Major League Baseball sources with direct knowledge of the meeting confirm that key members of baseball’s hierarchy were to convene this morning in New York to review the circumstances of Umpire Jim Joyce’s erroneous “safe” call at first base in Detroit, which last night denied the Tigers’ Armando Galarraga what would have been the 21st Perfect Game in baseball history and the third in just 25 days.
There was considerable doubt that Commissioner Bud Selig felt he could or should intervene in overturning the results of an umpire’s on-the-field ruling. The Detroit News reported that the Tigers might be contacting MLB in hopes of remedying what umpire Joyce later admitted, clearly and emotionally, was a wildly incorrect call. The News quoted Tigers’ General Manager Dave Dombrowski as saying “I wouldn’t get into telling you what I would do. That’s a private matter. He shouldn’t have missed it. It’s a shame for the kid…”
Baseball sources said that as of late morning, the Tigers’ opponents, the Cleveland Indians, had not contacted the Commissioner’s office. Their support of any change to last night’s call might be a key factor.
“This isn’t a call,” Joyce said afterwards, “this is a history call. And I kicked the **** out of it, and nobody feels worse than I do…I took a perfect game away from that kid.”
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated and MLB Network tweeted that Commissioner Selig was “involved” and his office would have a statement at some point today.
Some in the Commissoner’s office were to urge Selig to declare that with Joyce’s admission, the 27th out of the game was recorded when Cleveland’s Jason Donald grounded out, first baseman Miguel Cabrera to pitcher Galarraga, covering first. The base hit credited to Donald, and the following at bat, by Cleveland’s Trevor Crowe, would be wiped off the books and thus Galarraga would be credited with a perfect game.
There is precedent for the Commissioner’s Office to decide what is, and isn’t, a perfect game. On September 4, 1991, a so-called “Statistical Accuracy Committee” ruled that the game would only official recognize as perfect games, ones in which pitchers retired 27 (or more) consecutive batters and completed the game without a batter reaching first base. The ruling wiped off the books the 1959 game in which Harvey Haddix of Pittsburgh pitched 12 perfect innings, only to lose the game to Milwaukee on a base hit. It also erased the 1917 game in which then-pitcher Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox had walked the lead off batter, then been ejected by the umpire for arguing the call. Reliever Ernie Shore entered the game with none out and that runner on first, who was promptly caught stealing. Shore then retired the 26 batters he faced, and had, at the time of the Commissioner’s Office ruling, been credited with a perfect game for more than 74 years. 48 more no-hit games were also erased by the re-definition of the rules.
There are also countless instances of umpires’ on-field decisions being reviewed and even overruled by the now dormant offices of the Presidents of the American and National League. One such review confirmed a controversial “out” ruling that ultimately decided the 1908 NL pennant. More recently, in 1983, after Kansas City’s George Brett had hit a two-out, 9th inning home run to bring his team from behind to ahead in a game in New York, umpire Tim McClelland determined that Brett had broken the rules by having the gripping substance “pine tar” further up his bat than rules permitted. McClelland nullified Brett’s home run and called him out for the final out of the game. Within days, American League President Lee MacPhail had overruled McClelland, declared the home run valid, and ordered the game replayed, more than a month later, from the point directly after Brett’s home run.