I don't need to explain what happened in the The Tigers game last night. The perfect game ruined by the very imperfect call has been the lead sports story all day, even on non-sports media outlets. The central theme in many cases has been the graceful way in which the everyone involved has handled the aftermath of the call.
This situation could have become tense, awkward and even violent. However, an ugly scene was avoided thanks to the commendable reactions of umpire Jim Joyce and the Tigers. First, Joyce realized he made the wrong call as soon as he saw the video after the game. Unlike many in modern society, he made no effort to deny or cover up or even to to make excuses for his egregious error. He was flat out wrong and that's what he told us. He also apologized to Armando in the clubhouse immediately after the game.
Galarraga never complained about the miscall and stayed calm throughout. In fact, any fan who saw the incident on television will never forget the look on his face seconds after it happened. While the rest of us were shocked and angry, he gave us a "That's life. What can you do"? smile. He then went back to business and got the final out to end the game.
Galarraga knew that Joyce's post-game apology was sincere, and noting his distress, he gave him a big hug. He knew that the umpire felt worse than anyone. In Galarraga's own words, "nobody is perfect". It was a very mature response from the 28-year-old pitcher.
Manager Jim Leyland, whose strength lies in his people skills, did not disappoint. He explained that Joyce is a good umpire who made a mistake. He reminded us that "umpires are human". Fans are human too. That's why he had Galarraga bring out the line-up card to Joyce this afternoon before the game. He wanted the fans to see the pitcher and the unpire making peace in public. It worked. While there was a smattering of boos, there were also cheers and the game went on without incident.
Everybody involved was both professional and compassionate and that has been recognized by the national media. As Joe Posnanski wrote, they taught us a lesson in how to deal with a bad situation. Instead of making things worse, they made them better and that is much appreciated.
However, many of us are still not over the disappointment of the lost perfect game. Sure, there have been two other perfect games in the past month but it's still a rare event. There have been only 20 perfect games in the majors and none in the 110 year history of the Tigers. Those of us watching the game saw a historic moment last night, only to have it snatched away immediately and needlessly. Instead of a celebration, we got a day of controversy.
This game is getting more attention than the recent perfect games thrown by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay. It may ultimately be remembered longer than any perfect game other than Don Larsen's World Series masterpiece. It may be the historic event that leads Major League Baseball to employ expanded instant replay, so no such injustice can occur again. We understand that some good may come from all this.
However, we don't want to talk about a bad call or how the event might change the way the game is officiated in the future. We can take some pride in the way out pitcher and manager responded but we didn't want it to come to that either.
We can say that "we know Galarraga pitched a perfect game and that's all that matters". It's not that simple though. Baseball is a game of records and we can't truly relish the game if it's not official. We just saw a perfect game but we really didn't. We want to savor a once in a lifetime baseball event but we can't.
We wish to discuss the details of Galarraga's outstanding performance. We want to remember Austin Jackson's magnificent catch and everything else that goes along with a memorable game like this. We try but all discourse leads back to "the call". We are left confused and frustrated and don't really know what to think.