An ump’s really bad call wrecks a perfect game – POLL

You know the cliché that it ain’t over ’till it’s over, don’t you.

Here is a perfect example.

A perfect game was wrecked yesterday, but not by a player.

A 22-year vet umpire made an astonishingly bad call on the 27th batter to blow a pitcher’s perfect game.

The Motor City Kitties’ pitcher Armando Galarraga had been perfect against the Indians of Cleveland to the 9th inning.  With two outs the Indian’s shortstop Jason Donald grounded to first.  Easy peasy. 

The perfecto changed to a 1-hit shutout in an instant when Umpire Jim Joyce simply blew the call.  He called Donald safe at first though the replays clearly show that Galarraga, who had dashed over to cover first, had the ball in his glove and his foot planted on the base before the runner reached.

It was scored a hit, since you cannot charge an umpire with an error.

Here is video.


The umpire, who will forever be remembered for this call, later went to the locker room to apologize to Galarraga.

Now people will again start talking about replay reviews in baseball.

What do you think?

Please vote and give your reasons in the combox.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. medievalist says:

    Football/soccer is more my thing, with a similar debate, but a similar principle applies…

    In sport, the umpire/referee is like a little god. Our incessant calls for replays in sport may (and maybe I’m reading too much into this) be yet another instance of science trying to supplant God. We don’t trust anyone but only machines.

    Of course, the referee isn’t God but a person who is falliable and judging other falliable people. Over the long run, most bad calls and good calls even out (perhaps an illustration of ‘God giveth and God taketh away). While striving for the best, perfection is not possible on this earth, so let’s show a little obedience, humility, and grace while we’re here and pray for the best afterwards.

    There are no replays in life, which like sport has manifest unfairness at times, but we seem to muddle on nevertheless. Let’s keep it that way.

  2. They ought to just overturn the call and give the guy the perfect game. It won’t change the outcome of the game, so go for it.

  3. AndyMo says:

    As soon as the video began, I realized who was truly at fault: the ESPN commentators. His first words in the above video: 26 up and 26 down; here comes number 27.

    Like Fight Club, the first rule of a perfect game is: YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT A PERFECT GAME.

  4. irishgirl says:

    I’m with Joe on this.

    I heard about this on the radio last night, after the Mets blew their game with San Diego in the 11th inning by a grand slam. You could hear the anguish in the voices of the Detroit radio guys! Unbelievable…! It was enough to jar me out of a [sort of] sound sleep!

    ‘Motor City Kitties’-ha! Love it! Too funny!

  5. I am in full agreement with Joe. And there is, I believe, precedent for Major League Baseball to overrule an umpire. I do think that the umpire’s willingness to meet with the pitcher and apologize in person was commendable, however.

  6. JohnMa says:


    There is no such precedent. There have been times when misaplication of a rule has led to the replaying of a portion of a game but MLB has never overruled a judgment call by an umpire. Nor should they.

    I voted for the last option: absolutely not! In other sports you can make an argument for replay but what do you do in baseball if, for example, with the bases loaded and no outs an umpire makes a mistake and calls a runner safe at the plate on a force play. Then the catcher throws the ball wildly into right field trying to retire the batter. Then the right fielder guns out the runner of first that attempted to score. The play continued after the blown call and there is no way to rectify that situation fairly. That does not even get into how the flow of a baseball game is so important and you can’t interupt it for replay. I hope we never see the day it is expanded.

  7. Charivari Rob says:

    I voted the first option. I’m open to considering the idea, but only under strictly limited circumstances as to what sorts of plays might be subject to review.

    Baseball is so unlike many other sports (in addition to the shape of the field, and not having a clock) in that there are so many simultaneous centers of action. You might have up to four baserunners and a live ball in play at one time.

    In American football, for example, the conditions for scoring or for a play ending (or the start of a play, for that matter) are mostly centered on the ball. In baseball, the scoring play is (to an extent) away from the ball, and the runners may attempt to advance at their own risk after some portion of a play, or even before play resumes. There’s only very limited circumstances where play is actually “whistled dead”.

    What plays could be reviewed, then? In what circumstances might one be able to reverse a call without also reversing an independent action, or imposing some arbitrary judgment on what the other baserunners “would have done” or “should have done”? On what the outcome of the rest of the play “would have been”?

  8. Am a life-long Tigers fan now living in KY. I was listening to the game over the internet from the 4th inning on and it was an amazing performance. 83 pitches to get through the 27th out and another 5 to get the 28th. Apparently the Commissioner and top officials are going to meet today to review the situation. Some have suggested that Selig can overrule the call using the “for the good of the game” clause in the rules. If he truly does have that option, then he should do it. This was a travesty and a monumental injustice to Armando, the Tigers and the fans.

    Armando pitched the only 28 out perfect game in MLB history. Period.

  9. Charivari Rob says:

    More vexing to me than replay or last night’s blown call is MLB’s mostly silly redefinition of no-hitters a few years ago, which wiped several off the history books.

    Their rationale, if I recall, was that only a nine-inning (or more) game “counts” as a no-hitter.

    I remember that a no-hitter some Yankee pitched was wiped off the books because it was only 8 innings. He only pitched 8 innings because the Yankees were the visiting team (at Chicago, maybe?), he walked a lot of batters, walked or wild-pitched in a run or two, and the Yanks lost (the Sox didn’t need to bat in the bottom of the 9th). It’s still a no-hitter in my book. For all of a regulation game, one team’s pitcher(s) held the other team hitless.

    The same with another game against the Yankees. Somebody (Pascual Perez, maybe?) pitched a rain-shortened perfect game against them – completed 5 or 6 innings before it was called. It was an official game, so it should be a no-hitter. Maybe with an asterisk or a footnote, but it was definitely a no-hitter.

    As far as last night goes… Well, sad to say, there’s no going back. Galarraga will be filed in history somewhere next to Harvey Haddix and that guy who relieved Babe Ruth after Babe got ejected for arguing a walk call on the leadoff batter (baserunner was caught stealing and the reliever retired the next 26 batters (I think))

  10. Thomas Francis says:

    To keep the game from dragging itself to death I would love to see ONE additional official sitting alone in a booth constantly monitoring the game with instant replay available to him on demand.
    There would be NO requests for any reviews from anyone at anytime. If a call is wrong in HIS opinion…he alone has the power to reverse it.

  11. pfreddys says:

    I do feel bad for the pitcher; but, being a Mets fan we are just happy if our closer doesn’t have a blown save {which, of course, he did last night}.
    There should be limited opportunities for review, we already have it for home runs, why not for outs/base hits…..under no circumstances can it effect balls & strikes though, that’s my line in the sand!

  12. lacrossecath says:

    Thomas Francis, I completely agree with you.

  13. NDPhys says:

    So long as they don’t start reviewing balls and strikes, I think they should have a rule for video review. It would probably be best, however, to limit the reviews to questions of fair or foul, home run or not, and out or not. And, let’s leave it to the umpire’s discretion, no manager should be able to force a review.

  14. irishgirl says:

    pfreddys-I heard the end of the Mets game last night; I could not believe it! What a crazy ending!

  15. Eric says:

    One of the most entertaining parts of baseball is the arguements. I wouldn’t be in favor of anything that might recude the number of them.

    To me the blown call in the 85 series was much bigger than this (I’m over it now). It cost the Cardinals the World Championship.

  16. Warren says:

    Limit the number of video reviews to two per team per game. If the challenge overturns a call, the team keeps that review. No reviews for balls or strikes.

  17. I am surprised there are so many supportive of reviews!

  18. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’m very surprised that tradition doesn’t have support across the board . . . (of course, I still think that the DH rule is an abomination).

  19. Jason C. says:

    There are no replays in life, which like sport has manifest unfairness at times, but we seem to muddle on nevertheless. Let’s keep it that way.

    St. Joan of Arc got a new trial after she was killed.

  20. Andrew T says:

    I definitely believe that video review should be expanded. Games should be decided by the players on the field, not the umpires. Imagine the travesty if a game 7 in the World Series was decided by a blown call.

  21. Nathan says:

    Fr. Z: “I am surprised there are so many supportive of reviews!”

    Of course, Father, it’s because we are with the times! What baseball really needs is fans’ Active Participation! Why shouldn’t we be able to make the calls, most likely better than those medieval, patriarchical, triumphalistic umpires?

    Here in this place, cold beer is streaming
    Now is Steinbrenner banished away,
    Here in this space, our team’s fears and dreamings
    Hope Gallarraga is perfect today.
    Gather us in, the fans long forsaken,
    Gather us in, not umps blind and lame,
    We’ll make the call and we shall awaken
    A win for the home team, and a perfect game.

    In Christ,

  22. cuaguy says:

    I voted “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” In fact, I think that the stupid reviewing of Home Runs should be stopped as well.

    @AnAmericanMother- The DH rule is not an abomination. The American League needs it, since it is where they learn how to play baseball, which is why I call it the Minor League… Eventually, they will grow up, and play REAL baseball in the National League.

  23. Christopher Milton says:

    Quod Deus avertat!

    As a soccer referee and a onetime little league ump, it is obvious that nothing is worse for a game than instant replay. It ruins the spirit of the game and usurps the authority of the officials. Once you allow instant replay, every call is questioned (not that it wasn’t already), and we aren’t playing or striving to be our best, but only striving to win and earn glory for ourselves.

    Instant replay makes it all about winning and not about playing (sporting).

  24. Christopher Milton says:

    Oh, and I saw it on a big screen at lunch….

    In real time, zoomed in from the camera’s (not the ump’s) angle, it looked like a tie to me, and a tie always goes to the runner. I imagine the ump saw a tie and went to the runner, which would mean he didn’t blow the call at all.

  25. RichardR says:

    Baseball is a religion:
    The commissioner is Pope
    The owners are the Curie
    Umpires are the Cardinals
    Managers are the Bishops
    Players are the priests who perform the actual liturgy
    Fans are the laity whose role it is is to pay $25.00 for a ticket, $7.00 for a hot dog and to keep their opinions to themselves. If the commissioner wants them to have opinions, he will tell them what they are.

    If any of the players transgress the rules, for example, using steroids, the league will cover it up until it is so egregious it cannot be ignored, but they will never take away a record set by a juiced up player.

    Jason Donald was safe because the bishop (er, umpire) said he was. As some great philosopher once said, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” Even the the face of an apparent fact, the faithful should not complain if the umpire says the opposite is true and we can be sure that the league and its leaders will not take any action to change the result because that might confuse the fans.

    Besides, as cuaguy points out, with the DH, the game played in the American league is the equivalent of NO baseball and the game was probably not even licit.

  26. dcs says:

    No need for replace – just replace the umpires with play-calling technology. Seriously! When you watch a game on FOX they show a computer-generated image of the batter’s strike zone.

  27. pfreddys says:

    @irishgirl-Are you also a Mets fan?
    I used to say I’d rather my kids become communists than Yankee fans; but after the stunt the Mets pulled in Sept 07, I said I’m not wasting my energy being a Yankee hater. So when my son told me he was a Yankee fan, I said “Good, you’ll spend less money on therapists”

  28. wmeyer says:

    What surprises me is that the video is public. The leagues exercise pretty heavy handed control over such things. As to the display in the stadium, there is someone there who is charged with the responsibility to determine whether to show a replay. And–no surprise–a good control room crew will not replay anything they can see may lead to an issue with an umpire. All this I learned in 4 years of working closely with a video control room in an AL stadium.

    Replays almost always make clear what actually happened, though rarely with such a dramatic error as this one. The leagues have known this for decades, as have the umpires. Yet they remain determined not to use replays.

  29. pfreddys says:

    Also, if I may, VERY classy move of Gallarraga bringing the lineup card out to Umpire Joyce.

  30. Well, it’s a moot point now. Commissioner Selig has stated that he will not reverse the decision.

  31. wmeyer says:

    Historically, as far as I know, reversals don’t happen. The leagues lean very heavily in support of the umps on any calls. But then, the leagues exert a stunning control over things, even to the extent that the stadium crew is cautioned not to do anything to incite excessive crowd response.

  32. robtbrown says:

    The umpire’s mistake was not realizing that with only one out to go in a perfect game, any close play is an out.

    Don Larsen finished his perfect game with Dale Mitchell taking a third strike. The ball was said to be 8 inches outside.

    BTW, an official’s mistake cost my high school football team the state championship. The opponent fumbled into the air, a LB caught it, and ran it back for a TD. The official, however, blew the whistle, thinking the ball was going to hit the ground. In football the play is over when whistle is blown–mistake or not.

  33. aladextra says:

    I’m with Fr. Z. [hmmmm ] Every change to the rules of baseball in the last 50 years has universally been for the worse. The replay would delay the game and it’s pointless. Unless someone shows that an umpire is deliberately calling bad calls, it will even out in the end. The system for moving umpires up in baseball is unknown in any other sport and it breeds an excellent play caller. If a major play is blown, heads can roll, but please don’t burden the game with further delays. Selig’s got it right. I also support his efforts to tamp down on the stupid pre-batting rituals and other accretions that have slowed the game down to such a relative crawl. [AMEN! Keep the batter in the box!] Might sell more beer in the stands, but it’s seriously compromising the game. It’s what makes baseball different that makes it great. People are trying to jam it into some universal sports mold, and it doesn’t fit.

  34. RichardR says:

    “The umpire’s mistake was not realizing that with only one out to go in a perfect game, any close play is an out.”

    So objective reality, truth, honesty, fairness are out the window in order to achieve the desired goal – in this case a perfect game?

    Oh well…

  35. Jackie L says:

    Christopher Milton – Where in the MLB rule book does it say a tie goes to the runner?

    I don’t think the play was very close, and I think it ought to be reversed. I’m old enough to remember the pine tar incident of 1983. George Brett hit a home run, which the umpire nullified it due to too much pine tar on the bat, the game was protested, the home run restored, and the end of the game was finished a few weeks later.

    In this case the results of the game are not in question, and you’re the only one I’ve seen so far defend the call. I think not correcting this would be a bad thing.

  36. bookworm says:

    “Armando pitched the only 28 out perfect game in MLB history. Period.”

    True, but consider the (in some ways) even sadder case of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Harvey Haddix. In 1959 he pitched 12 — that’s right, 12 — perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves — 36 straight outs. In the 13th inning a Braves runner made it to first on an error, and eventually scored, so Haddix LOST the game!

  37. robtbrown says:

    So objective reality, truth, honesty, fairness are out the window in order to achieve the desired goal – in this case a perfect game?

    Oh well…
    Comment by RichardR

    Are you saying that objective reality was the basis for the call? My approach would prevent last evening’s mistake. Your approach permits it.

  38. robtbrown says:

    True, but consider the (in some ways) even sadder case of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Harvey Haddix. In 1959 he pitched 12—that’s right, 12—perfect innings against the Milwaukee Braves—36 straight outs. In the 13th inning a Braves runner made it to first on an error, and eventually scored, so Haddix LOST the game!
    Comment by bookworm

    Haddix was known as the kitten.

    If memory serves, Joe Adcock got the hit.

  39. muckemdanno says:

    As a huge baseball fan, I say that the game today is virtually unwatchable. It is too long, there are too many commercials between innings, there is too much time between pitches, there are too many pitching changes, and there are too many instant replay reviews.

    The average game should take 2 hours, not 3 and a half!

  40. Andy F. says:

    I’ve been meditating on this story all day. It reminds me of papal infallibility, except in the case of papal affairs, the pope is protected by the Holy Spirit and does not commit error like the umpire did. Nevertheless, the umpire is protected by MLB and so, in a similar way, enjoys final authority in his calls(that is, if he’s the home plate ump, right?). Look at how people cry out for his final authority to be overturned because of his exercise of his office. All children throwing a temper tantrum, says I.

    No wonder we live in such a rebellious world, you can’t even get a solid judgement in baseball anymore due to the dictatorship of relativism.

  41. maynardus says:

    What we need is “technology in the service of tradition”. Fr. Z. has his gadgets, the Pope has an iPod, and Bishop Rifan is quite proud of his Blackberry. But if the option is form MLB to widen the use of the cumbersome review process which they introduced last year – in which the umpires troup off the field to peer at a replay screen – I vote ‘non placet’. And as others have noted, any process that will result in re-arrangements of base-runners, extrapolated judgments on “what would have happened if…”, and so forth will simply make a travesty of the game.

    If technology is to be used to improve the accuracy of umpiring, I believe that MLB should concentrate it’s efforts in the direction of providing the umps with more and better info and letting them make the calls. Consider the analogy of a modern jet figher pilot, who has computers that tell him stuff and computers that accomplish tasks he initiates and heads-up displays to show it all to him in realtime. But ultimately he makes the decisions and executes them. I don’t want R2D2 flying our jets OR umpiring our games, but if ways can be found to gather more and better data and quickly communicate it to the umps as useful info… that would be a real advance.

  42. rinkevichjm says:

    Actually the correct scoring should give the pitcher an error: he messed up the umpire. That’s the only fair scoring of it.

  43. I am resolute, adamant in my opposition to replays, generally, and especially in baseball.

    The ump’s decision is not always right, but it is always FINAL.

    There is a desire to see perfect, cosmic justice achieved on this side of the parousia, a misplaced lust for the “already” side of the eschaton that would pitch a tent on Mt. Tabor.


    Replays would poison and destroy a game that still has much of its spiritual greatness and fecundity.


  44. Henry Edwards says:

    OK, I’ve waited through 43 comments to see if someone would finally cut through the haze of irrelevant remarks and point to the single feasible solution consistent with the ethos of the great American game of baseball. No dice so far, so here it is.

    Each major league game has 4 well-paid umpires. In this case at least 2 of them were in position to see that the runner was out. No need for replays, intervention afterward by a bonehead commissioner, or any other such junk.

    They should have just conferred very briefly with the first base umpire who for whatever reason didn’t get a good look, said “Let’s get this one right”, and done so. Simple and sweet. QED

  45. AnAmericanMother says:

    Justice Charles W. (“Two Gun Charlie”) Worrill, formerly a Texas Ranger and an Alabama Industrial League umpire, would have been firmly against it.

    Therefore I am against it too.

    He acquired his sobriquet while a superior court judge in Early County GA, because he presided with two loaded .44 Special Bulldog revolvers on the bench – using one for a gavel (hopefully with an empty chamber under the hammer).

    He used to go fishing with my dad – he was a big old Southern boy with a bullet head and no neck. I was terrified of him as a child – but he really was a good man, through and through. He just brooked no nonsense — as in instant replays in baseball.

  46. dcs says:

    Mr. Edwards, your solution is wonderful, but umpires, like bishops, generally do not call each others’ decisions into question even when they are obviously wrong.

  47. robtbrown says:

    Henry Edwards,

    The problem is that the 1B ump was in the best position to see the play. My guess is that if two of the others would have actually seen that the runner was out, they would have run over to Joyce and conferred.

    If I might expand a bit on my previous comments: Objectivity is not necessarily built into all sports rules.

    In football and basketball the player (or ball) is presumed to be in bounds unless he/it is clearly seen to be out. In tennis the ball is presumed to be in unless it is plainly seen to have been out. (I have played with people whose approach is the opposite, esp. on big points–they tend to have a lot of trophies).

    Baseball is a bit different. If someone hits a line drive down the line, there is no presumption one way or the other, partly because, unlike fball and basketball, a ball that hits the line is in play. In the same manner a runner sliding into a base is not presumed one way or the other. The ump has to start from zero–this makes his work much more difficult than in other sports.

    On the other hand, the presumption of a runner going to first is that he is safe unless he is clearly seen to be out. In the circumstances in question, I would reverse that presumption because it would prevent Joyce’s mistake.

  48. I disagree, Mr. Edwards: your “solution” is inconsistent with baseball tradition (catchers appealing to 1st and 3rd base umpires on check swings is not pertinent to the present discussion) and just as contrary to the ethos of the game as is instant replay.

    The simplest (not easiest) and the right way is the way the game is to leave things as they stand, now. Baseball is the last game that can still teach the absolute elusiveness of perfect justice in this life – as a built-in condition of the game. Wherever there is instant replay, there is the belief in and commitment to the achievement of perfect justice in history. The belief is folly, and the commitment poisonous.


  49. priest up north says:

    Too much reply leads to umpire (and in other sports, referee) apathy. They become less sharp in making the routine calls because they have the technological “back up” in place. Get rid of all reply – even in football.

    As a Twins fan, suffice it to say I was very disappointed in the call, though Tiger losses are always lauded. It is on that point that I echo Twins broadcast color commentator (and we hope future hall of famer) Bert Blyleven who said in last night’s Twins telecast that Detroit did not lose the game over this call, where as the Twins the very same night of the blown Joyce call were dealt a bad call to end their 10 inning loss to Seattle. If the call is correct, the game goes to the 11th, and maybe the Twins pull it out. So as not to be partisan, earlier this year, in KC, a blown call was made in the bottom of the 9th that went in the Twins’ favor – giving them a win, rather than keeping KC alive, with a chance at a walk off win…(what goes around comes around, I guess). Thus, get rid of all reply – make umps and refs earn their keep.

  50. priest up north says:

    sorry about the spelling (I meant “replay” – my MN public school education shining through here) :)

  51. Trevor says:

    I’m surprised no one’s said the obvious: Joyce shouldn’t have apologized for the call. That’s the first rule of refereeing/umping. Never back down from a call once you’ve made it. Everyone would have seen it was a bad call, but they would have ultimately said: that’s how the game goes. Now that he’s apologized, its only put salt in the wound…

  52. No, Trevor. It was not “just” a blown call: it was a stolen place in baseball history. G and J have been class acts about the whole thing, really.

  53. robtbrown says:

    Not baseball, but I just saw that the Wizard has died at 99. In the mid 80’s I was at a basketball clinic, heard him speak, then spent about 25 minutes in a corner asking him questions. His approach to basketball was unique. More remarkable was his multi-sided personality: At times he seemed like a drill sergeant, sometimes he sounded like a prissy school marm, and still other times he seemed like a mad scientist–his demeanor then reminded me of the Disney character, Ludwig von Drake.

    Truly, a believing Protestant (I know of at least once that he went on a Catholic retreat) and remarkable, interesting man.

    RIP John Robert Wooden.

  54. Jordanes says:

    If you ever want to read a really good book, read Coach Wooden’s “They Call Me Coach.”

    RIP Coach!

  55. Interesting results! Thanks!

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