It is no doubt that one of the rarest feats to accomplish in baseball is the perfect game. 27 batters up, 27 batters down. It is so rare that only 20 pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball have accomplished this feat, so if it were to occur 3 times in a season, that would be the story of the year.
So far this year, Dallas Braden of the A's pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Mother's Day (with his grandmother who raised him in the stands!) and this last Saturday, Roy Halliday of the Phillies pitched a perfect game against the Florida Marlins. Last night, we were a thin thread from witnessing baseball history in the making when Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers face 26 batters, punching all of them out!
Facing hitter number 27, rookie Jason Donald, on a 1-1 count, hit a weak grounder to Miguel Cabrera at first who threw to Galarraga covering first for the apparent third out. But first base umpire Jim joyce called Donald safe at first. The reactions from the players was telling. Cabrera and Galarraga were shocked, Brandon Inge at third just fell to the ground, Jim Leyland came out to argue the call (which he makes a point not to do under normal circumstances), Even Jason Donald was shocked! But Armando got Trevor Crowe to ground to Inge at third who easily threw out Crowe at first.
After the game, Jim Joyce asked the video operators to cue up the play and when he reviewed it, he admitted that he blew the call. He then asked for Galarraga to come to the umpires room where he apologized profusely and hugged Galarraga who told him that he understood. But even this may not qualify as the most disappointing lost bid for pitching perfection.
In 1959 Pittsburgh's Harvey Haddix' 12 innings of perfect baseball were lost in the 13th by an error by Don Hoak leaving Felix Mantilla on first. After a sacrifice that moved Mantilla to second, Haddix intentionally walked Hank Aaron to set up the double-play. But then Joe Adcock hit an apparent home-run, that ironically, only scored 1 run because in confusion, Aaron left the base path and Adcock passed him, so the league president ruled it officially as a double and only the first Braves run counted. So Haddix lost 12 innings of perfect baseball, 1-0.
Lew Freedman wrote a book about Haddix and called it, “Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game Ever Lost” and I would still have to agree because if Lew Burdette had not pitched shutout ball as well, Haddix would have officially had his perfect game. To add insult to injury, Major League Baseball in 1991 took Haddix' name off of the no-hitter list due to a definition change of what constitutes a no-hitter. But Armando's game was blown by an umpire, not in the normal course of the game so it runs a very close second.
There are some who are calling for intervention by commissioner Bud Selig to overturn Joyce's call. I do not hold to any hope that Selig will do it, but a solid case can be made for overturning the call. This illustrates that instant replay review should be available in extremely controversial plays such as this one, where history is in the balance. one commenter on MLB.com said that even Jim Joyce would benefit from overturning this call because he has been a solid big league umpire for 22 years and this one blown call should not define his otherwise excellent umpiring career. The only one adversely affected in overturning the call is Jason Donald who would not have credit for a hit that he clearly did not deserve. Mr. Commissioner, I know you love the human aspect of the game of baseball, as do I, but this is clearly a case where instant replay would have preserved history and so this call should be overturned and instant replay available for extremely controversial calls.
It sure would have been nice to have a Tiger perfect game in real life! (Kevin Costner's character Billy Chapel pitched a perfect game in the movie “For Love of the Game“) Well, we can look at this game and say that Gallaraga is the first pitcher to pitch a 28 hitter perfect game and win! (Since Haddix lost) No matter what we think of Jim Joyce or what the official line score of the game is, those of us who watched the game know Armando was perfect! And it was magnificent!