It was a moment that forever altered the lives and legacies of two men.
On June 2, 2010, Detroit Tigers right-hander Armando Galarraga thought he had completed what would have been only the 20th perfect game in Major League Baseball history.
The first 26 Cleveland Indians batters were retired without incident. More importantly, they were retired without controversy. Then Jason Donald hit a ground ball that first baseman Miguel Cabrera ranged to his right to corral, before flipping to a covering Galarraga for the would-be 27th and final out.
Everything was done right. The execution was perfect. It needed to be to get a hustling Donald out. But despite Galarraga’s foot clearly hitting the base first, and despite umpire Jim Joyce’s first instinct to motion for the out call, he instead ruled Donald safe. With that split-second change of heart, perfection was lost.
At that point, replay reviews were only used to determine whether potential home run balls were fair or foul. There were no replays for calls on the bases. There was one call on the field. In this case, a call that Joyce regrettably and admittedly got wrong. A call that Galarraga, now nearly 10 years after that moment, is hoping MLB will overturn so that his place in history will be secured and recognized.
‘It was perfect, right?’
For much of the last decade, Galarraga has taken the moment in stride.
He quickly made peace with Joyce. In fact, prior to the following days' game, he handed Joyce the lineup card at home plate before first pitch. It was his way of expressing forgiveness, while also letting fans know that there's no need to hold a grudge over a missed call.
The two even helped write a book titled “Nobody’s Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History” in 2012.
Now though, after nearly 10 years of what ifs and what should have beens, Galarraga is experiencing a change of heart of his own.
“I was like, what can I do to have a better finish to the story?” Galarraga recently told The Athletic. “How can Major League Baseball give me the perfect game? Because it was perfect, right?”
It was. We all saw it. But despite what we saw that evening, MLB has and likely forever will stick by Joyce’s call. Aside from the rare protested game, the league doesn't have a history of making retroactive changes. Doing so would only create a flood of similar requests over missed calls that may have changed outcomes of games and altered milestone moments.
That’s the reality of the situation, but that reality won't stop Galarraga from wishing.
“Why not? Why wait for so long? I don’t want to die, and then they’ll be like, ‘You know what, he threw a perfect game.'”
Support from Joyce
To Joyce’s credit, he immediately owned up to his missed call. He expressed remorse when speaking to reporters after the game, saying “I missed it. This isn’t a call. This is a history call, and I kicked the s—t out of it.”
Joyce was among the first to ask the commissioner’s office about overturning the call and awarding Galarraga a perfect game. His request was firmly denied.
When asked if he’d support Galarraga’s push for MLB to change the call, Joyce said: “I agree with him. I agree. Because he did it.”
That moment changed Joyce’s life, too. He received death threats for weeks after and has wrestled with knowing that history was altered because he called Jason Donald safe.
One batter later, Galarraga retired Trevor Crowe to end the game and complete his one and only career shutout. It also completed what many have called the only “28 up, 28 down” perfect game in MLB history. The asterisk supplied by fans and writers won’t get Galarraga’s name in the history books, but it’s the distinction he’ll likely have to accept and live with for the rest of his life.
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