Galarraga’s foiled perfection a good lesson in humanity

Armando Galarraga’s unrecognized perfect game currently sits in the record books as a 28-batter one-hitter, but despite this site’s statistical slant I’d like to take a look at this from a human element.

Sports often can bring out the worst in people, so it’s such a nice surprise to see how the different actors in this near-perfecto tragedy played their parts.

After umpire Jim Joyce motioned the safe sign to strip Galarraga of the perfect game he rightfully deserved, Galarraga just stood there smiling as if thinking “freakin’ unbelievable” (or something worse). Yet he strolled back to the mound, got the final out and later tipped his hat to the crowd.

His teammates and manager took a different tact, but they were sticking up for their guy, which is more than understandable in that circumstance.

Then Joyce, after realizing the call was wrong, sought out both Galarraga and Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland to personally apologize and admit his mistake. In a heavily bleeped radio interview given later, Joyce essentially said: I screwed up, I feel terrible and the kid deserved that moment in history. It would be nice if that stand-up-and-take-responsibility response were the norm, but it’s not, and it took guts.

In a post-game interview, Galarraga, showing no sign of bitterness, recognized Joyce for the gesture.

Two class acts, in my opinion.

Now it remains to be seen if baseball – specifically Bud Selig – will do the right thing, which would clearly be to grant Galarraga his perfect game.

There is already precendent for changing the record books related to no-nos, though in 1991 it went the other way.

That’s when the Committee on Statistical Accuracy, chaired by then MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent, changed the official definition of a no-hitter, declaring it a game of nine innings or more that ends with no hits. That leaves 266 sanctioned no-hitters, 243 in the A.L. and N.L. The stringent definition eliminated 38 no-hitters from the books that were shortened by rain or darkness and losing efforts by the away team in which the home team doesn’t bat in the bottom of the ninth.

(See our Close, but no cigar: No-hitters not officially recognized page for more details and a list for these now unrecognized efforts.)

We’ll probably make Galarraga the poster child for this page if he doesn’t get his kudos.

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