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Replay This

Armando Galarraga. There’s a name to remember – correctly spelled with two “r’s” in the middle. As any non-comatose baseball fan is aware, the Detroit pitcher threw a perfect game against Cleveland last week. Except it wasn’t. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a little perspective and definition for the non-fan. A perfect game is among the rarest of sports accomplishments. It is, quite simply, 27 batters up and 27 down – no hits, walks or errors. Only 18 perfect games have been thrown in baseball’s post-1900, modern era. More people have orbited the moon than have thrown a perfect game.

Oddly, there have already been two perfect games in the first half of the 2010 season and they came only 20 days apart. The first was thrown by the Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden, whose most notable prior accomplishment was nursing his wrath over an incident involving the Yankee’s $275 million third baseman and self-love expert, Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez cut across Braden’s pitcher’s mound returning to first base after a foul ball, reportedly because he was “tired.” Braden, having been raised in Stockton, California (generally accepted as the birthplace of all forms of etiquette – baseball and otherwise) took great exception. But he soon got over it with a flawless outing against Tampa Bay. The second perfect game belonged to the Phillies Roy Halladay – high on anybody’s list of potential candidates.Then, on June 2nd, it was Galarraga’s turn.

He was perfect against every batter he faced, covering first base himself to retire the Indian’s Jason Donald for the final out. Everybody went wild, except for first base umpire Jim Joyce, who blew the call and declared Donald safe. Joyce’s mistake ignited a firestorm of criticism and demands that baseball institute the instant replay for such situations – an interesting idea which I’ll address momentarily. Perhaps more remarkable than Galarraga’s gem or Joyce’s epic gaffe was the way both men handled the aftermath. The umpire stayed on the field after the final out, facing the animus of both the Detroit fans and players. Then, after checking the replay to assure that he’d indeed blown the call, he visited the Tigers’ clubhouse to personally apologize to Galarraga. Had Bill Clinton handled the Monica Lewinski situation in similar fashion, they would have revoked the Twenty-second Amendment.  Joyce’s classy acknowledgment of his mistake would have gone for naught were it not for Galarraga himself, who accepted the apology with sublime grace and said he would hold his head high, secure in his accomplishment even if it wasn’t going in the record book. I’m not certain if either Galarraga or Joyce is a parent, but it would be a shame if they are not. In a Jersey Shore culture of classless knuckleheads it’s always refreshing to see two grown men set an exceptional example of how one is supposed to handle himself in such situations.

I read some of the Internet discussion boards the day after the game and predictably, they were filled with comments insisting that baseball, like football, institute the instant replay to get calls right. “This is 2010,” one gentleman asserted, “the technology is there and they should stop appeasing the whims of sentimental baseball purists who won’t allow the game to evolve.” It’s an interesting argument and not completely without merit – except I’m no baseball “purist” yet am still opposed to the idea. The problem with allowing for replay calls (as they already do with home runs and fan interference) is the question of where to draw the line. The technology is there to distinguish definitively between balls and strikes as well, and a walk issued on an incorrectly judged ball four spoils a perfect game just as efficiently as a blown call at first base. How can you argue for subtracting the human element in one situation and not the other? It isn’t a “purist” observation, it’s simply the fact that if you change baseball too much you end up with, well .. football. And I prefer to keep my seasons and sports distinct and uniquely flawed. Shit happens and baseball, like life, is imperfect. But I for one will remember the name Armando Galarraga long after “Braden” and “Halladay” have slipped from conscious recollection.

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One Comment

  1. Dad wrote:


    Monday, June 7, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

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