Former MLB Umpire’s Daily Reminder Of Infamous Call
Jim Joyce is following the World Series.
Baseball fans are focused on Philadelphia. Tuesday night's Game 3 between the hometown Phils and the American League pennant winning Houston Astros will decide which team takes a 2-1 lead in the Series. Tens of thousands will be filling up seats at Citizens Bank Park, while millions more will be cozying up to TV sets around the country, and beyond. It's the Fall Classic, afterall. This is what baseball fans wait for, from when training camps swing open their gates in February.
Counted among baseball's legions of fans is Joyce. For more than two decades, beginning in May 1987 and wrapping up his MLB time behind the plate and around the infield on October 2, 2016, Joyce managed the integrity of the game at field level. Given all the balls and strikes called and safe signs made at the bases, Joyce remains a fan of the game.
Recently, I made call to the veteran ump. From his Beverton, Oregon home, Joyce sounded rested, and at peace, now six seasons removed from the namadic lifestyle he encountered for eight months annually.
There is two reasons why I decided to give Joyce a ring. One obvious, and one not so obvious.
Before getting to the obvious, I remain interested in how a proferssional as Joyce adjusted to post-baseball life.
You see, way before getting a shot at the MLB level at umpiring, Joyce stuck it out in the minors for a decade, until getting his big break. Before getting to work three World Series, three All-Stars Games, and a ton more post-season series, Joyce sacrificed so much to get where he had hopes for his dream to take him.
No different than minor league baseball players, umpires, too, work for low wages. They experience challenging travel conditions, as well. During his time working on the Triple-A level in the Pacific Coast League and Double-A's Texas League, Joyce's goal was to be able to send home to his wife Kay $1,000. monthly. At the time, a promotion to MLB's umpiring ranks meant a pay bump to $50,000. per season.
And just like any really good story to be told, Joyce has his own when it comes to the details on being called up to the major leagues. Dejected from years of going unnoticed, just as Joyce was ready to quit, MLB Umpire Supervisor Marty Springstead stepped in.
After seeing what he liked in Joyce's work, in 1986 at Springstead's urging, his contract was purchased.
Joyce made a good career for himself. Drving from his home in Toledo, Ohio, Joyce enrolled in the Bill Kinnamon School of Umpiring in St. Petersburg that came with a $2,000. tuition fee. This was in the late 1970's. In the end, umpiring and Joyce were a successful combination.
During his career, there were a few memorable days at the ballpark for Joyce. There was that time during the 2012 season at Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where Jolyce administered CPR to a woman who was experiencing cardiac arrest.
Then, on June 2, 2010, at Detroit's Comerica Park - this is the obvious date and place that defines Joyce's place in MLB history. Joyce declares that not a day goes past without someone reminding him of this day.
I was reminded of this game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians just recently, while scrolling through Amazon's listing of baseball books. There it was - Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, And A Game For Baseball History. Joyce and then Tigers' pitcher Armondo Galarraga, tell their story to Daniel Paiser. I had to have this book. I had to know details of one of the game's most famous almost perfect games.
I wasn 't disappointed. Page 248 offers the box-score of THE game.
Heading into the ninth inning, Galarraga had a perfect game going. Galarraga retired the first twenty six batters he faced. With one out to go, for the Indians, up to home plate steps Jason Donald. Joyce is the first base umpiere. Donald hits a ground ball to the Tigers' first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who tosses the ball to Galarraga covering first base.
The throw beats Donald to the bag. But, instead of celebrating a perfect game, Joyce calls the runner safe.
Let the controversy begin.
At a time where there was no video replay, Joyce's call stood. Galarraga ends up throwing a one-hitter. Joyce, obviously to many, blew the call.
This is where Nobody's Perfect comes into fair play. The story of the game, and the two main actors in one of baseball's all-time tragedies is told incredibly well.
Readers are let in on Joyce's reaction to his rough night at Comerica, as he drives back to his childhood home in Toledo, to stay with his mother. His conversation with his wife Kay is private, but Joyce allows company. The tie between Detroit and Cleveland, for Joyce growing up a baseball fan and going to games with his dad make this great story greater. Galarraga fills readers on his youth growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, being signed by the Montreal Expos, battling arm injuries, and the Tigers then taking a chance with him.
I highly recommend adding Nobody's Perfect to your baseball library.
During my conversation with Joyce, I am surprised when he tells me there is no formal avenue currently where his umpiring peers keep in touch. There is no formal MLB alumni contact. For most umpires, retired and current, they are scattered around trhe country. Sometimes - out of sight, out of mind. Aside from some knee issues, keeping busy with his grandkids has Joyce enjoying life - post baseball.
Fellow retried umpire Dale Scott, who also lives in Oregon, is one from the ranks who Joyce remains friendly and close with.
Thanks to the beauty of Amazon, a wonderful story is reminded to me. The more I learn about Jim Joyce, and the near perfect game of a dozen MLB seasons back, the more I realize why I love baseball - even into November.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.