When the Detroit Tigers faced the Cleveland Indians on June 2, 2010, only 20 perfect games had been thrown in major league history.
Before the game no would knew that young Tigers right-hander Armando Galarraga would throw #21…almost.
Galarraga dominated the Indians lineup from start to finish, while Detroit got him three runs to work with. Galarraga took his bid for a perfect game into the ninth inning, having thrown less than 80 pitches and with no signs of slowing down.
However, he almost lost his perfect game bid on the first batter of the inning when Indians infielder Mark Grudzielanak hit a deep fly ball to center field that look assuredly like it would be an extra base hit. That is until Tigers center-fielder Austin Jackson made a miraculous over-the-shoulder catch to preserve a perfect game. At that point it seemed to be destiny that Galarraga would complete the perfect game.
And if the game had occurred in 2015, with the implementation of instant replay, he would have. However, five years ago replay had yet be included in MLB, which would ultimately cost Galarraga his chance at history.
After getting the second out of the inning, Galarraga induced a ground ball to first base from the Indians Jason Donald. Tigers first-baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball and made the flip to Galarraga covering the base while Donald hustled down the line to attempt to beat the throw. In a bang-bang call, veteran umpire Jim Joyce quickly and definitively made the call: Safe.
With the benefit of a slowed-down replay, it was evident to fans and players alike that the call was wrong, and Joyce had cost Galarraga the perfect game.
Galarraga would get the next man out to complete the one-hit shutout, and while many players would have lambasted Joyce for costing him a chance at a perfect game, Galarraga took the high road and said he understood that “nobody’s perfect” and everyone makes mistakes.
Joyce for his part was distraught that he had blown the call in such an important moment and publicly and privately apologized to Galarraga. Although it was certainly a regrettable moment for all involved, Joyce and Galarraga earned the respect of many for their handling of the incident, even meeting the very next day at home plate to receive the Tigers line-up card to standing ovation from the Detroit crowd.