Monday, June 7, 2010

Umpires are only "Human"

After the upteenth replay of the blown call by umpire Jim Joyce on what would have been the last out of the game, and cost Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians, a co-worker of Mexican heritage pointed at Joyce on the television and said “racist.” I don’t think Joyce is one of those guys who attends KKK rallies after the game, but there was something quite disturbing about the whole incident that I am apparently one of only a few who chose to notice. When Galaragga gloved the ball and stepped on first base, clearly before the runner touched the bag, he showed a burst of elation at what he had accomplished. But Joyce had not made his call yet; in fact there was a noticeable delay before he called the runner, Jason Donald, “safe,” immediately turning Galarraga’s elation into a look of disbelief.

Joyce claims that he was “convinced” that Donald beat the throw to first that everyone else who was watching saw otherwise. Or did he see what he wanted to see? Was he offended because this Latino guy “jumped the gun?” Did he want to show him who was the “boss?” Was his concern afterward more about worry that the fact that he allowed a momentary lapse of personal prejudice to be revealed? Are we supposed to believe that umpires’ personal prejudices don’t, on occasion, interfere with balls and strikes? Are they not “human,” with human failings? Did not the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott, once refer to blacks as “trained monkeys?”

Many so-called “purists” have argued that baseball commissioner Bud Selig did the “right thing” by refusing to over-turn Joyce’s ruling. They claim that it is only “casual fans” who are agitating for a reversal, but it is “purists” who should be disturbed by any taint of prejudice, which, of course, none wished to acknowledge. If Selig truly desires to do the “right thing,” than he should wait until the season is over, after everyone “forgets” what happened, and over-turn the call.

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