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After A Ballgame, 'Nobody's Perfect' Is Just Perfect

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After A Ballgame, 'Nobody's Perfect' Is Just Perfect

After A Ballgame, 'Nobody's Perfect' Is Just Perfect

After A Ballgame, 'Nobody's Perfect' Is Just Perfect

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127495176/127495633" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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I don't care who wins this year's World Series. I doubt it will be the Cubs, in any case.

I think the enduring highlight of the 2010 season occurred Wednesday night when an umpire named Jim Joyce blew a call that would have given Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers that rarest of achievements, a perfect game: 27 batters up, 27 down.

The last out should have been a ground ball to first base, on which Mr. Galarraga took the throw well ahead of the runner. But Jim Joyce called the runner safe. The contrary evidence on video was immediate and glaring.

Yet Armando Galarraga didn’t fume or spew. He didn't call his lawyer or the players union. He smiled and went back to work, getting one last out to win a one-hit shutout over the Cleveland Indians, while losing what may be his lifetime chance for a perfect game.

But Jim Joyce looked at video of the play and tearfully told reporters, "I just missed the damn call. ... I took a perfect game away from that kid over there who worked his butt"—and he didn't say butt—"off all night." Then he went into the Tigers locker room to apologize to Armando Galarraga. And Mr. Galarraga told reporters, "Nobody's perfect. I understand. I feel for the guy."

Voices from The Nation to National Review have called on the commissioner of Major League Baseball to intervene and reward Armando Galarraga a perfect game. It doesn't look like he'll do that, but he may consider expanding video reviews in baseball.

I am among those fans who have opposed using video replays that would slow down the game and make it too serious, by analyzing every pitch like it was the BP oil spill.

I now think that view is as antiquated as a Sony Walkman. These days, managers and coaches watch replays on laptops in the clubhouse, studying a pitcher's motion or a batter's hitch as intently as CIA analysts looking for al-Qaida hideouts in the mountains of Pakistan. A good umpire's rare mistakes already get replayed over and over on stadium scoreboards, TV and the Web, like video of a stickup on America's Most Wanted.

So I've come to think that permitting a team to ask for, say, two video replays a game would ensure that they were used sparingly and might save a fine man and umpire like Jim Joyce the humiliation of a wrong call.

Armando Galarraga's great performance won't go into the record books as a perfect game. But the real human grace that both he and Jim Joyce displayed this week — a pitcher and umpire, as natural adversaries as cats and dogs — became a portrait of inspiration that's bigger than the fine print in any record books.

You know what? I think it was a perfect game.

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