Kal ZoneBlog

Whose perfect game?

June 8, 2010

Last week Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers lost a perfect game when umpire Jim Joyce called a runner safe at first, in what would have been the 27th and final out. It is customary to attribute a perfect game to the pitcher — Game 5 of the 1956 World Series is widely known as "Don Larsen's perfect game" — but the June 1 Indians vs Tigers game shows that a "perfect game" belongs to everyone on the field, including the defense behind the pitcher, the opposing offense, and, yes, the umpires.

Even the fans play a part. Imagine if a Detroit fan had interfered with a Cleveland fielder's attempt to catch a foul ball, in a sequel to the infamous Steve Bartman incident. More fundamentally, the fans' energy must have helped Galarraga's performance.

I wasn't at the game or watching it on TV, but my wife Connie had the Oakland A's game on the car radio while the announcers were giving updates on Galarraga's progress.

Imagine that Joyce and the runner, Jason Donald, had had the exact opposite influence on the outcome of the game, with Donald beating the throw and Joyce calling him out. Would that have been a more "perfect" result?

In the actual game, Joyce was doing his job, focused on making the call regardless of the gravity of the situation. On seeing replays, after the game, he acknowledged that he had blown the call.

The June 1 game will not go into baseball's record books as perfect, but the books only capture numbers, not the energy of what actually happened on the field, or the way fans felt about it. Think of it as the Galarraga-Joyce-Detroit-Cleveland perfect game that will live on in memory.

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