28 up, 28 down.

That is probably the most apt recap of Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s “one-hit” shutout of the Cleveland Indians June 2.

Galarraga, one out away from pitching the third perfect game this season, got Indians batter Jason Donald to hit a grounder to Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera.

As Cabrera fielded the ground ball, Galarraga moved to cover first base, caught Cabrera’s throw, and stepped on the bag, seemingly making the final out in the twenty-first perfect game in MLB history.

The call came from first base umpire Jim Joyce—safe.

Although replays clearly show that Galarraga reached the base before Donald, instant replay still only applies to determining if home runs are fair or foul, leaving no way to correct the blown call.

Joyce, who will likely go down in history for making one of the most costly umpiring errors in baseball history, was sincerely apologetic and could only tearfully remark, “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

Joyce’s mistake keeps Galarraga from joining the ranks of Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, who pitched 2010’s two perfect games May 9 and May 29, respectively.

However, despite what the box score reads—and will remain thanks to a disappointing decision to uphold Joyce’s call by Commissioner Bud Selig—Galarraga did deliver a perfect game that all baseball fans can enjoy.

Not only did the Venezuelan right-hander retire all 28 Cleveland batters he faced with a dominating performance, but he personified sportsmanship in the aftermath of the whirlwind that ensued.

While most players would have argued angrily with the umpire, Galarraga kept his cool in a likely infuriating situation, putting his hands behind his head and grinning in disbelief at the call.

Some say his calm reaction was the result of severe shock or uncertainty about the play’s actual outcome, but I believe Galarraga executed the class and dignity that we all learned from our first baseball coaches while playing tee ball.

Not only was Galarraga graceful amid chaos, including protests from Cabrera and Tigers manager Jim Leyland, but he simply continued his mastery of the Indian lineup following the controversial call, retiring Trevor Crowe to complete the shutout.

Galarraga continued to be a gentleman after the game, refraining from criticizing Joyce and thanking Joyce for his apology.

“You don’t see an umpire after the game come out and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you I’m sorry,'” Galarraga said. “I feel sad. I just watched the play 20 times and there’s no way you can call him safe.”

A perfect game for Galarraga not only would have been a historic achievement for the 28-year-old pitcher, but it would have served as a big step toward rebounding from an ugly 5.64 ERA last season.

However, in spite of Joyce’s call, the baseball world—save the commissioner’s office—will recognize Galarraga’s effort as a perfect game and will give kudos to the up-and-coming pitcher for his masterful game.

Even General Motors pitched in to help acknowledge Galarraga’s accomplishment, awarding the Detroit hurler a red Corvette that will likely ease his pain from losing a shot at history.

More importantly, Galarraga earned the respect of his peers as a man who respects the game of baseball and plays with dignity.

Examples of integrity and class like Galarraga’s respect for Joyce’s umpiring blunder are a welcome sight for a game that has suffered from the backlash of “The Steroid Era,” which caused many fans to turn away from the game.

To put it simply, Galarraga plays the game perfectly.

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