“Fate! There is such a thing as fate, but it only takes you so far. Then it’s up to you to make it happen.”
It almost seemed inevitable when Austin Jackson made that Willie Mays like catch. Just like it had been when Dewayne Wise made that unbelievable catch in center field to preserve Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. When plays like that happen, it just seems like some higher power is working in the pitcher’s favor, and he has to get it.
Two perfect games had already been thrown during the 2010 season. It was the first time in the modern era that two had happened in one season–I thought it was remarkable enough that Dallas Braden’s and Mark Buehrle’s happened within a year of each other. Then Roy Halladay threw a perfect game less than a month later.
And in less than a week, another perfect game was at the brink of existence, on the tip of our tongues. It was quite literally one step away from the 21st page in baseball’s most prestigious, intangible textbook. Only a step.
“It would kill some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they’d consider it a tragedy.” That’s what Ray Kinsella says to Moonlight Graham, who appeared for one inning as a right fielder, but never got an at-bat in the Major Leagues.
This is what every pitcher dreams about: throwing a perfect game, baffling 27 batters in a row. Throwing a perfect game is a two way street though. Yes, the defense has to be flawless, but the umpires have to cooperate too.
When you explain the game of baseball to someone, you explain the rules: if you bunt foul with two strikes, you’re out; you can’t argue balls and strikes. You explain the significance of statistics, and you can tell the stories that were told to you that make this game so special.You explain the unwritten rules.
When a guy has a game going like Galarraga’s, umpires generally follow some unwritten rules. You call strikes that are close enough to the plate, and you make close calls in favor of the pitcher. That’s just the way it is. Jim Joyce did not; he made a mistake. This call was not as frivolous as whether or not a guy is safe or out at second: this was the 27th out of what would have been the 21st game in Major League history. This one blown call–one second of his life–will haunt him for the rest of his life.
This is where fate took Galarraga, and when fate betrayed him, he smiled. He didn’t go “George Brett” on the umpire. He remained completely composed and got the next out, without skipping a beat. There are guys who give up home runs who can’t find composure for the rest of the game. Galarraga was robbed of a dream that he probably will never come close to achieving again, and he remained more composed than I did.
Bud Selig did not overturn the call, and I agree with that. Baseball is a game played by humans, and humans are prone to error. Yes, this call changes baseball history forever, and of course it will heighten the debate of whether or not instant replay should be reinstated. That’s exactly why the call should not be overturned: the historical magnitude that it represents.
The legacy of this 28-out perfect game will transcend baseball’s history. Jim Joyce’s call gave Galarraga the most memorable performance in baseball’s history. Much as I would like to, I cannot name all 20 perfect games off the top of my head, but I guarantee that in fifty years, everyone will know what you’re talking about when you mention the name Armando Galarraga. Jim Joyce’s apology does not change the record book, but it certainly humanized the position of an umpire. Galarraga accepted the apology.
Anyone would have understood the opposite reaction, but Galarraga’s compassion and empathy set an example. This is why baseball is such a beautiful sport: sometimes what happens off the field goes beyond what happened on the field. When you think about the pine tar incident, you don’t remember right away that the call was overturned, you remember George Brett’s lividity. If this call had been overturned, in fifty years, the fact that it became a perfect game would not have been remembered–the game itself would have been. Everyone knows that Galarraga was flawless, but now everyone also has a taste of how Galarraga is as a man. As fans, we don’t get to see the human aspect in baseball often, but Galarraga gave us a very special glimpse.
No one is talking about Roy Halladay’s incredible feat anymore. A perfect game is the most elusive in baseball, but it has been done before. What happened between Galarraga and Joyce had never happened before. That is why the legacy of this game will live on in baseball’s history forever–I will make sure of it.
Armando Galarraga went beyond perfection, he went beyond baseball.