Even though MLB umpires’ names are announced at the beginning of each game at Comerica Park, they usually go unnoticed by Detroit Tigers fans. Unless, of course, they do something immensely wrong.
There are a few moments in Detroit Tigers history where umpire mistakes have affected the games.
This is why Jim Joyce is a well-known name for Tigers fans. On June 2, 2010, Jim Joyce completely destroyed Armando Galarraga‘s perfect game with one of the worst calls in the history of baseball. And now, Joyce has retired from the game.
According to several sources, including Brad Manzullo from the Detroit Free Press:
"“Joyce, 61, has joined three other umpires in retiring from Major League Baseball before the 2017 season. He had been an umpire since 1987.”"
On that fateful day that Galarraga threw what actually was a perfect game (just not on paper), Joyce was the first-base umpire. In what should have been the last out of the game, Joyce made a horrible call. Jason Donald hit the ball between first and second base. Miguel Cabrera fielded it and threw the ball to Galarraga, who was covering first. It was very clear that Donald was out, but Joyce called him safe.
And the outrage began.
Keep in mind that this horrible call predated video replay. It is now common knowledge in the world of baseball, Joyce, after seeing the play later, acknowledged his error. He apologized to Galarraga, who has remained a gentleman about the whole event.
In the same article in the Detroit Free Press, Joyce is quoted as saying:
"“This is a history call,” an emotional Joyce told reporters after the game. “And I kicked the (expletive) out of it. And there is nobody that feels worse than I do. I take pride in this job and I kicked the (expletive) out of it. And I took a perfect game away from that kid over there.”More from Detroit Tigers HistoryCelebrating Willie Horton’s Return to the All-Star GameOf Trade Deadlines, Detroit Tigers, Fidrych, Smoltz, SkubalRecalling Each of the Current Detroit Tigers’ First MLB HitsEduardo Rodriguez versus Justin Verlander: Money Well Spent?Detroit Tigers retired numbers"
The entire event could have been handled differently. But, Joyce and Galarraga provided an opportunity for baseball to learn from the event. It was a catalyst for the replay rule. Had it been enacted prior to the call, Galarraga would have recorded the very first perfect game in Detroit Tigers history. That opportunity is still up for grabs.
It also added humility to the game. In a world where people are so reluctant to admit to their flaws, Joyce shared his. His honestly about his mistake was a good thing for baseball and professional sports in general. Of course, the perfect game would have been even better – but umpires are human and their humanity continues to make baseball the game that it is.
Hopefully, Joyce will attend a baseball game at Comerica Park, so the fans can thank him for his service to the game.