Galarraga brings lineup to tearful Joyce
Umpire displays emotion in meeting day after blown call
DETROIT -- Jim Joyce left Comerica Park Wednesday night to a chorus of boos and a shouting match with Tigers players livid over his call at first base with a perfect game on the line. He emerged back out the tunnel and onto the field Thursday afternoon to a polite and sympathetic applause, plus a handshake from Armando Galarraga.
It's exactly what Tigers manager Jim Leyland hoped would happen. This, he believed, was Detroit's day to shine with class, and the aftermath of the imperfect call that spoiled the perfect game put Detroit and its fans in a positive light.
"I couldn't be prouder of the Tigers fans today," an emotional Leyland said after Thursday's 12-6 win. "I'm proud to be the manager of this franchise and I'm proud to manage for these fans. They showed me a lot of class today and it was a hard thing to do. They are competitors in this town, they've had to be forever. To accept that was tough. But they did it like champions and I'm proud of them."
While Commissioner Bud Selig's statement essentially closed the door on Wednesday's imperfect call to end the perfect game, the hope is that Thursday helped heal some emotional wounds for Joyce, Galarraga and fans alike.
Selig, while opening the possibility for discussion on instant replay and umpiring issues, had no such reference to reviewing the call itself. He did go out of his way to recognize Joyce, Leyland and Galarraga for the way they handled the incident.
"First, on behalf of Major League Baseball, I congratulate Armando Galarraga on a remarkable pitching performance," the Commissioner said in his statement. "All of us who love the game appreciate the historic nature of his effort last night.
"The dignity and class of the entire Detroit Tigers organization under such circumstances were truly admirable and embodied good sportsmanship of the highest order. Armando and Detroit manager Jim Leyland are to be commended for their handling of a very difficult situation. I also applaud the courage of umpire Jim Joyce to address this unfortunate situation honestly and directly. Jim's candor illustrates why he has earned the respect of on-field personnel throughout his accomplished career in the Major Leagues since 1989.
"As Jim Joyce said in his postgame comments, there is no dispute that last night's game should have ended differently. While the human element has always been an integral part of baseball, it is vital that mistakes on the field be addressed. Given last night's call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features. Before I announce any decisions, I will consult with all appropriate parties, including our two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, which consists of field managers, general managers, club owners and presidents."
Leyland, coincidentally, is one of four managers on that special committee. Another is Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, a friend of Leyland, who suggested Wednesday that Joyce's call should be overturned and the perfect game honored.
While the umpiring rotation put Joyce behind the plate for Thursday's series finale between the Tigers and Indians, Wednesday's controversy put him squarely in the limelight for it. Though Leyland and the Tigers were still smarting over what would've been a perfect game, they feared the reaction Joyce would receive from fans for what they saw as an honest mistake.
So Leyland made the highly unusual move of having a player bring out the lineup card to the umpiring crew at home plate before the game. He wanted Galarraga to do it so that he could shake hands with Joyce again, this time in public view, and hopefully soften fan sentiment towards Joyce.
Joyce received subdued applause as he emerged from the tunnel behind home plate and onto the field minutes before game time. He took a quick round of boos when his name was announced.
"I really just thought it was handled extremely well," Leyland said. "I thought the applause and the greetings of Galarraga were tremendous. I thought the greetings of the umpire were great. I thought the part of it that was just a spattering of it -- not really totally happy, but [saying], 'OK, you took it like a man.'"
Galarraga, who received a new cherry red Chevrolet Corvette convertible from General Motors during a pregame ceremony, shook Joyce's hand. Joyce gave him a pat on the back before Galarraga headed back to the dugout.
"That was one of the coolest things I've ever seen," said Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, who watched from the dugout. "What sets that apart from anything that's probably happened in a long time in our sport is the absolute sportsmanship of it. I'll tell you what, Galarraga and Joyce are two true gentlemen, period, in the way that they handled themselves. People will always remember that. I'll never forget it."
Leyland said that Major League Baseball gave Joyce the option to pull out of Thursday's assignment, but he chose to work. Joyce, however, said Thursday morning he had no contact with MLB on that matter.
Joyce was still emotional when he arrived at Comerica Park Thursday morning, and he teared up when he received the applause. Miguel Cabrera, who made the toss to Galarraga at first base on the disputed call Wednesday night, gave Joyce a pat on his way out to the field moments before the first pitch.
"I cannot believe the outpouring of support I've gotten, not only from my fellow umpires but all my friends, my family and, frankly, you guys," Joyce said. "I can't thank you enough. I can't thank the people enough. I'm a big boy. I can handle this. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever had to go through in my professional career, without a doubt."
The Tigers tried to make it as easy as possible. Gerald Laird, who confronted Joyce in the infield immediately after the game to argue with him and had to be separated by Tigers infield coach Rafael Belliard, was the Tigers' starting catcher on Thursday. He met with Joyce before the game and apologized.
"I've known him for a long time, and I told him my emotions got the best of me at that point," Laird said. "It is an intense game. There's a lot going on, and I explained it. And he knew. I just wanted to let him know that he had everyone in this club behind him. He had all the respect in the world from us, because he's a heck of an umpire, he's a heck of a person. Everyone speaks volumes around the league about him. He makes one bad call, and it was just tough to see. I got home last night and I was able to calm down and unwind and listen to what he said. It showed a lot of class from him to come in here and apologize and be a man about it.
"He did a heck of a job today, like I knew he would. I was just glad to be back there with him and talk to him."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.