DETROIT — It was the celebration for the perfect game that wasn’t. And even the umpire was included.
Armando Galarraga received multiple standing ovations — and a Chevrolet Corvette — at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon, 18 hours after his perfect game was upended by the umpire Jim Joyce’s incorrect safe call at first base on what should have been the last out of the game.
While Joyce initially was the target of a chorus of boos when his name was announced as the home-plate umpire for Thursday’s game, the cheers for Galarraga overrode them, and actually brought tears to Joyce’s eyes.
So did the pats, handshakes and kind words he received from members of the Tigers, led by Manager Jim Leyland, who repeatedly defended Joyce on Wednesday night and urged fans to be considerate. The atmosphere was the opposite of the loud, hostile reception he had expected, Joyce said after the game. “I didn’t think I would be able to hear myself out there,” he said. “I was waiting for it. I was ready to accept it.”The 55-year-old Joyce, who has been a major league umpire since 1989 and who readily admitted Wednesday night that he had blown the call, was visibly surprised after the game when told he had become a household name, the top trending topic on Twitter and a subject of discussion at the press briefing at the White House on Thursday.
“I didn’t want my 15 minutes of fame to be this; I’d rather be known for a great call at the World Series,” he said, adding that he had no interest in pursuing a book deal or other collateral benefits. “I hope my 15 minutes are over,” he said, although that is not likely to be the case.
He's likely to get drafted into politics after this. A guy who makes an error, mans up and admits it, and then receives love not only from the players involved in the call, but from most of the fans by the end of his next game?
You can watch the blown call over and over, but listen to this if you want to hear why Jim Joyce is such a great dude (it's from the presser he held after the game).
On the way in this morning, I heard a guy on ESPN radio muse on the courage it took for Joyce to even go to work yesterday and face the music. All you have to do is listen to the clip above and you'll know why: the dude loves the game of which he is a part. His willingness to accept the consequences of his actions ("I cost that kid a perfect game...he went out there and worked his ass off and I took it away from him") are astounding.
We can debate whether MLB should use replay in something other than home runs (me: yes) and whether Bud Selig should reverse the call (he won't, and should be the one apologizing, frankly). But I want to salute Joyce, his comrades (Blue) in arms, Leyland, Galarraga, and the Tigers fans in Detroit.
What could have devolved into something ugly turned into a real "teaching moment" regarding good sportsmanship and professionalism.