Friday, August 24, 2012

REALLY Staying Alive

Quick! Name a famous American author who was also a noted photographer!


F. Stop Fitzgerald!

That homemade joke has made me chuckle and guffaw for years now, and it only comes to mind now because F. Scott Fitzgerald was also famous for saying "There are no second acts in American lives."

But there are!

Jim Joyce is a Major League umpire.  Prior to 2010, he was chiefly famous for his elaborate facial hair.  He was known as a pretty good ump.

And then Armando Gallarga, then of the Tigers, was pitching what is certain to be the best game of his up-and-down career one night.  Joyce was the first-base umpire.  26 batters up and 26 batters down went the Cleveland Indians that June night in MoTown, and Gallaraga was one out away from that rarest of baseball events: a perfect game. (This season there have been two, bringing the total in all the history of big league baseball to 23.) 

The 27th Indian batter, Jason Donald, hit a grounder to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who tossed to Gallaraga, covering first for the putout.  As the picture will show you, Donald was out, no doubt about it.  Everyone at the ballpark, excepting one person, saw that and began celebrating Gallaraga's achievement, only to have that celebration die aborning when Joyce, for reasons known only to himself, signalled the batter was safe.

Of course, if you know nothing of baseball, it might occur to you that the other three umpires might have called Joyce aside and told him that Gallaraga almost had time to light up a cigar in the time between when he caught that ball at first and Donald's arrival on the base.  But they don't do things that way in baseball.

Anyway, everyone was all upset.  Gallaraga handled the situation with remarkable equanimity and forgave the weeping Joyce time after time.  Joyce apologized time after time and made his way into Bartlett's Familiar Quotations by intoning, "Nobody's perfect."  But his contrition was apparent and genuine.

Two years later now. Gallaraga, a Venezuelan by birth, has been released by the Tigers, the Orioles, and, most embarrassingly, by the inept Houston Astros the day before yesterday, and is now looking for work. 

Jim Joyce
And Jim Joyce, child of ignominy, two days before the Astros tied a can to Gallaraga,  was in Phoenix, walking to the umpires' dressing room before working the plate at a Diamondbacks-Marlins game.  He saw a woman who works for the D-backs shaking and collapsing in cardiac distress.  He ran to her and administered CPR, even remembering to time his chest compressions to the tune of "Staying Alive," as recommended by the American Heart Association and Barry Gibb, until he was relieved by a paramedic.

She is alive now and Jim Joyce deserves credit.  I'm glad that now, he sees himself on the news or in the paper and it's for a good thing.

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