Major League Baseball announced the formal retirement of four umpires on Tuesday (in alphabetical order): Bob Davidson, John Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, and Tim Welke. While most umpires aim to be anonymous to fans, baseball diehards are likely familiar with all four names. Davidson even came to earn the nickname “Balkin’ Bob” for his propensity to call pitchers for balks. Jim Joyce, in particular, resonates with Detroit Tigers fans for all the wrong reasons. In the most infamous moment of his career, Joyce’s incorrect call at first base cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga the final out of what would have been the 21st perfect game in MLB history.
The date was June 2, 2010. Time to bring up bad memories.
Joyce’s blown call came on a close play at first base, where Indians utility player Jason Donald nearly — but most certainly did not — beat out a ground ball to Miguel Cabrera.
The immediate reaction to the blown call was ugly, with Joyce and his family even receiving threats on social media. The call itself overshadowed a potential storybook ninth inning, complete with one of the greatest catches we have ever seen at Comerica Park.
Fortunately, the aftermath was nearly all positive. Joyce apologized profusely to Galarraga and the Tigers after the game, and was received warmly by fans as he and the rest of the umpiring crew came out for the next day’s game. Galarraga himself delivered the lineup card with Joyce fighting back tears at home plate.
Throughout the rest of his career, Joyce was known as one of the better umpires in baseball. MLB players voted Joyce the best umpire in the game on multiple occasions, including a landslide vote conducted by Sports Illustrated in 2011.
Joyce, Davidson, Hirschbeck, and Welke worked a combined 119 seasons as major league umpires. Davidson debuted in 1982 and worked 27 seasons, missing the 2000-2006 seasons at the MLB level. Hirschbeck and Welke both debuted in the majors in 1984, while Joyce made his MLB debut in 1987.
Among those called up to take the place of the four newly-retired umpires will be Marquette native Adam Hamari, who first debuted at the major league level in 2013. Umpires don’t have stats, but upon a quick Google search I found some sort of umpire fantasy league that seems pretty pleased with Hamari’s performance thus far.