April 25, 2019

Humility and Forgiveness

When you watch and enjoy the remainder of baseball’s post-season, apparently Jim Joyce will be doing the same.  You remember him. He was the umpire who blew the call at Detroit’s Comerica Park on June 9th when pitcher Armando Galarraga was within one out of recording a perfect game.

Unless a sudden change of plans occurs by the powers that be at Major League Baseball, you will not see Joyce working at the most important time of the season.

The league has already tapped 24 umpires from its roster to work the Division Series and another 12 guys to handle the American League and National League Championship Series. Joyce was not among the 36 men picked, and that is a shame. The reason why he probably won’t be among the six to work the World Series is because MLB uses the first 24 umps from round one to select those six for the Series.

Now, I know what many of you are probably thinking out there. Am I crazy for thinking that Joyce deserves a spot in the post-season? Why should baseball officials allow a guy who blew a call in the regular season to work its premier events?

I will tell you why. First, according to a poll of ballplayers released this summer, Joyce is one of the top-rated umpires. He completed his 22nd season of umpiring in the majors and earlier earned 15 trips to the post-season including 3 World Series, 4 League Championship Series and 8 Division Series.

The fact that he has not been to a World Series since 2001 is also mystery to me. Joyce provided commentary for the HBO Sports documentary, “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” about the 2001 Fall Classic.

The second and most compelling reason that Joyce deserves the playoffs was the manner in which he and Galarraga conducted themselves following the blown call in Detroit. Joyce handled the situation like a true professional – acknowledging his mistake at first base when the runner should have been out and personally apologizing to the Tigers pitcher. Joyce broke down and cried at the afternoon game following the incident, when Galarraga came out to give him the Tigers lineup card. Later, both he and Gallarraga even appeared together on an ESPN awards show in Las Vegas.

Assignments are based upon a specific set of criteria, which I found in the 2010 MLB Umpire media guide. It says, in part, “All Major League umpires are eligible to work any Special Event. The Office of the Commissioner shall have absolute and exclusive discretion in the assignment of umpires to work Special Events.”

I just hope that baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and his umpire administration staff did not stand in the way of Joyce working this post-season. They couldn’t be worried about Joyce taking away from the headlines on the field, could they?  Let’s hope that it just had to do with their complicated rating system- and only that.

As for me, I just wish this man of humbleness and forgiveness was given the chance he deserves this month. Joyce should be working in the playoffs.

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Written by
George Eichorn

GEORGE EICHORN is the long-time executive director of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association and sports editor and columnist for a Detroit weekly newspaper. For more than three decades, he has covered the Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Championships, and Stanley Cup finals. His articles have been published in the Detroit News, Basketball Times, Basketball Digest, Red Wings Magazine, Baseball Bulletin, Sports Fans Journal, Soccer World, and Bowler’s Digest. During the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, he proudly covered the historic “Miracle on Ice” hockey game when the United States shocked the Soviet Union. Through the years, he has won numerous broadcasting and writing awards, and most recently received the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame’s Special Recognition Award. In 2003, he authored a book about the rich history of Michigan sports broadcasting, Detroit Sports Broadcasters: On the Air, for which the late Detroit Tigers broadcast legend, Ernie Harwell, wrote the forward. He is the married father of two daughters and a graduate of Wayne State University.

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Written by George Eichorn