"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

More than Perfect

“I don’t want to make it sappy and say it was love,” Jim Joyce said about the reception he got today at Comerica Park. “But the support I got was just … love.”

Baseball brings us together. It’s a truism that can smack of cliche when invoked in a sentimental or nostalgic frame of mind, but it’s true all the same. And sometimes the game chokes up even the tough guys and the cynics. (When I worked as an intern on Ken Burns’ “Baseball,” I discovered how Burns loved to see his audience cry, especially the tough guys.  “We got tears,” he’d say triumphantly.)

This togetherness is why I chose to write about baseball (and about being a baseball fan) when I started this blog seven-and-a-half years ago. That’s why most of you guys roll through. That’s what we do. Today at work, people that could not care less about baseball were talking about the umpire’s blown call. “WORST CALL EVER” said the headline on the front page of the Daily News. There is nothing like injustice to bring people together, nothing more binding than “He wuz robbed!”

But a funny thing happened on the way to infamy. The two principal characters displayed such authenticity that the moment of greatness prevailed despite Joyce’s terrible mistake. It started with Galarraga, who has been just beautiful. He’s got that vaguely European handsomeness, like his countryman Francisco Cervelli. He looks at people in the eye when he talks to them. I saw a handful of interviews with Galarraga last night and then again this evening and he seemed unfazed by Joyce’s error. He knew what he’d done out there on the field and was still riding the high of that accomplishment. He told the writers that they saw it too.

Everybody knows he got a perfect game. It really doesn’t matter what the record books say. That’s the beauty part. Bud Selig didn’t need to overrule anything.

Galarraga was so at ease with this basic fact that it stripped the drama of a victim. There was no outlet for any outrage. (Now, if the same thing had happened to a jacked-up spaz like Dallas Braden and a hard-nosed blowhard like Joe West it would have been like Wrestlemania and perhaps one of the trashiest scenes since Disco Demolition Night.) But Galarraga didn’t feel persecuted. He felt badly for Joyce. He knew the guy was hurting. After all, it’s got to be every umpire’s worst dream to blow a call of that magnitude. Galarraga didn’t let it ruin anything.

Then of course, Jim Joyce handled himself in such a way that I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that he’s a credit to his profession and to the game. We should all be that forthright, earnest, and professional in face of screwing the pooch. The umpires have been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, but in what is clearly the biggest mistake by an umpire in years, Joyce was a full-grown man. He didn’t hide. He admitted that he was wrong. He was genuine. I don’t know what more can you ask from a person.

Jim Leyland said as much today. If Joyce had been defiant and arrogant the Tigers’ reaction would have been much different. But Joyce and Galarraga defused a potentially ugly situation and turned it on its head. This isn’t John Hirschbeck and Robbie Alomar patching things up after their dispute; this was unscripted, which is why it is so compelling. The players may be more removed than ever from us these days but this was something we could feel and understand. It was respect and compassion. Joyce and Galarraga will be linked like Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson, signing autographs together for the rest of their lives.

MLB gave Joyce the option not to work today but he insisted. When the umpires walked onto the field, single-file, Joyce was crying. It was a humbling sight. I shivered trying to imagine myself in a similar spot. Joyce continued to tear-up as the line-up cards were exchanged. The Tigers sent out Galarraga, who stood next to Joyce. They didn’t embrace, but shook hands. Joyce eventually collected himself, and pounded the pitcher in the shoulder. The rest of the umpiring team gave him a bump on the chest and he nodded back, his chin tucked in, eyes still red. Then it was time to go to work.

It was a guy thing and it was a beautiful thing. And it’s why we’ll remember these guys forever. That game last night was transcendent and it brought out the best in these two men. It reminds us that greatness is about much more than being perfect.

[Photo Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya]


1 mrm1970   ~  Jun 3, 2010 9:27 pm

Talk about life in the historical vacuum. The worst call ever took place on September 23, 1908. I'm pretty sure that's not subject to dispute.

2 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 3, 2010 9:28 pm

Excellently put. I was thinking about it today, last night we could've seen a perfect game, which in and of itself is a great accomplishment but hardly something we've never seen before (or in the past month for that matter). Instead we ended up getting a lesson in humility, sportsmanship, and forgiveness by two guys who can honestly and without sarcasm be labeled "Role Models." All in all not a bad trade-off.

Also, there is nothing at all shocking about the revelation that Ken Burns actively tries to get his audience to cry.

3 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 3, 2010 9:35 pm

Well put Alex, though this sentence confused me "and perhaps one of the trashiest scenes since Disco Demolision Night or when Doc Ellis threw the no-hitter on acid."

Disco Demolition Night I get, but Doc Ellis's no-hitter?

How was that trashy? Nobody even knew about it until years later ...

4 OldYanksFan   ~  Jun 3, 2010 9:41 pm

As we've come to expect, just excellent writing Alex. Really excellent.

I'm a bit surpised how big this story has beconme, even outside of the traditional baseball community. 'Morning Joe' on MSNBC spent some time on this. The show following also spent time on the story. And Keith Olbermann of 'Countdown' made it their #1 story, with guests Ken Burns and the Governor of Michigan, who officially 'proclaimed' the game a Perfect Game. And Keiths 'Worst Person in the World'? Our good friend, Bud Selig.

I'm actually feeling Bud WILL overturn this and declare a Perfect Game. Even the moron that is Bud, will eventually 'get it'.
For whatever reason, this story is bigger then Baseball.

5 RIYank   ~  Jun 3, 2010 9:44 pm

Very nice, Alex. You reached back for a little extra on this one yourself, didn't you?

6 a.O   ~  Jun 3, 2010 9:50 pm

Bud needs to do bis job and reverse the call.

7 Mattpat11   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:04 pm

Then of course, Jim Joyce handled himself in such a way that I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that he’s a credit to his profession and to the game.

You know, I'll take good over gentlemanly. And I'm not sure that Joyce's reaction in the immediate aftermath of the blown call was all that gentlemanly either.

8 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:06 pm

3) Yeah, the Doc Ellis thing is a a stretch. I guess I mean just absurd and crazy. I think I'll remove it though, I wasn't sure about it and if you noticed it as sticking out, that means it shouldn't be there. Thanks, good call.

5) Well, this one really gripped me today. I don't usually feel compelled to have a "take" on a big story but this one really moved me. It's kind of easy in a way when a story touches you. I try not to be maudlin but there is a difference between emotion and sentiment and being a cheeseball. I don't care for being overly sappy but I am as much of an emotional, blubbering sensitive new age guy as you'll find. LOL

9 OldYanksFan   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:13 pm

"Blubbering sensitive new age guy..."
We can use this in the future, yes?

10 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:14 pm

Bud Selig is Keith Olbermann's Worst Person in the World for today:


11 Mattpat11   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:17 pm

[10] Then I have to assume Bud did the right thing.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:22 pm

9) Got to call a spade a spade. SURE!

13 Mattpat11   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:29 pm

[11] I feel dirty

14 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 3, 2010 10:38 pm

This was one of those times where I wish I was a parent. Seems like there are so many teachable moments here.

15 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 3, 2010 11:00 pm


You could teach Mo Green ... or Emily :-)

16 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 3, 2010 11:01 pm

14) Moe Green don't listen to nobody, least of all me.

LOL (Screwball cat.)

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 3, 2010 11:01 pm

In much lighter news ... I just got back from the Bee ...
Finished in 6th place out of 27. Made it to 6th round. Last woman standing. Tripped up on NBAer I've never heard of.

Names spelled (in caps): david CARR, DARRELLE revis, Frank CATALANOTTO, wally SZCZERBIAK, dave DEBUSSCHERE .... missed on ... Kelenna AZUBUIKE.

Winning word: JENRRY.(mejia)

18 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 3, 2010 11:03 pm

[14] There's a couple of "teachable" moments here as well

A night of partying with two women at a bar and in his Tampa, Florida, hotel room allegedly cost the Staten Island Yankees pitching coach his $10,000 World Series championship ring and two cell phones—one which was issued by the Yankees.

Patrick (Pat) Daneker, 34, reported the items missing around 4 a.m. on May 30, said Tampa police.

According to police, Daneker, who has been the Baby Bombers’ pitching coach since 2008, was having drinks with at the Blue Martini Bar with another coach, Carlos Chantres. Chantres, who was the Staten Island squad’s pitching coach in 2006, most recently served in 2009 as pitching coach for the Tampa-based Gulf Coast Yankees in the Rookie League.

As cops tell it, the two men met two young women, whom Chantres allegedly knew, at the bar.

They had drinks, and the women, who were wearing “short mini skirts,” wound up with Daneker at his Holiday Inn Express hotel room.

The hotel clerk told police that Daneker and the women arrived in white taxi van around 3 a.m. Daneker then got money from the hotel ATM.

Daneker, who was “extremely intoxicated,” told police he and the women “mess[ed] around.” Afterward, he had a lapse in memory and couldn’t recall what happened. The Cherry Hill, N.J., resident also told police he didn’t remember going to the ATM.

The clerk told cops the women left the motel around 3:15 a.m. without Daneker.

19 cult of basebaal   ~  Jun 3, 2010 11:04 pm

[17] Well done Diane!



20 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 3, 2010 11:07 pm


6th Round?!?! That's amazing. Represent, Represent!

Shoot your guns in the air! Er, or something like that.

WHOO HOO!!!!!!

21 thelarmis   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:07 am

[17] congrats, diane - good work! : )

22 NYYfan22   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:45 am

firstly, Firstman... CONGRATS! That's awesome!

[0] good writin, AB. Love it. I read it to my wife, and she said she still thinks Selig should overturn the call, and declare him the 21st perfecto, We talked awhile, and agree that there will never be a missed call or perfect game discussion again where this game isn't brought up. I challenged her to name the 20 pitchers. She got like 3 and I came up with 6. No one will ever forget this, though. For decades, dads will tell their sons about the game where the 27th out was denied on a bad call. Poetic.

23 NYYfan22   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:45 am


24 NYYfan22   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:50 am

also, did Jim Joyce bye Galarrage a Corvette? what gives?

25 NYYfan22   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:50 am

[24] grrrrr... I'm such a grammar-Nazi, too. Of course I meant "buy".

26 a.O   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:52 am

What happened to, "There's no crying in baseball!". There's something I'd like to see make a comeback.

27 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:56 am

Pat Daneker needs a "teaching moment". (When did "teaching moment" become a buzzword in the US? Jayzuz, there are times I am so so glad to be away...)

Go Go Lakers!!

28 The Hawk   ~  Jun 4, 2010 8:44 am

"The two principal characters displayed such authenticity that the moment of greatness prevailed despite Joyce’s terrible mistake."

That's well said.

As others have pointed out, while the game was still underway, I wouldn't say there was a surplus of good vibes. But in the end I agree this becomes transcendent.

Boy he missed the hell out of that call. I really think he choked. Un-clutch!

29 rbj   ~  Jun 4, 2010 9:05 am

Well said, Alex.

Let's see, off the top of my head, other perfectos:
Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, Mark Buerhle, Dallas Braden, Roy Halliday, Len Barker, Don Larsen, David Wells, David Cone. Moose coming in at 8.2.2.

This is why I love baseball. There's always a chance for a perfect game. What other sport can have a perfect game? Shutouts happen all the time (and a basketball shutout isn't perfect, just a sad indictment that one team is utterly inferior, a game that should not have been scheduled)

30 Will Weiss   ~  Jun 4, 2010 9:18 am

[17] What is this bee? Next year, I'd love to participate in this ... I'm very much into spelling bees. Taps into my nerddom.

31 Will Weiss   ~  Jun 4, 2010 9:21 am

[7] Matt, I agree. I think Joyce also saw the tape of how foolish he looked defiantly telling Miguel Cabrera and anyone who approached him that Donald was safe. As Diane mentioned in an earlier post, and what got lost in this whole transcendent discussion: Joyce blew a similar call on Johnny Damon in the bottom of the eighth that extended the inning and led to two insurance runs scoring.

Selig, as much as I hate to defend him, can't overturn the Donald call, because he'd have to overturn this one, too. That would set a terrible precedent.

32 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 4, 2010 9:31 am

[27] yeah can we get a moratorium on "Teaching Moment" please? I think it came into the mainstream during the whole Skip Gates thing last summer, it just sounds like something that was coined during an Arne Duncan powerpoint presentation on "Team Building" or some other b.s.

33 Diane Firstman   ~  Jun 4, 2010 10:05 am
34 ny2ca2dc   ~  Jun 4, 2010 11:06 am

Well said Alejo. I don't have words for how impressive Gallaraga's behavior has been. Also an interesting lesson on how leaders and objects of admiration can shift the public mood in a positive way. Like you said, Joe West/Dallas Braden could've resulted in riots, but instead we get this beaut.

35 lroibal   ~  Jun 4, 2010 12:50 pm

Well written Alex.
Just twenty times in the history of major league baseball! That's an extraordinarily rare thing, But baseball fans may have been treated to something far more uncommon and just as special, true grace.

36 Hank Waddles   ~  Jun 4, 2010 1:06 pm

Not surprizingly, I agree with Alex completely. I have coached my middle school basketball team for nineteen years, and even though my personality is even-keeled to a fault, I have gotten angry at officials. When you perceive a call to be blown against your team, it immediately becomes personal. It is as if something has been stolen from you, and when it's a big game or at a critical moment, the feelings are obviously intensified. I can honestly say that, even though I've never thrown a chair or even received a technical, the five or ten angriest moments of my life have occurred while pacing the sidelines here at Lindbergh Middle School. And remember this -- I'm talking about middle school basketball.

So for Gallaraga to simply smile in disbelief as his place in history evaporated before his eyes was absolutely transcendent. I hope that much of the non-sports media (aside from Olbermann, apparnetly) are focusing on that. Listening to his interview afterwards, as he was talking about sitting down one day with his son to show him the game, really moved me.

Last night I took my daughter to the computer and we watched several YouTube clips of the game and the aftermath. We talked about how officials make mistakes, just like players make errors or miss shots or make bad passes (she's a basketball player), and we talked about the importance of owning up to your mistakes, like Jim Joyce did, and forgiving others, like Gallaraga did. She got it.

37 Crazy8Rick   ~  Jun 4, 2010 6:33 pm

Alex, you da man! Great article. Gallaraga & Joyce have used grace & humility to make baseball history. Nuff said.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver