Just one step away. One break. We all know the feeling. What separates us is what we do when the moment comes and what we have learned to prepare us. That’s what this week’s read, “Nobody’s Perfect,” is about. The “almost-perfect game” is merely part of the story.
1. It’s remarkable what was forged in both men before June 2, 2010.
Galarraga grew up picturing himself with the same greatness of Ken Griffey, Jr. or of fellow countrymen Henry Blanco and Omar Vizquel. He didn’t think about pitching until he was 15 years old. Galarraga signed with Montreal at age 16 in 1998. To get to 2010, it was anything but fast forward. Tommy John surgery took care of that. Disillusion and pain beyond arm issues threatened to derail him. The Rangers called Galarraga on the eve of his wedding to let him know he had been put on assignment, but as usual he determined to remain as upbeat as possible. The Tigers signed him near the end of his honeymoon, beginning another up-and-down adventure. Galarraga began 2010 in Triple-A, so when June 2 came, it was simply his latest audition.
Joyce grew up in Toledo, assured of a grueling but well-paying factory job at Jeep. But Joyce too had baseball aspirations. Playing was not an option, but Joyce told himself, “One way or another, you’re getting into professional baseball.” (60, Nobody’s)
Somewhere in the next several years, like Galarraga, Joyce got waylaid. By 1986, Joyce sought to start a family, but the gap between hisdream of umpiring and life dictated otherwise. At first, the dream was a shot in the dark. Then the target came into view, but by 1986, he might as well have been staring down a barrel. Then he caught a break. A new supervisor saw his work, and Joyce was up, up and away to the big leagues.
2. Both men spare no details of the aftermath in telling their story to co-author Daniel Paisner.
Miguel Cabrera’s home run to left puts the Tigers ahead 1-0 after two on the June 2010 night. Now that he has a lead, Galarraga wants to return to the mound ASAP. Fausto Carmona is dealing too, so the main thing on Galarraga’s mind in the early going is preserving the shutout. That is until the seventh inning. Now he wants it all. At the start of the ninth, there’s no avoiding it – “Vamos!” says Galarraga. Austin Jackson feels the vibe too. Jackson snares Mark Grudzielanek’s shot a la Willie Mays. Two more outs are all but a foregone conclusion.
But… Galarraga has heard these sounds all his life. They are distinct. First, his foot hits the base; second comes Jason Donald’s foot on the base; third comes the umpire’s call. All three happen in an instant, together but separate.
The calm before the storm. After Jackson’s catch, Joyce knows. “It’s coming to you, Jimmy. It’s coming to you.” (156)
3. Sometimes it’s best to let a two people sort out their own situation.
Joyce saw it before it happened. It would be a textbook play. He’s a student so he knows what to do and does it. One look at Galarraga reassures him. Galarraga is not upset. He’s smiling. That’s a good sign, right? Not according to the fans whose boos grow and grow. Not according to Jim Leyland who can only stare in silence. Cabrera doesn’t agree either and tells Joyce at length. Before Joyce faces the media, he faces his boss who doesn’t say anything. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski asks if he can do anything for Joyce who surprises everyone by asking to speak with Galarraga.
Back to where everything started – a pitcher, an umpire and one amazing outcome.
Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.