By The Associated Press
DETROIT — Armando Galarraga bitterly sipped a beer minutes after he almost pitched a perfect game, lashing out at first base umpire Jim Joyce for blowing a call that negated his place in baseball history.
An apology and hug changed Galarraga’s attitude.
Joyce, in tears, asked for a chance to apologize after the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians 3-0 Wednesday night.
“You don’t see an umpire after the game come out and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you I’m sorry,’” Galarraga said “He felt really bad. He didn’t even shower.”
The perfect game that wasn’t.
MLB declined comment on Joyce’s call. Social networking sites, meanwhile, were buzzing about it.
Galarraga, who was barely known outside of Detroit a day ago, and Joyce, whose career had flourished in relative anonymity, quickly became a trending topics on Twitter. At least one anti-Joyce Facebook page was created shortly after the game ended and a firejimjoyce.com was launched.
“I worked with Don Denkinger, and I know what he went through, but I’ve never had a moment like this,” Joyce said.
Denkinger didn’t have to deal with the wrath of fans on Twitter or Facebook. Denkinger helped tilt the 1985 World Series, and that followed him throughout his career, by blowing a call as a first base umpire.
Joyce has been calling balls and strikes and deciding if runners are out or safe as a full-time major league umpire since 1989. He has been respected enough to be on the field for two World Series, 11 other playoff series and a pair of All-Star games.
A split-second decision he made will probably haunt him for the rest of his career.
Joyce emphatically signaled safe when Cleveland’s Jason Donald clearly didn’t beat a throw to first base for what would’ve been the last out in Armando Galarraga’s perfect game for the Detroit Tigers, setting off a chorus of groans and boos that echoed in Comerica Park.
The instantly infamous play also will add to the argument that Major League Baseball needs to expand its use of replays.
It’s rare for an umpire to acknowledge a mistake in one of the few sports that relies heavily on the human eye, but Joyce did to reporters and later to Galarraga.
“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room. “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”
Leyland was livid during the game when he charged out of the dugout to argue the call and got in another heated discussion with Joyce after the final out.
Later, though, Leyland tried to give Joyce a break.
“The players are human, the umpires are human, the managers are human,” Leyland said.
Galarraga tried to calm his nerves with a beer after the game after almost getting to celebrate the first perfect game in franchise history.
He was vying for the third perfect game in the majors this year, including Roy Halladay’s gem last Saturday night. He seemed to do his job for the 27th out along with first baseman Miguel Cabrera on a play teams work on often in spring training.
Donald hit a grounder in the hole between first and second, Cabrera fielded it and threw to first, where Galarraga caught the ball at least a step ahead of Donald, replays showed.
“I feel sad,” Galarraga said.
Cabrera said he didn’t want to talk about it and Donald answered questions from reporters after a long soak in the tub.
“I didn’t know if I beat the throw or not,” Donald said. “But given the circumstances, I thought for sure I’d be called out.”
The Tigers huddled around one of the two big-screen televisions in their clubhouse, standing stoically and silently as the play was shown over and over.
“I know I played in a perfect game,” Detroit shortstop Ramon Santiago said. “In my mind, on June 2, Armando Galarraga threw a no-hitter. I’m going to get a ball signed by him.”