Detroit’s Armando Galarraga started to raise his hands in celebration at pitching a perfect game. Then he stared in disbelief as the umpire called the 27th Cleveland batter safe at first base, a decision the ump later acknowledged was wrong.
“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” umpire Jim Joyce told reporters after the Tigers’ 3-0 win last night. “I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay.”
Galarraga had retired 26 straight batters before the Indians’ Jason Donald came to the plate with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Donald hit a ground ball that Miguel Cabrera fielded at first base. He tossed it to Galarraga, who had the ball in his glove and his foot on the bag ahead of the runner’s arrival at first base.
It would have been Major League Baseball’s 21st perfect game and the third this season -- and the first in Tigers history.
“I just watched the replay 20 times and there’s no way you can call him safe,” said Galarraga (2-1). “He needs to do a better job in that situation. It wasn’t even close.”
The error may fuel calls for wider use of replays in baseball, which only allows reviews to determine whether a home run is valid. Decisions by umpires can’t be challenged. Baseball in December formed a 14-member panel that includes Tigers manager Jim Leyland to review issues such as the expanded use of instant replay.
Replays are used more widely in the National Football League, where coaches can challenge decisions including the validity of a score or whether a receiver catches the ball in bounds.
Since October 2008, National Basketball Association referees have been able to use replays to decide whether a field goal was for two or three points, or whether a shooter was fouled beyond the 3-point arc. They can also use video to determine if a 24-second shot clock violation occurs prior to a field goal or foul. Before that, officials used video to review buzzer-beating scores.
National Hockey League officials can watch replays to determine the legality of goals. In the third game of the Stanley Cup final last night, a goal by Simon Gagne in overtime was disallowed because the puck didn’t cross the goal line. His Philadelphia Flyers teammate Claude Giroux got the winner a minute later.
Sports such as rugby, cricket and tennis have also turned to video evidence to ensure decisions are correct, with players able to challenge line calls in tennis via the Hawkeye system.
Soccer in March decided against using replays or other technology to help referees determine if a goal is fair. In November, Thierry Henry wasn’t spotted by the referee after twice illegally touching the ball with his hand before setting up the goal that allowed France to qualify for this month’s World Cup at the expense of Ireland.
Before the end of last night’s game, Leyland went onto the field to protest the call with Joyce, who has been an umpire since 1989. The Tigers manager returned with two Detroit players after the final out to vent again at the official.
“Players are humans, umpires are human, managers are human,” Leyland said. “We all make mistakes. That’s the nature of the game. It’s a crying shame.”
After Joyce’s mistake, the 28-year-old Galarraga smiled thinly and returned to the mound as booing broke out at Comerica Park in Detroit. The next batter, Trevor Crowe, grounded out to end the game.
“That was my best game,” Galarraga said. “I hope I’ll keep going like that. I feel really good.”
Venezuela-born Galarraga finished with 88 pitches, including 67 strikes, in his first start since May 22.
The 20th perfect game in major league history was thrown by Roy Halladay in a 1-0 win for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Florida Marlins in Miami on May 29. Dallas Braden also achieved the feat on May 9 in Oakland’s 4-0 win over Tampa Bay.