Sport is rarely short of a hard luck story but there can have been few to match that of Armando Galarraga, a journeyman pitcher from the Detroit Tigers who had his moment of moments snatched from him by an official's grievous error. The perfect game is achieved by few – just 20 in 135 years of Major League history, although oddly two have been thrown this season already – and Galarraga was on the verge of adding his name to the list when Jim Joyce, the first-base umpire, denied the 28-year-old Venezuelan the all-important final out.
"I just cost that kid a perfect game," bemoaned Joyce afterwards. "I was convinced he beat the throw until the replay. It was the biggest call of my career."
Joyce called Cleveland's Jason Donald safe but within moments replays clearly showed that Galarraga's foot touched the base ahead of Donald's leap. Detroit manager Jim Leyland clambered out of the dugout to confront Joyce and angrily protest the call but it remained as was. In baseball TV replays are only used for questionable home runs and not umpire calls.
A rueful Galarraga, who at the start of the season had been viewed as little more than a fringe player for the Tigers, responded by hugging a tearful Joyce – a grizzled veteran of 21 years Major League service. "He apologised. He feels really bad," said Galarraga. "What am I gonna do? His body language said more than a lot of words. His eyes were watery, he didn't have too say much. His body language said a lot."
Others were less forgiving of the umpire denying Galarraga his place in history. Joyce's Wikipedia entry was soon defaced while a website calling for the umpire's sacking has been set up.
"Nobody is perfect," summed up the ever-gracious Galarraga, although if it hadn't been for Joyce's error he would be.