesting, question, Sprocket, which sent me on a perusal of Armando’s career stats. My sense is that he was not fated for an illustrious career, Jim Joyce or not. He just didn’t miss enough bats, never striking out more than six per nine innings. He only struck out three in his “perfect” game–the “at-’em” ball was working big time.

      Liked by 2 people

      • You are probably correct. I am aware of his stats but was thinking that if that game could have ended perfect, that may have spurred him on to be another Sandy Koufax. Someone who went from being mediocre for years to brilliance. You have to admit, Armando was brilliant for that one game. Probably should have been a big confidence builder either way.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sprocket, Koufax always had overpowering stuff, but couldn’t throw strikes. Armando never had nothing resembling an unhittable out pitch, and came to the majors already equipped with extraordinary control, although it suffered in subsequent seasons. I’m not sure I see how they are comparable.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Nocynic – I catch your drift, but I was just trying to say that “hope” applies to everyone, in every endeavor.
        I am sure Sandy and his wife were “hoping” he would turn things around after those first 5 years, and we were hoping the same for Armando. I picked Sandy out of the hat because he was an easy one to remember. Yikes!! I’m glad Kurt is getting a kick out of this. Ha!

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  7. Bizarrely, Galarraga probably achieved more notoriety (or, as we like to call it in baseball, “immortality”) because of the blown call. The perfect game would have placed him in a class of 24, but Jim Joyce made him one of a kind. I cannot recall a lot of guys who threw perfect games, but none of us will ever forget Armando.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It was the franchise’s first perfect game and it was stolen from us. I’d much rather have that honor than remembering the shameful ending to this game. I have person thoughts regarding Jim Joyce “decision” to the end of that game, but won’t rant about them here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I won’t disagree. Still, in baseball as a whole, outside of the Tigers community, Galarraga will be far more widely remembered because of Jim Joyce; I try to take some comfort in that.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. What stands out in my mind is the grace which Galarraga responded with when he reacted to the blown call. Everyone knew that Joyce obviously blew it, and cheated him out of an enormous accomplishment, yet Galarraga handled the outcome with unbelievable respect and patience.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Good observation. And while he has taken some richly deserved, shots on this site, Leyland handled it with admirable grace as well. Armando taking the scorecard out to Joyce the next day was a moment I will always cherish, especially now when we are not always seeing humanity at its best.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Instant replay would definitely have reversed the call. Every single person who saw the replay said Donald was out, including Jim Joyce and Jason Donald..

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I still think it would have been a cleaner play if Miggy stayed home and let Carlos Guillen at 2B charge the ball and make the play. Then you have the throw going to a stationary 1B rather than a pitcher running to the bag. Less for Joyce to look at that way.

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  11. Concerning the ’27’th out, I have two observations. One, watch Jason Donald’s reaction after the safe call is made. It is a look of disbelief and you can tell even he thought he was out as he raises his hands to his head. Two, after the ’28’th out and the game is over, some of the Tigers, including Jim Leyland, accosted Joyce as he tried to leave the field. Yes they were upset but some of the Tigers had to be physically pulled away from Joyce. Not a good look.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. One thing that may not be well known about Jim Joyce, is that he was a very good pitcher back in High School for Toledo Central Catholic HS in the 1970’s. They were our Private School rivals. He then went on to pitch for Bowling Green University with Orel Hershiser (if I remember correctly) before transitioning into Umpiring.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. The mistake would be understandable if the call was close, but it was evident to EVERYONE Donald was out by more than a couple of steps. Why can’t umpires consult with each other like football refs? Also, why isn’t a video of the play in the Hall of Fame with a special notation of baseball’s only PERFECT 28-out game?

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    • David, I am all for anything that will get another one of the players for the Mud Hen’s Parent Company recognized by the HOF !

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    • I always like this type of comment. Simply not true but….. He was out by less than a step, the ball was not actually “caught” until it settled into the glove. Hitting the webbing is not and never will be a catch if the ball proceeds to go further into the “pocket” area. Just simple facts. This call was no worse than the Miggy catch at 1B in JV’s no-no in Toronto. He never actually “caught” the ball until he was off 1st base. Just saying, hammer away.

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    • It was a very close call David but I agree, and was screaming as such back then, that the umps should have had the option of getting together to discuss the play. How could that have taken any longer than some of the video reviews take now? How did those umps feel when they saw the slow-motion video replay on the big screen in the park and knew they were handcuffed? Must have been really hard.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. JJ was a great Ump. He screwed up and the mlb history books are void due to it. Lore such as this is equal in value. To err is human. To err in baseball IS the stuff of baseball – makes the officially accounted accomplishments all the sweeter.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Whenever I see a pitcher come off the mound to field the ball I hold my breath. Too many bad things happen. They all accurately throw 90+ mph to the catcher but when it comes to throwing to first it gets creative. Running to cover first often turns into a circus play. So when I saw Galarraga take off to cover first I had a sinking feeling. And we all know what happened next.

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    • Yes, we know what happened, Miggy made a terrible attempt at a play, plain-and-simple, but you can’t blame the HoF player.

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  16. It was that perfect moment in time that Gallaraga came so close to going into the record books. I remember it very vividly and when I saw the safe sign I started hitting the chair I was sitting in and swearing loudly as well as I’m sure most of the crowd, thank god for instant replay, was JJ the crew chief that night? If not some other ump should have came over and pointed out his bad call and reversed the play as Cher sang “If I could turn back time”

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