Today marks the 10-year anniversary of one of the most infamous calls not only in baseball, but in the history of sports. Armando Galarraga raced to cover first base, having retired the first 26 Cleveland Indians who stepped to the plate. He needed just this final out to complete the 21st perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball.
At least that's what umpire Jim Joyce called. To the naked eye, the play is relatively close, but to a veteran umpire the conclusion should have been vividly clear. To this day, nobody really knows why he extended his arms out — he even says he doesn't know. And a decade later, it's still what virtually anyone who hears his name will remember him for.
The story today in the Detroit Free Press is a fantastic one and I'd encourage everyone to go read the whole thing. It obviously discusses the call Joyce made and how it is going to follow him for the rest of his life. But it also tells the story of another life-changing moment Joyce had a couple years later.
Detroit Free Press — Seven weeks after his life changed, Joyce arrived at Chase Field for a game.
He was walking down a ramp to the concourse, Aug. 20, 2012, when he noticed a woman had just collapsed.
Joyce is one of those guys who is always there when the car accident happens. He has seen more seizures then he cares to admit, either people driving or walking down the street, riding a bike, “It just seems like I’m always there.”
Jane Powers was not having a seizure. She had gone into sudden cardiac arrest.
“There was no time to think about that one, either,” Joyce said. “It was total reaction.”
Joyce began CPR, singing the Bee Gees’ iconic '70s song, “Stayin’ Alive” — “That’s the beat for the compressions you do for CPR,” Joyce said — and for 23 minutes, Powers alternated between life and death. She came back five or six times, was shocked by a defibrillator three times, saw a bright white light and heard her father talking to her before paramedics arrived.
“He said I was going to be OK, stay right where I was,” Powers said.
Powers, then 50, wore an Irish Claddagh ring. Joyce, an Irishman, noticed this. One of Powers’ friends, whom she had alerted about her light-headedness just seconds before she collapsed, stood by while Joyce administered CPR. Her name is Danielle Moore. Her grandfather, Bill Cutler, hired Joyce for his first Triple-A umpiring job in the Pacific Coast League.
Powers flat-lined two more times in the ambulance to the hospital. There, she came back for good, saved by Joyce in the best call of his career.
Most people will probably never read that story in the Detroit Free Press or know about Jim Joyce, the world's most infamous umpire, saving someone's life. But I think now, more than ever, it's important to read stories of people overcoming their worst. It's not like Joyce will ever forget the mistake he made and how it affected everyone on the field in Detroit that day, but he has forgiven himself and moved on with his life.
But at the end of the day, it is that infamous call at first base in Comerica Park that is why Joyce's name is more well-known than most Major League umpires. It will be on the first line of his obituary.
On the last day of his life, Joyce will still be thinking about that damn call.
He still thinks about it every day, especially around this time of the year, when his cell phone blows up with reporters asking questions about the worst call he’s ever made. Especially approaching today’s 10th anniversary.
“I still get emotional about it,” Joyce said. “It’s one of those things that will never go away and it doesn’t define me, but it’s always there. I don’t look at it any different — I did everything I thought I could do right on that play, but it just came out wrong — because with everything that’s shaken out, I’m OK with it.”
When did Joyce become OK with it?
“I think it’s a gradual thing that’s even still in place today,” Joyce said. “The way that I look at it is, every day that goes by, there’s like a little piece that’s carved off of it, a little bit, that it keeps getting less and less and less. It’s never going to go away — it’s going to be one of those infinity things that you keep cutting at it and there’s still going to be a piece left — and it’s taken me 10 years to get where I’m at.”
It would have been very easy for Armando Galarraga to never forgive Jim Joyce. After all, Joyce cost a journeyman pitcher the ultimate prize at the highest level of baseball. Regardless of whether or not everyone knows Galarraga actually threw a perfect game, the record books will never reflect it.
And yet, Galarraga came out the next day, delivered the lineup card to Joyce and shook his hand. I'm sure in that moment he hadn't entirely forgiven him, but it was a show of immense respect and compassion that I'm sure allowed Joyce to one day forgive himself.