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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Stolen Perfection: Detroit Tigers P Armando Galarraga earns place in baseball history

On June 2nd, 2010, as 17,738 Detroit Tigers fans ascended on to Comerica Park for an early June game against a division rival, all were unaware of the drama that was about to unfold over the next hour and 44 minutes (Yes, 1 hour and 44 minutes!)

What started off with starting pitcher Armando Galarraga cruising through the first few innings, soon became evident that Galarraga was on to something potentially special this night. As the Cleveland Indians continued to send batters to the plate, Galaragga was sending them back to the bench just as quickly as he racked up 1-2-3 innings one after another. I just so happened to be at this game with my friend Gil for his 21st birthday and we were starting to get concerned that we would only get a couple of beers down before the game was over!

By the time the sixth inning rolled around, you could feel the tenseness of every single person in the park. The only ones keeping their nerves at bay were the Tigers positional players and the guy in the spotlight on the mound. The sixth inning turned into the seventh, which turned into the eighth, and then the big one. The ninth inning. The three hardest outs to get.

If Galarraga was nervous at this point, he did not show it one bit. With the first batter of the ninth inning came the biggest scare of the night for Galarraga and the Tigers faithful. Indians second baseman Mark Grudzielanek got a hold of a Galarraga pitch that he sent to one of the deepest parts of Comerica Park. At that moment, everyone’s heart sank as they knew for certain that Galarraga would fall just three outs short of the first perfect game in Detroit Tigers history. In came Austin Jackson to save the day for Galarraga as he made the most memorable catch of the game, which led to possibly one of the best reactions by Fox Sports Detroit color analyst, Rod Allen.

Only two outs remained between Galarraga and history. Galarraga was able to get the second out of the inning easily which set up one of the most controversial calls by an umpire in Major League Baseball history:

How Galarraga did not lose his composure is beyond me. Any normal player would react with anger and hostility, likely verbally berating the umpire on such a big play. Instead, Galarraga just looked in disbelief with a knowing smile on his face and the thought of what could have been.

Galarraga would go on to complete the one-hit shutout by retiring Trevor Crowe on one pitch. Galarraga’s final line for the night and history would read 9 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 3 K.

There was no one more upset about the play than the guy who called the runner safe. Umpire Jim Joyce would admit after the game that he blew the call and cost Galarraga his place in history. The worst part for Joyce was that he still had to stay in Detroit and finish out the series the following day. After a sleepless night that saw many threats directed at him and his family, Joyce returned to work the following day, this time behind home plate. As the lineup cards were brought out to home plate prior to the first pitch, it was Galarraga who was the representative for the Tigers, and he continued to show no ill will towards Joyce. The move brought Joyce to tears as this was the only form of compassion outside of his immediate family that he had seen in at least 12 hours.

For his great sportsmanship, Tigers sponsor Chevrolet provided Galarraga with a brand new Corvette.

To this day, and forever in the annals of baseball history, the books show that Armando Galarraga did not throw a perfect game. In the mind of many Tigers fans, this one included, it will be remembered as the most notorious perfect game in baseball history. 28 batters up, 28 batters down.

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