Bad call costs Tigers' Galarraga perfect game
By LARRY LAGE
DETROIT — Armando Galarraga squeezed the ball in his mitt, stepped on first base with his right foot and was ready to celebrate.
What happened next will be the talk of baseball for the rest of this season and likely a lot longer: the perfect game that wasn't.
Umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe, the Detroit Tigers argued and a chorus of groans and boos echoed in Comerica Park.
Then Joyce emphatically said he was wrong and later, in tears, hugged Galarraga and apologized.
"It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it," Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires' locker room. "I just cost that kid a perfect game.
"I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay," he said after the Tigers' 3-0 win.
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Joyce asked to speak with Galarraga. Denied the first perfect game in Tigers history, Galarraga appreciated the gesture.
"You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry,' " Galarraga said. "He felt really bad. He didn't even shower."
It's rare for an umpire to acknowledge a mistake and, in one of the few sports that relies heavily on the human eye, it's certain to prompt a push for Major League Baseball to use increased replays. Soccer completely rejects using technology to review calls — a position that could create controversy at the World Cup, starting next week in South Africa.
MLB declined comment on Joyce's call.
"I feel sad," Galarraga said. "I just watched the replay 20 times and there's no way you can call him safe."
On a play teams work on early and often in spring training, Galarraga and first baseman Miguel Cabrera did their jobs on what should've been the final out.
Donald hit a grounder in the hole between first and second, Cabrera fielded it and threw to first, where Galarraga caught the ball at least a step ahead of Donald, replays showed.
Cabrera said he didn't want to talk about it and Donald answered questions from reporters after a long soak in the tub.
"I didn't know if I beat the throw or not," Donald said. "But given the circumstances, I thought for sure I'd be called out."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland immediately charged out of the dugout to argue the call to no avail. The next batter grounded out, and Leyland and many of his players angrily let Joyce know how they felt.
"Emotions were running high for everybody and I think that's why the guys were emotional after the game," Leyland said. "I wish we wouldn't have been, but we were. But I think it's understandable in that case. That's a pretty sacred thing, something like that."