THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER: The Perfect Game is Gone, But Galarragagate Lives On

June 6, 2010
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      Folks, there’s more to this Galarragagate thing than meets an umpire’s eye….hey, am I the first one to call it that?

      And what exactly is Galarragagate, you ask?   Well, if you don’t know, you’re not really paying much attention.   This has gone way beyond being just a sports story.   It has been all over CNN and other national news outlets this week, and even the governor of Michigan has weighed in.   It has touched a national nerve.

If this play was that obvious, why the bad call?

If this play was that obvious, why the bad call?


      What it is is what happened on a baseball diamond in Detroit last Wednesday.   Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was pitching a perfect game.   A perfect game, briefly, is where a pitcher goes the full nine innings and does not allow any of the 27 hitters to even reach base.   Twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down.   It is way better than a mere no-hitter.   There have been hundreds of no-hitters.   But only 20 perfect games have ever been pitched in the big leagues.   Ever.   That’s 20 perfect games in 142 years of professional baseball.   It is the very definition of excellence in Sport.   Pull it off and it is the crowning achievement of any pitcher’s career.   Anyway, Galarraga is still perfect with two outs in the 9th, only one measly little out to go.   He throws a nasty, wrinkly little slider to Jason Donald of the Cleveland Indians, who slaps it weakly to the right side of the infield.   It’s perfect.   Literally.   It’s an easy play.   Detroit first-baseman Miguel Cabrera fields the grounder perfectly, throws perfectly to Galarraga covering first, who catches the ball perfectly and touches first base perfectly, in plenty of time to beat Donald pumping his way furiously down the line.   Since it is his own perfect game he is securing by beating the runner to first and touching first base personally, it is the perfect way for Galarraga to enter the perfect Pantheon of pitchers who have also been perfect.   He gets to do it himself.   It is perfect in every way.   Galarraga starts to jump in the air, a huge smile creasing his pleasant Venezuelan countenance….

      Except that the umpire calls Donald safe.

      All are stunned.   Players grab their heads in shock.   The Detroit fans rain down boos.   Galarraga keeps his smile, but his eyes bleed pain.   Even Donald can’t believe it, his hands grabbing his own head in disbelief, looking around nervously, even embarrassedly, sort of like he’d just gotten away with stealing the Crown Jewels….with the Queen still wearing them.   The Tiger players on the field rally around their teammate, arguing vehemently and borderline viciously with the umpire to no avail.   Order is restored, Galarraga retires the next man he faces, and leaves the mound with a one-hitter.   Even after the game is over the Tiger players are still frothing angrily at the offending umpire.

      The umpire’s name is Jim Joyce.   He’s a good guy.   Everyone says so.   Players like him, managers like him, other umpires like him.   Dogs like him.   He is experienced, admired, respected throughout the game. 

      And then he goes and shows why.   After seeing the television replay of the signature moment of his life, Joyce admitted he was wrong.

      Huh?   An umpire admitting he was wrong?   I know, I know—‘sounds positively un-American.   But that’s what he did.   He looked at the replay after the game and saw that he had not only blown the call, but had blown it by a pretty big margin.   Turns out the runner was out by about two feet, maybe more.   Two inches is a close play in baseball.   Two feet is a chasm.   “I just cost that kid a perfect game,“ Joyce lamented, literally in tears.  “It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the {bleep} out of it.”   Wow.   Joyce even made his way to Galarraga in the Tigers locker room and apologized in person.   And they hugged!   Has this misbegotten planet finally become civilized?  

      And as classy as Joyce was, Galarraga was even classier.   Remember, he is the victim, Joyce merely the perpetrator.   Galarraga never did fume or froth or spit or swear, or even complain.   “I know nobody’s perfect,” he said.   Detroit manager Jim Leyland even had Galarraga bring the line-up card out to home plate and shake Joyce’s hand in front of the Detroit crowd before the following game the very next day.   Galarraga shook Joyce’s hand and patted him on the back.   The crowd cheered.   Joyce wept.   Leyland wore dark glasses in the clubhouse after the game, to hide his tears of love and admiration for the Detroit fans.   Are these the three classiest guys on earth or what???

      Let us now address the aftershocks of Galarragagate.

      What about changing the call?   Such is the hue and cry surrounding Galarragagate that baseball commissioner Bud Selig—that noble bastion of baseball morality who saved us all from Steroids—briefly considered invoking the “best interests of the game” clause he alone wields and ruling it a perfect game.   After all it was two outs in the 9th, all available replays reconfirmed the obvious, who would it hurt?   Bonehead Bud ultimately refused to change history.   He let the game stand as called.   But even if he did change it (and I’m not sure he should have) the moment itself is gone.   Galarraga and the Comerica Park fans of June 2nd, 2010 have been forever cheated of that splendid, once-in-a-lifetime rush that comes from experiencing a sports rapture.   Gone like a fart in the wind.

      What about instant replay?   People have been calling for it for years, and they have in fact instituted instant replay in baseball this season on a very limited basis, restricted to reviewing disputed home runs; over or under the fence, fair or foul, etc.   As an old-fashioned baseball purist and fervent traditionalist I have always been against instant replay in baseball.   It’s okay to have replay in football, tennis, or basketball, those are great sports but they are, after all, just sports.   Baseball is religion.   Sacred.   Holy.   I need to think about it.   You know.   In case Bud asks for my input.   (It isn’t easy being the Sports Philosopher.)

      But if they do enact instant replay, how do you think the surviving members of the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals will feel?   How do you think Todd Worrell will feel?   How do you think Don Denkinger will feel?

      Relax, I’m getting to it.   The 1985 World Series came down to one bad call, a call eerily similar to the Joyce/Galarraga call.   I remember it like it was yesterday.   It was Game Six, St. Louis up three games to two on the Kansas City Royals.   St. Louis was clinging to a desperate 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th, three outs from a World Championship.    K.C. sent Jorge Orta to the plate as the first batter of that final fateful inning, ‘last chance for the Royals, to face the Cardinals’ closer; Southern California’s own Todd Worrell.   Yeah, Worrell went to Maranatha High School, right down the road in Arcadia.   My own sister was friends with his sister.   Sort of.   Anyway, they all went to Maranatha, which means “the Lord cometh”.  

      Well, the Lord did not cometh anywhere close to Todd Worrell on this day.   Orta slapped a ball to first baseman Jack Clark, who fielded it just as cleanly as Detroit first baseman Cabrera did 25 years later, Worrell ran over to cover first, just as fellow pitcher Galarraga was covering first on Wednesday.   Clark threw the ball to Worrell who caught it and touched the bag.   Just like Wednesday .   Orta was out.  

      Umpire Don Denkinger called him safe.

      It was the whole series.   Instead of none on and one out suddenly it was one on and no outs.   Then a walk, a passed ball, and a couple base-hits later the luckless Worrell had a blown save in the biggest game of his life and the Royals had a 2-1 walk-off victory to the stunned delight of the home crowd.   The Royals annihilated the utterly dispirited Cardinals the next day 11-0, to win the 1985 World Series in seven games.   So while Joyce’s call merely cost one guy a great day in early June, Denkinger’s mental meltdown in October cost an entire team, and city, a World Championship.

      Don’t you think Denkinger wishes they had instant replay back then?   Will he be bitter in his old age if they implement it now?

      No, we haven’t heard the last of Galarragagate my friends.

      But you know whose face popped into my head when all this possible instant replay babble started?   You know who I can’t stop thinking about as a result of Joyce’s blown call costing Armando Galarraga his perfect game?   Al Gore.

      Don’t be confused.   Take a breath.   Yes, I’m talking about the real Al Gore, the dopey guy who got the 2000 Democratic nomination for president and then somehow managed to lose the election to the mother of all dopes, George W. Bush.   Actually, things worked out pretty well for Gore.   By losing the presidency he wound up grabbing an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Nobel Peace Prize.   Good for him.

      But if any guy deserves an instant replay, or a Bud-Seliglike after-the-fact ruling in his favor, it’s Al.   I think pretty much everyone who thinks clearly agrees that more Florida folks actually voted for (or tried to vote for, pregnant chads be damned) dopey Al than dopey George in 2000, and that Florida’s electoral votes should have put Al over the top and into the White House, but as you know the Supreme Court ruled to stop the recount because it was doing “irreparable harm”.   (That’s code for the pro-Bush judges on the court thinking that it would do irreparable harm to their feelings if they didn’t do something quick to keep people from counting the actual votes which would lead to Gore winning.)   It’s the biggest scandal in U.S. history that no one cares about.   Time swept it from our minds, and Apathy held the dustpan….

      But my thinking is this: If they can institute instant replay in baseball, if they can even consider overturning an umpire’s bad call to award a pitcher the perfect game that was rightfully his, why can’t someone overturn the worst blown call in United States history?   Let’s turn back the clock and see what happens with President Gore at the controls.

      Of course the reason I was predisposed to thinking about Al Gore in the first place was the news last week that Al and Tipper Gore have separated after forty years of marriage.   It was hard news to swallow.   People get divorced; presidents don’t.   If Al had won, they’d still be together.   If some higher power were to somehow overturn that bad call, maybe turn back the hands of Time itself, Al would now be ex-President Gore and there’s no way we would have had to read or hear last week that Al and Tipper had called it quits after forty years of….I don’t know, of whatever they had.

      Remember “the kiss”?   When Gore hopped up on stage at Staples Center to accept the nomination the perky Tipper was waiting for him, and they kissed.   But it was not some politically correct peck on the cheek.   It was a sucking, clutching, grabbing, full embracing treat.   They were up there on stage, lost in each other, like a cheesy 40s movie, grinding away.   Nobody could believe it.

      Now obviously, considering it in a vacuum, it certainly wasn’t the greatest kiss in history.   But considering that these were two dowdy old 50-somethings, a sleepy-eyed politician and his aging blonde trophy wife, and the old guy was in the process of accepting the Democratic Nomination for President of the United States, watching old Al tickle and titillate Tipper’s tonsils with his tongue takes on a far greater significance.   It was our national leaders being delightfully human.   It was unscripted.   It was real.   It was middle-agers revealing and reveling in their hormones.   It was downright sensual.    It was better than porn.

      Don’t take my word for it.   See for yourself: .   I can’t believe we didn’t get to elect this frisky guy.  :>)

      And now, after forty years, the Gores have separated.   Forty years!    This wasn’t some fling, some May-December flirtation, some Buick back-seat-driven shotgun wedding, this was America’s dry yet golden couple, with kids and grandkids galore, staying together for decades while bathed blissfully in true love, an inspiration for all time.   How can two people split up after forty freaking friggin’ years???   My faith in marriage was shaky at best.   But this wrecks it for good.

      Maybe she’ll come back!   Maybe he’ll take her back!   They can make a movie about their reunion, call it “Come Back, Little Tipper”, I’ll even help with the screenplay.   Maybe Doris Day can come out of retirement to play the lead.   Come back, Tipper.   Come back right now and I’ll forgive you. . . . Although I’m not sure my 13-year-old son will ever forgive you, for trying to censor Twisted Sister back in 1985: .   So maybe he won’t forgive you, but I will.   After all, Galarragagate proves that this is a time for forgiveness, a time for 2nd chances, that this is surely the Instant Replay Age.   Come back, Tipper.   Restore our faith in all things holy.   Just come back.    Just come back.

meet….The Sports Philosopher!

The One and Only Sports Philosopher

The One and Only Sports Philosopher

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and wacky political theorist— in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered within the treasured links below:







2 Responses to “THE SPORTS PHILOSOPHER: The Perfect Game is Gone, But Galarragagate Lives On”

  1. Very interesting link to Al and Tipper Gore and I don’t think we have heard the last from the couple. I have faith that Tipper will come back and forgiveness will flow all around. What can I say, I am the forever optimist.
    It was nice to meet you today Brad and I enjoyed your article. I’ll put you on my favorites page and look forward to reading more of your articles in the furture.
    Carla S.
    Fellow Bright Scholars Parent


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