ESPN's Amy K. Nelson has written a fantastic story about baseball umpire Jim Joyce.
Joyce did all he could do: Called the play as he saw it. And in the moment, he was certain he was correct.
But what can you do? Decades of elite umpiring do not protect one from the occasional high-definition mistake. And once he got to see a replay in the clubhouse, it was instantly clear Joyce's mistake, last June, had been a whopper, denying Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga the final out in what would have been just the 21st perfect game in major league baseball history.
The replay could not have been more clear. It was a horrible call, and Joyce has been beating himself up about it ever since.
The fallout includes death threats and, predictably and regrettably, a starring role for the internet as host to hurtful and nonsensical stranger hatred.
But there are also some fantastic uplifting aspects. Wait 'til you see what the Detroit baggage handlers did. Consider how unbelievably classy Galarraga and his manager, Jim Leyland, have been about the whole thing. And, in a nice side note, take a look at how other referees, especially the NBA's Mark Wunderlich (talking about his own mistake) reached out in support of Joyce. Nelson writes:
Bob Delaney and Steve Javie, veteran NBA referees, send along e-mails, as do NHL ref Tim Peel and NFL official Carl Cheffers. Peel, a 13-year veteran, says he doesn't know Joyce personally but felt compelled to reach out.
"I can sympathize," Peel says. "When we miss a call in a game, nobody feels worse than we do."
But an e-mail from Mark Wunderlich, another veteran NBA ref, is one of the most compelling:
I have admired your work for years and I have been thinking about you the last couple of days. Last season in the Play-Offs I missed a take foul in Dallas in the Conference Finals that cost a team a game and had a few sleepless nights that I'm sure you're familiar with. These are difficult times that only umpires and refs know. It shall pass and the only thing people will remember is the class you showed during this time. From one professional to another, I'm proud of you buddy.