Missed call ends Galarraga's perfect bid
Tigers righty loses perfect game on 27th hitter
DETROIT -- To twist the famous newspaper lede, the imperfect call spoiled the perfect game Wednesday.
The Tigers were ready to celebrate when Indians shortstop Jason Donald grounded to first base with two outs in the ninth. Brandon Inge was jumping for joy. Don Kelly and Austin Jackson were rushing in from the outfield to join in the celebration that was sure. Gerald Laird and the rest of the Detroit dugout was readying to storm the field and mob pitcher Armando Galarraga.
One call from first-base umpire Jim Joyce changed history.
It was tough enough for the Tigers to believe. For Joyce, who made the safe call that broke up perfection in Detroit's one-hit, 3-0 win over Cleveland, it was heartbreaking. And as television replays showed, it was a mistake -- an honest mistake, as Joyce explained.
"It was the biggest call of my career," an emotional Joyce told reporters, "and I kicked it. I just cost that kid a perfect game."
Austin Jackson's over-the-shoulder catch seven pitches earlier for the first out of the ninth inning seemingly had taken care of the toughest play of the night, the toughest obstacle between Galarraga and history. Mike Redmond's routine ground ball for the second out put Galarraga on history's doorstep.
Exactly half of Galarraga's 26 outs at that point had come from ground balls. Donald's ground ball seemed just as routine as those, except for where it was hit, inside of first base. Miguel Cabrera felt he had a play and went for it, cutting in front of second baseman Carlos Guillen.
Galarraga darted to cover the bag. Donald, sensing a play, tried to beat him there. Controversy, it turns out, was close behind.
Joyce, a 22-year veteran umpire, watched the bang-bang play and went with what he felt he saw.
"I really thought he beat the ball," Joyce said. "At that time, I thought he beat the ball."
Replays told otherwise, showing Galarraga's right foot on the bag with the ball in his glove and Donald still lunging for the bag.
The Tigers felt like they had seen it that way from their vantage point, whether on the infield or from the third-base dugout. Replays backed up their story.
"You guys like me all watched the TV and saw the replays," Galarraga said, "and for any pitcher in any league anywhere, that was a perfect game. When you watch the replays, it was totally an out. There's no way he can call that safe. That's what made me sad. I can't help it. I really can't help it."
Nor could his teammates.
"That's not an easy play right there," catcher Gerald Laird said, "but I saw Miggy throw and [Galarraga] caught it. And honestly, I thought ... I don't know, I'm at a loss for words right now."
Once Joyce saw the replay, there wasn't much he could say, either. All he could do was admit that he made a mistake, to admit that umpires are human.
"After I heard from the Tigers, who had obviously seen a replay, I asked the guy in the [video] room to cue up the play as soon as we got in," Joyce said, "and I missed it from here to that wall.
"I had a great angle, and I missed the call."
The reactions ranged from heartbreak on the field to anger in the stands. A crowd of 17,738 sounded like double that as it booed Joyce.
Inge laid on the turf at Comerica Park like the Tigers had lost the game.
"I went to the ground," Inge said. "I literally went to the ground. I had my hands up in the air and then I went to the ground, without a doubt. Unbelievable."
Galarraga wanted to argue the call, but was stunned.
"I was in shock," he said. "I'm serious."
Leyland, who just a day earlier was talking about how he doesn't like to argue calls simply for the sake of arguing, went out to get an explanation.
"From my vantage point, if by chance Galarraga may have come off the bag or something, I thought that maybe was involved," Leyland said. "That was not involved. [Joyce] felt that [Donald] beat it. You have to accept that, and we do accept it. You don't like it tonight, but the season will go on. It's a shame, but that's part of the game."
Official scorer Chuck Klonke called the play a hit. Without an obvious bobble or mishandling of the ball, there was little else he could call. An error would've preserved the no-hitter, but there was nothing to suggest an error other than Joyce's call.
Galarraga finished out the game with another groundout, this one on Trevor Crowe, to complete the one-hit shutout. But as the Tigers went to the mound to congratulate Galarraga, a few of them took a detour towards Joyce. Laird and Jeremy Bonderman exchanged words with the umpire.
Once the anger subsided, sympathy followed, mainly for Galarraga, then, difficult as it seemed, for Joyce. As badly as Galarraga felt, there was the realization among some of how Joyce's miscue will linger in history.
Joyce felt badly enough about it that, long after the game was over, he asked to meet with Galarraga. It's an incredibly unusual move, but given the circumstances, it was understandable.
Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski brought Galarraga from the home clubhouse into the umpires' room.
"He asked if he could see Armando and I brought Armando in there," Dombrowski said, "and [Joyce] apologized profusely to him and he said he just felt terrible. They hugged each other and Armando said, 'I understand.'
"I feel terrible. I don't know why life works this way, but sometimes life just isn't fair for people. He's a good umpire."
Said Galarraga: "He understands. I give him a lot of credit for coming in and saying, 'Hey, I need to talk to you to say I'm sorry.' That doesn't happen. You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry.' He apologized to me and he felt really bad. He didn't even shower. He was in the same clothes. He gave me a couple hugs.
"I know nobody's perfect. What are you going to do? I was mad in the moment because I was nervous. I didn't know what to do. I was like celebrating. Then I looked at him."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.