I may be the only baseball fan in America to feel this way, but I’m glad Jim Joyce blew that call.
So sorry to interrupt all the high-level discussions of expanded instant replay and the calls for historical re-writes from the commissioner, but I’ll say it again: I’m glad he blew the call.
At the risk of appearing crazier than a BP executive with a wetsuit and a giant cork, I’ll even go a step further: When Jim Joyce robbed Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of his 27th consecutive recorded out against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, it was one of the best things to happen to baseball in years.
The best thing for Galarraga? Clearly not. Never again will this career 21-18 pitcher sniff a perfect game. His place in baseball’s pantheon of immortals is gone forever.
The best thing for Joyce? No way. He will forever live with the guilty conscience that comes from knowing that his mistake cost a young pitcher his rightful place in history.
The best thing for fans? Well ... let’s talk about that.
Author Charles Swindoll is credited with saying, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it.”
What happened Wednesday night at Comerica Park the moment Joyce ruled Jason Donald safe, despite being clearly out by a half-step, was only 10 percent of the story — yet it’s getting 100 percent of the attention.
In the immediate aftermath of that event, the reaction from Tigers skipper Jim Leyland, along with Tigers players, fans and broadcasters covering the game was outrage. And it was completely understandable.
The immediate reaction from Joyce, being verbally accosted on the field by the entire city of Detroit, was defiance. Also understandable.
What happened next, however, beginning in the umpires’ clubhouse where Joyce was able to watch the replay of his call, was 90 percent of this story. And it was beautiful.
Fully aware that he had indeed blown the call, Joyce immediately went to Galarraga and offered him a tear-filled apology. He then went to the media and owned his mistake, offering as sincere a contrition as you’ll see in professional sports.
Galarraga, clearly moved by Joyce’s honesty and remorse, instantly moved from disappointment and frustration to acceptance and forgiveness.
Leyland, furious with Joyce only minutes earlier, sat before the media praising the umpire’s long career and outstanding reputation, and called for Tigers fans to applaud the veteran umpire before Thursday’s final game of the series.
Those fans, with a lynch-mob mentality the night before, responded to Leyland’s plea with a mild ovation Thursday afternoon that more than overcame a smattering of boos.
What we saw that night, and on Thursday when Leyland sent Galarraga to home plate with the lineup card where he and Joyce shared another tearful moment of mutual respect, was far more important than the third perfect game in a span of 23 days ever could have been. We saw humility, and humanity, on full display. We learned more about the people who play this game, those who manage the game, those who officiate the game and, yes, even those who watch the game.
Yes, I’m glad Jim Joyce blew a call that could have brought out the worst in us, because it instead brought out the best. I know this won’t give Galarraga much consolation, but I’m hoping he realizes that when he was robbed ... we were rewarded.
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.