06/02/11 10:00 AM ET
Galarraga-Joyce book shares their experience
'Nobody's Perfect' reveals thoughts on would-be perfect game
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
It's probably the most difficult thing to do on a baseball diamond, keep the other team from getting on base, and here this big, sweet kid from Venezuela had done just that.
It is one year since history was robbed, human imperfection magnified, class measured, emotions wrought and two unlikely book co-authors inextricably linked.
"Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History," released on Thursday, is the captivating account of Galarraga and Joyce, written with Daniel Paisner, that sheds substantial new light on the events and thought process before, during and after Joyce, the umpire, blew a call that cost Galarraga, the Tigers pitcher, a perfect game on June 2, 2010, at Comerica Park in Detroit.
The chapters alternate between these principals like a great summer novel. Most readers will know the ending, but they get to see what it was like behind the scenes.
"Caracas" tells the story of a 15-year-old Venezuelan boy whose father encouraged him to try out for as many Major League teams as possible until someone offered a contract -- ultimately, $3,500 from the Montreal Expos in 1998. The subsequent chapter, "Toledo," is the story of Joyce's childhood and rearing as the son of parents who worked for years at the local Chrysler Jeep factory, a place that seemed would be his destination until he took a chance at umpire school.
Theirs was an odyssey that led both men to the events of one year ago. Galarraga grappled with the English language and endured Tommy John surgery as he rode the pro baseball elevator, which has since taken him back to Triple-A with the D-backs' Reno affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. Joyce took a full decade to reach the big leagues, starting a family in the process and skimping on expenses to send extra money home, and after getting his big break, became one of the best umps in the business, working two All-Star games and 13 postseason series.
After six innings on that night when he faced the Indians, Galarraga wrote, "It is like a video game. I can push the button and keep going to that corner, no problem. I can tell my fastball where I want it to go."
He writes that he had Rinoceronte written customarily inside his hat, the word taken from a book called "El Rinoceronte" (The Rhinoceros) that he had read for motivation. "It is a very powerful animal, the rhinoceros, a very powerful word, and so I look at the word to remind myself to be strong." After his ninth-inning warmups, on the verge of perfection, having retired 24 consecutive batters, he took off his hat and repeated the word to himself.
"Sometimes I only kiss the word, where I have written it into my hat, but now I am kissing and whispering, all at the same time," Galarraga wrote. "Now I am reaching for the word and message of the story with my lips and my voice, to make these things a part of me and how I am pitching."
Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson made a Willie Mays-style catch for the first out, and Mike Redmond grounded softly to shortstop to make it two.
"Comerica Park is now going completely crazy," Galarraga recalled, and just as his words set the suspense, Joyce's chapter arrives: "Business as Usual." Joyce discusses his every-game approach -- nothing special here.
In fact, perhaps overlooked by most, is that he had been in the umpiring crew that worked Dallas Braden's perfect game about a month earlier. No big deal. Joyce worked second base that day, his first perfect game at any level of umpiring. Another new detail. In this game, he was at first base.
Jason Donald came up, and Joyce has two thoughts. One is how "completely dialed in" Galarraga is, "remarkably composed." Two: "I allow myself one final, fleeting thought. I think: It's coming to you, Jimmy. It's coming to you."
"The Call" is a section of the book that is worth the price alone. Galarraga describes in great detail his near-paranoia over facing Donald: "As much as I want Jason Donald to make the last out and give me a perfect game, this is how much he wants to get on base." Then Donald grounds to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who flips to Galarraga covering for what should have been a 3-1 completion to a perfect game. Instead, Donald is ruled save by Joyce.
Galarraga writes that everyone was yelling, and thus he felt like the only person who did not need to join in. "So I can only smile. I am too happy to do anything else. I know I have just pitched a perfect game. My whole body knows this. ... I am so happy that even this call cannot ruin my happiness."
It is difficult to read about the lack of "happiness" that followed for Joyce, who realizes his mistake when crewmate Derryl Cousins hesitates after Joyce asked if he had "kicked it." Joyce, having seen the replay, goes to the Tigers clubhouse and apologizes to the pitcher amid tears, and then drives to his mother's home 45 minutes away in Toledo, always a welcome respite for him between Tigers and Indians games during "the long slog of a season."
His father had died a year earlier, and the day before Galarraga's start, Joyce had visited the cemetery with his 86-year-old mother, the first time he had seen his father's gravestone. Joyce wrote that one of his first fleeting thoughts after the mistake call was: "It's a good thing he's not here to see this."
So Joyce sits at his old home in the wee hours after the game, trying to think about anything but the call -- and failing abjectly at doing that. He speaks to his wife, Kay, who is back home in Oregon, and she told him to delete his Facebook page. "Don't worry about it, Jim," she tells him. "Just don't look at it." Joyce says Kay "wished she could have gotten the same message to the kids" because they also had received "ugly, threatening messages" that were "meant for me."
The book sheds new light on Joyce's immediate willingness to face the music and how he suggested that his call be overturned by the Commissioner's Office a day after the game. Commissioner Bud Selig issued two statements on June 3, one recognizing the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. -- Galarraga's "very favorite" player as a boy. "It is like our two careers are connected to each other, like I am coming when he is going," Galarraga wrote.
The other statement from the Commissioner that day addressed the Galarraga-Joyce affair. Selig praised Galarraga for his performance, and both parties for the way they handled the fallout. Then Selig added:
"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."
Joyce writes that he tried unsuccessfully to reach Selig by phone the day after the game, leaving word instead that "it's Jim Joyce calling, and that it's OK with me if the Commissioner calls me out on this, suspends me, whatever he has to do." Joyce writes that his immediate reaction was that an overturned call "was the absolute best thing that could happen. It's like a do-over."
"Of course, I'm not thinking about baseball history or precedent or any of this stuff," Joyce wrote. "I'm just thinking about me, and what I cost this kid pitcher, and how I can make it up to him."
After consulting with all appropriate parties, including two unions and the Special Committee for On-Field Matters, the Commissioner would announce later that the use of instant replay would not be expanded. That much was settled. Meanwhile, the story of two co-authors goes on.
Joyce is donating all of his proceeds from the book to Umps Care Charities, a non-profit established by Major League Baseball umpires to provide financial, in-kind and emotional support for America's youth and families in need.