Fixing the Galarraga perfect* game

http://img.widgets.video.s-msn.com/flash/customplayer/1_0/customplayer.swf<a href=”http://msn.foxsports.com/video?vid=d9a3222a-f2fe-456e-86cd-c84bf9fe1eac” target=”_new” title=””>Highlights: CLE/DET</a>

It is easily the most resonant sports story of the day, and maybe the most compelling yet in this entire baseball season. Detroit pitcher Armando Gallaraga was robbed of a perfect game tonight by an imperfect, flat-out incorrect call by umpire Jim Joyce.

Instantly, it is one of the biggest blown calls in the history of baseball. And there’s no way to fix it, really. Aside from this single play, the Gallaraga score sheet was unblemished. He needed only 75 pitches through eight innings.

In the ninth inning, attempting to throw the third perfect game in the Major Leagues this season, he got a phenomenal catch by Austin Jackson on a running catch in deep center to get the first out, then got a ground-out to short. But then, on the third out, Jason Donald grounded to first base, Gallaraga covered the bag, his foot hit the bag first and . . . Joyce called Donald safe.

Perfect game over. Mega-controversy beginning.

Gallaraga’s reaction was amazing. He smiled weakly at Joyce, then went about his business. Later, Detroit manager Jim Leyland chewed Joyce out. After seeing the replay, Joyce went straight to the Tigers clubhouse to speak to the entire team, and to Gallaraga.

Here’s what should happen.

The game, and the play, deserve a spot in Cooperstown in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Quickly.

Mistakes are part of baseball. And part of life. This one ruined a perfect game. But how these two men responded to the mistake was just about as perfect as you can get.

Joyce stayed on the field and took his medicine after the game. He acknowledged his mistake, saying, “I just cost that kid a perfect game. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career.”

He apologized to the team personally. He didn’t shirk from the mistake.

And what about Gallaraga? In a day of screaming and whining and righteous indignation, he displayed a kind of grace you just don’t find in sports. He said mistakes happen. He refused to take a shot at the ump.

Put an asterisk beside the result if you want in the list of perfect games. But the game and the play are almost more valuable as they stand.

Sometimes a flaw can put perfection into even more perspective.

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