Much has been made of Armando Galarraga’s performance back on June 2nd. The young Detroit Tigers pitcher was, for 8-and-two-thirds innings, perfect. No runs allowed, no hits allowed, no walks allowed, and no errors committed. Galarraga completely overpowered the Cleveland Indians the entire night. The first out of the ninth inning featured a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch by young centerfielder Austin Jackson to preserve his pitcher’s chance at immortality.
But much more has been made of how the final one-third of an inning played out. With two out, Jason Donald hit a ground ball between first and second base that was gathered in by Miguel Cabrera, who tossed it to a covering Galarraga. First base umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe, though replays showed him clearly out.
And for 24 hours, the outrage was extreme. There were calls for the Commissioner to step in and reverse the erroneous call. There were those who thought Joyce should be fired, and those who thought he should be thrown into the Great Lakes with cement shoes. That was until the principals involved taught all those people a lesson in humility, grace, and respect for the game. Joyce, humility in recognizing his mistake and offering a tearful apology. Galarraga, grace in accepting Joyce’s apology without rancor and with kind words. Commissioner Bud Selig, respect by letting the game stand as called and rejecting the pressure to award a perfect game where one didn’t (but should) exist.
Were Ernie Shore alive, he could definitely sympathize with the unfortunate Tigers hurler. Shore was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and on June 23, 1917, he was in rare form. He dominated the Washington Senators from the time he stepped onto the mound until the game’s final out. In the 27 outs recorded during his outing (not 26 like Galarraga), there were no hits, no walks, and no errors. Shore was perfect.
But like Galarraga, Ernie Shore wasn’t awarded with a perfect game. It wasn’t because of how the game ended, but because of how it began. Ernie Shore wasn’t the starting pitcher, Babe Ruth was. And the Babe walked the first batter he faced. Ruth took exception to how the home plate umpire was calling the game, and began arguing with him. Ruth was ejected from game, and in his rage he punched the umpire before finally leaving the field. Shore was called in to pitch, the runner on first was promptly thrown out trying to steal, and Ernie finished the game having faced the minimum number of hitters…no hits, no walks, no errors.
But that initial walk meant that, while Shore was perfect, it was not a “perfect” game according to the rules.
Over the years, pitchers have come close to perfect games on hundreds of occasions. But it’s hard to think of two that have come closer than Armando Galarraga and Ernie Shore.