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Sympathy For the Pitcher

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Please allow me to introduce myself.
Nobody knows my name.
I just came up from the minors
and I pitched a perfect game.
But the umpire called the runner safe.
He was doing his job.
Armando Gallaragas:
the pitcher who wuz robbed!

Ever since the tragic mis-call on the part of Jim Joyce, the umpire who screwed up Armando Gallaragas’s perfect game, all I seem to hear about is the poor umpire, from sports commentators and news broadcasters. Keith Olbermann, for instance, said Joyce “will forever be known as the umpire who blew the perfect game.”

Yes, it’s commendable that, upon realizing his mistake, Joyce apologized, and yes, he felt genuinely sorry – so sorry he wept openly. And yes, he has to live with this mistake for the rest of his life. I’m glad he’s a standup guy. I’m glad he’s an umpire with integrity, one who really cares, and that he didn’t try to defend himself or stubbornly stick to his misfired guns.

But what about the pitcher?

You can see it on Gallaragas’s face in the split second of joy granted him, when the last at-bat was over, and the last runner tagged out – or so he thought. His face lit up with elation, he thrust his arm in the air, ready to jump around and holler no doubt – and then he saw the umpire give the Safe signal. His face fell. Gone was the joy, replaced by confusion. He had no time to express any of these feelings, though, because within minutes the umpire had gone to watch the tape and came back on the field full of mea culpas.

Gallaragas must have felt he had to take care of Joyce –  at least he acted like he did. This kid, a rookie really, who’d come up from the minors just three weeks ago, suddenly found himself comforting a distraught umpire who’d just screwed him. There was no space for his own complicated emotions. And with all the buzz around Jim Joyce, little space has been made anywhere else for Gallaragas’s pain.

Which is why I’ve made a space in my heart and head, and here on my blog, however futile it might be. I’m thinking not about the umpire, but about a kid who pitched a historical perfect game that won’t be acknowledged in the record books, not only because the umpire made a mistake, but also because the world of baseball is so rigid and sentimentally bound to the past that Bud Selig, the Baseball Commissioner, refused to reverse the decision.

Bud Selig’s always been fairly useless. When Barry Bonds was going for his big record-breaking hit, Selig was possibly the only person in all of baseball who avoided taking a stand regarding Bonds’s drug use and how it affected the validity of the record. He happened to be there the night Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record, and though he stood up with everyone else, he did not clap or smile or make any sign that he’d even seen it happen. What a wimp! To expect someone that passive-aggressive to make a bold move now is expecting an awful lot. (By the way, how much longer will Selig hold his position? How does one become Commissioner? Is it done by election? Just wonderin’.) Note: I looked it up in Wikipedia. Seems we’re gonna be stuck with Selig for awhile.

IMHO, umpires have entirely too much power. Nobody’s allowed to argue their calls; doing so is grounds for getting thrown out of a game. Most are over 40, the age at which almost all adults need glasses, yet these guys make decisions based on what they see without benefit of specs as far as I can tell; maybe some wear contacts. Quite possibly this tragedy will lead to some slight expansion in the use of replay tapes in the future (which will help Armando Gallaragas not a whit). Some fans object to using the tapes out of fear that the games will go on even longer than their current three hours and counting. If that’s true, then how is it the tv cameras can show a home run 48 times during a game without anyone getting hysterical? Apparently, as Selig and others have said, there’s a deeper objection: that the use of technology will take something away from the “human” aspect of the game. They’ve admitted that they actually like it that mistakes are made, since human beings make mistakes.

I don’t know why I should expect rational thought and behavior from the baseball community any more than from any other group or community. In fact I don’t. Still, I’m heartbroken on behalf of Armando Gallaragas. I’m even a little bit heartbroken on behalf of Jim Joyce. And it’s all so unnecessary.


5 responses »

  1. Well said. Everyone knows that was a perfect game…and in that sense perhaps the pitcher becomes more famous than most pitchers who have thrown one…but Bud Selig just left Jim Joyce and his own already tarnished legacy as Commissioner twisting in the wind. Selig is not a man. Rather, he is a living stain on his sport.

  2. Right on! Note to my readers: Check out this URL–it’s terrific!


  3. I’m betting they give armando that perfect game

    he pitched a perfect game for real….
    and then the umpire made an error just like ball players make errors

    In the world of perfect forms it is a win

    But, Susan, the Commissioner has already declined to reverse the decision. It’s a done deal.–MS

  4. oops! idealizing again!

    do appreciate the attention being given to this issue…

  5. Selig is focusing on his legacy at this point – his career goal has always been to be a worse commissioner than Fay Vincent.

    And by the way – doesn’t he still own the Brewers? He used to – that can’t possibly be a conflict of interest…

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