A year later, perfect memories of imperfect game
Galarraga, Joyce indelibly linked by their reactions to blown call
The phone rings in Tacoma, Wash. Armando Galarraga, on the road with the Triple-A Reno Aces, answers on the third ring.One day soon, he hopes, that phone will ring and the voice on the other end will tell him he's headed back to the big leagues. For now, it's just another reporter looking to talk to him about the game that will likely be the focus of his obituary, if not his epitaph. The near-perfect game. Or the imperfect game, if you prefer. The game that took place one year ago -- June 2, 2010, at Detroit's Comerica Park. It was a night when Galarraga was unhittable against the Indians, and for 26 precious outs, first-base umpire Jim Joyce was invisible. Then came the sound of bat on ball, the hustle of a rookie named Jason Donald, two feet touching first base, and in an instant, Joyce's two outstretched arms. Safe! First, stunned silence from the crowd of 17,738. Then, caustic catcalls. An umpire had cost a pitcher his place in history, and the ample availability of instantaneous replay -- on the monitors in the concourse, on the televisions in the Tigers' clubhouse and on the smartphones in the stands -- quickly confirmed it. The scene in those seconds, for those who were there that night and for the many watching at home, was predictably ugly. But the memory that lingers -- the moment that taught us all a little something about class in the face of calamity -- was the one reaction you could not predict: The wry smile on the face of Armando Galarraga. It should come as no surprise, then, that Galarraga is not the least bit hesitant to talk about all this once more. Because to him, the memory of the imperfect game evokes only positive feelings. About the man who robbed him, only to show almost immediate, sincere remorse. About the fans who showered him with cards and letters loaded with kind words. And about his own ability to get back to the Majors and again dominate as he did that night. "Wow," he says now. "One year. It feels like a long time ago."
|"His slider just had really good bite that night. It was tight. He was spot-on with his location. Everything was down, he didn't miss up. He never left a slider just hanging. Everything had life to it."|
|-- Jason Donald|
|"Seems we've struck some kind of chord, me and Armando. "Me, for the way I copped to my mistake and apologized and took my lumps. Armando, for so graciously accepting my apology and for carrying his disappointment with such dignity and good cheer. Wasn't how either one of us wanted to see this thing play out, but here it is."|
|-- Jim Joyce|
|"I'm surprised I reacted like that. I've got to give credit to my mom and dad. They gave me an education and talk to me and help me. They always told me that in hard moments, I should always smile."|
|-- Armando Galarraga|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.