by | Jun 6, 2010 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

Years ago, a sportswriter wrote, “The imperfect man pitched the perfect game.”

Today, it would read, “The imperfect ump blew the perfect game.”

And it never should have happened.

Armando Galarraga should have his perfect game today. Jim Joyce, the umpire, should be sighing, “Whew!” Fans should be telling friends they were there when history was made – the right kind of history, not the wrong kind.

I’m glad Galarraga behaved with the class of five British butlers, shaking off the most egregious baseball call of the 21st Century by saying, “Nobody’s perfect.”

But the fact is, he was. He was perfect. Perfect over 27 batters. And they made him face 28.

Never should have happened. And never should happen again. Because instant replay should be made part of baseball immediately.

Instead, despite Wednesday night’s now-infamous ninth-inning, two-out play at first base that clearly would have been overturned with one look at a replay machine, Bud Selig remains the latest commissioner to resist technology available to any guy with a black-and-white television.

On Thursday, given a chance to change his ways, he only said in a released statement that he would explore the options.

He also refused to change the official record of Joyce’s terrible call, only saying it was an “unfortunate situation” while citing the “human element” of baseball.

Oh. And he saluted people’s behavior.

“The dignity and class of the entire Detroit Tigers organization,” Selig said, “… embodied sportsmanship of the highest order.”

Yeah. So? Even Denkinger has seen the light

Nobody is arguing behavior. Everyone behaved admirably. Joyce fessed up. Said he blew it.

And Galarraga? Well. He may be the first pitcher to see a one-hitter do more for his reputation than a hitless one. From the moment he saw Joyce make the wrong call, his first reaction was to smile. (“He wasn’t going to take away my happiness,” Galarraga would tell me.) He even joked that in Venezuela he now was known as “the first pitcher to throw a 28-out perfect game.”

So he was gracious. And Joyce was contrite. And everyone behaved admirably. And that’s not the point.

The point is the only way you fix this issue is to fix the problem that allowed it. You can’t say baseball doesn’t want instant replay because it already has it. It’s on every TV broadcast. It’s on most stadium scoreboards.

The only people not using instant replays are the umpires. And that’s insane.

Even former ump Don Denkinger, who had to live with an infamous bad call in the 1985 World Series, told me Thursday: “I changed my mind three years ago when instant replay got a lot better. You can get a decision a lot quicker today than having a manager come out and argue for 10 minutes.”

Exactly. So where is it? Do it for Armando, please

Look, the NFL, NBA, NHL – heck, even tennis – uses replay for questionable calls. I know baseball is precious about its resistance to modern technology.

But it sure embraces the money that TV brings. So it isn’t that resistant. And it uses replay for home runs. It now must embrace it for tags at the plate, foul balls and, yes, calls at the bases. Galarraga’s injustice demands that much.

Construct any system you want. Give the managers two challenges a game. Make the last three innings automatic. Give the ultimate decision to check replays to the crew chief.

Any of those would have saved Wednesday night, and allowed Galarraga only the 21st perfect game in history. Consider that. Twenty-one times. In more than a century’s worth of baseball? Doesn’t Galarraga deserve to have that in the record books – and in his trophy case?

“I know that I did it …” Galarraga told me Thursday. “I don’t want to be known as the guy who the umpire’s call blew his no-hitter.”

OK. But he can be known as the guy who prevented it. Calling it the “Galarraga Rule,” baseball should usher in instant replay once and for all. You know what that would give this imperfect story?

A perfect ending.

Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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