A lot to lose
It was an eventful day for baseball yesterday, to say the least. Between a should-have-been-perfect game and the retirement of one of the game’s greatest, Major League Baseball lost a lot, and those were just the top two stories of the night.
The obvious place to start is with the Detroit Tigers’ Armando Gallaraga, the Indians’ Jason Donald and umpire Jim Joyce. Only three days after Roy Halladay’s perfect game, Gallaraga retired the first 26 Indians he faced last night before inducing a grounder to the right side from Donald. First baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded the grounder and flipped to Gallaraga on bang-bang play that, though close, was clearly out to the naked eye. But you all know what happened already: Joyce blew the call and ruled Donald safe, Gallaraga and baseball lost a perfect game and forever etching his name into history as making the wrong call at the worst possible time, ever. This one almost made Tim McClelland look not so bad, but then again, McClelland’s calls were horrendously obvious mistakes in non-pressure situations. So don’t think you’re off the hook, big guy.
Yes, we all feel bad for Gallaraga, as his one-hitter was a hell of a ballgame, in which he threw a mere 88 pitches and would’ve had even fewer if the perfect game had been preserved. Yes, hopefully everyone also feels bad for Joyce, who not only has to live with the fact that he blew the last out of a perfect game, but also will be remembered only for that distinction. Years from now, if someone is asked, “Hey, does the name ‘Jim Joyce’ ring a bell?” said person will no doubt answer, “Isn’t that the guy who blew the call in that perfect game?”
Or they just won’t know who he is at all. Joyce should hope for the latter.
Some say it was a long time coming, or at least a few weeks coming. After being accused of sleeping on the job and not producing at the plate, baseball’s classiest act this decade bowed out yesterday, retiring after a prolific twenty-two year career, during most of which he was speculated to be the next home run king. Ken Griffey, Jr. was widely considered the best hitter in baseball when he was in his prime, and even after an injury-marred tenure in Cincinnati, it was still a joy to watch him play. I made it a point to take my little brother to watch him play when the Reds came to Shea Stadium a few years back, making sure he saw what was the sweetest swing I’ve ever seen.