Joyce's character shines in lifesaving moment
Umpire known for 'imperfect' game administers CPR to stricken D-backs employee
Officially, numerically, Jim Joyce is 1-1 in moments that would lead to fame, or at least notoriety. But in the larger, human scheme of things, he is better than that.
Joyce, a Major League umpire for 23 years, helped to save a woman's life Monday at Chase Field in a Phoenix. The woman, who has worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks since their inaugural season of 1998, had collapsed.
Joyce, on his way to the umpires' dressing room, arrived on the scene and was told by the woman's colleagues that she was having a seizure. But Joyce noticed that the woman was not breathing and began to administer CPR. A first responder arrived shortly after that with an automatic external defibrillator.
Jane Powers, a D-backs food-service employee, was eventually taken to a hospital, where her condition was stabilized and she had a pacemaker implanted. But doctors later said that the quick work of Joyce and the first responder had very likely saved Powers' life.
That's a terrific story for any human being to have on his or her resume. What a tremendous act this was for any individual, to have the knowledge, the instincts, the courage, to save of the life of a complete stranger. This was an umpire making a lifesaving call.
That inescapably takes us back to Joyce's previous brush with widespread public notice. It is distinctly possible that Jim Joyce, Major League umpire, is the same guy now that he was in June of 2010. But he was vilified then.
Joyce was umpiring first base in a game between the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. With two out in the top of the ninth, the Tigers leading, 3-0, Detroit starter Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game.
The Indians' Jason Donald hit a grounder wide of first. Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball and made the toss to Galarraga covering the bag. The game was over. Galarraga's game was perfect. But it wasn't. Joyce had called Donald safe at first.
Replays provided neither support nor solace for Joyce's call. Joyce saw them, too, and, with the damage done, could only apologize, which he did, in a tearful moment with Galarraga. "It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [stuff] out of it," Joyce said. "I just cost that kid a perfect game."
Galarraga was, to his everlasting credit, gracious about the blown call.
"You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry,'" Galarraga said. "He felt really bad."
The baseball public was not so generous in its response to the umpiring error. There were demands that Commissioner Bud Selig reverse the call. The Commissioner wisely chose not to take that direction. A perfect game cannot be created after the fact.
There were numerous calls for increased use of replay technology. Even President Barack Obama weighed in on that side of the question, suggesting that Major League Baseball "take a look" at wider use of replay.
Many people went further than that, suggesting that pretty much everything that occurred after the national anthem was played should be subjected to replay review. The idea was to get these human beings out of the decision-making process as much as possible. Hey, electronic sensors could call the balls and strikes.
This became the core episode for anti-umpire grievances and Jim Joyce was at the center of the core. It was easily said, so a lot of people said it -- this call would haunt Joyce for the rest of his career and beyond.
Maybe so. But maybe now we could have a slightly more balanced view of Jim Joyce, umpire and human being.
He made a mistake at a critical juncture of a game in which history was about to be made. That makes him human. But then on Monday in Phoenix, this same fellow proved that he was the kind of human being who would leap to the aid of another person. And in so doing, he helped to save a life.
There is no official box score that accompanies human life. But you'd like to think that by this act, Jim Joyce would move ahead in a lot of hearts and minds.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.