Baseball’s perfect games — in which a pitcher prevents the opposing team from reaching base across all nine innings — remain among the most elusive and notable events in all of sports. So when the Detroit Tigers’s Armando Galarraga had retired 26 straight batters — one away from perfection — in a 2010 game at home to the Cleveland Indians, nearly every fan (apart from Indians supporters, presumably) was rooting for him. And sure enough, when Indians shortstop Jason Donald smacked a soft grounder between first and second it seemed as if the final out would go to Galarraga himself, who was covering first base.
But then umpire Jim Joyce, a 22-year veteran, stepped in and ruled Donald safe at first — breaking up Galarraga’s perfect game and no doubt breaking his heart in the process. Replays clearly showed that Joyce had bungled the call: Galarraga’s right foot was firmly on the bag with the ball in his glove. The pitcher, to his eternal credit, saw out the game, giving him a one-hit shutout. But it was the hit that never was that will probably be most associated with Galarraga, and indeed Joyce, for the rest of their careers.
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