This has been quite a depressing week -- dominated by problems that we seem powerless to solve. The growing list includes an oil leak 5,000 feet underwater, Israel and Gaza, a lack of jobs, the Phillies hitting a baseball, and now, speaking of baseball, the situation in Detroit with an admitted blown call by first-base umpire Jim Joyce ruining what would have been the 21st perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball by Tigers' pitcher Armando Galarraga.
Even people I know who don't much like baseball are talking about this one. How could you not? It's heartbreaking, especially since Galarraga seems like a very decent young man, who was pitching in the minors right before bumping against immortality.
A lot of fans believed there was a simple solution: Commissioner Bud Selig could use his superpowers to rule the play that umpire Joyce missed as an out, and put Galarraga's perfect game in the record books. But yesterday, Selig declined to do that. It pains me to say this, but I think that was the right call. Why? First of all, reversing this type of call is a Pandora's box; most notably, the outcome of the 1985 World Series was decided, ultimately, by a blown call every bit as bad as the one by Joyce. Why reverse one and not the other? And the more complicated argument is that imperfection -- as epitomized by Joyce and his mistake -- is as much a sacred aspect of baseball as the perfection achieved by Roy Halladay and 19 others.
So what to do?
My thought from the moment I first learned of what happened is that the world can make things right for Galarraga only in one way, which is to make what he did even better than tossing a perfect game. One of the ways that can happen is already taking place, and that is the outpouring of adulation for the previously unknown Galarraga in Detroit and across the country.
But there needs to be more. And a thought occurs based on something I read on Twitter (where else do people get ideas) in which someone (and my apologies for not noting who it was) immediately congratulated Galarraga -- who retired the next batter after Joyce's blown call, despite all the uproar -- for throwing the first 28-out perfect game in baseball history.
That's it! "The 28!" Sure, only 20 guys have thrown a 27-out perfect game before. But only one man in the entire recorded history of big-league baseball (let's not go down the black hole of Harvey Haddix) has tossed "The 28," and that man is Armando Galarraga. Wherever happens in life, Galarraga would be remembered by fans and, at least informally anyway, by the baseball establishment as the only pitcher ever to throw "The 28."
How else do you immortalize it?
If feasible, the Tigers should change Galarraga's uniform number to No. 28. Then, later in the season, unveil one of those commemorative paintings on or just over the outfield wall, showing Galarraga tossing that night with the number "28" painted next to it. This will guarantee the pitcher the one thing he really needs and deserves, which is his rightful place in baseball immortality. Let's be honest, some of the 20 players who tossed perfect games -- Mike Witt and Tom Browning, for example -- are remembered now only by hardcore fans. But "The 28" will still be talked about a century from now.
As for the fact that it won't be in the official record book as a perfect game, that's OK. Thanks to the massive steroids scandal of the 1990s and 2000s, baseball fans have already decided for themselves what achievements are real and which are not. Why should a perfect game be any different? Except this was better than a perfect game. It was "The 28"!