Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce and Me

The second craziest night of my sportswriting career

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Comerica Park in Detroit. (Image via Pixabay)

Just another day at the ballpark

By this point, you’ve probably guessed I covered the game, and you’d be correct. I was working for the Associated Press that night — part of my 21st season covering the Tigers for them. On a typical night, I would have been headed to the Indians clubhouse after the game to collect quotes about the loss.

“Why is he safe?!?”

Jason Donald took a strike, then a ball low and outside. On the 1–1 pitch, he hit a soft grounder toward the right side of the infield. Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera and second baseman Carlos Guillen both broke for the ball, with Galarraga running toward first.

The healing begins

It was a shorter wait than usual, and, unusually, they allowed in other reporters. Joyce was waiting when I walked in, and I introduced myself. As soon as I saw his red-rimmed eyes, I realized this wasn’t going to be a standard umpire interview.

This isn’t a call. This is a history call, and I kicked the s**t out of it. There’s nobody who feels worse than I do. I take pride in this job, and I kicked the s**t out of that call, and I took a perfect game away from that kid over there. He worked his ass off all night.

Until that moment, I hadn’t thought about the national impact this was going to have. Joyce’s reaction was unexpected, but I didn’t know Galarraga had been incredibly classy when he spoke to reporters. He refused to blame Joyce, saying it was just an honest mistake.

Aftermath

Joyce retired after the 2016 season, still highly regarded within the game, but knowing his legacy will consist of one mistake. Ten years later, the first sentence of his Wikipedia page reads:

Looking back

Is it the most memorable sporting event of my career? No. It isn’t even close, but it’s been a strong second on my list for ten years — ahead of Justin Verlander’s first no-hitter, a Stanley Cup win for the Red Wings, an NBA title for the Pistons, and a World Series title for the Giants.

Freelance writer and data scientist in Metro Detroit. Covered pro sports for NHL.com and the Associated Press before COVID-19. Mentally ill and not ashamed.

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