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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson

That’s Baseball

Griffey Quits…Ump Blows It

Quite a day in baseball yesterday. Ken Griffey, Jr. made a good call and an umpire in Detroit didn’t.

The good call first.

Perhaps the hardest thing in baseball, politics, business, you name it, is knowing when to hang it up. Most of us stay too long, sitting on our past accomplishments, talking too much about the good ol’ days, hanging on when we should make way. Quitting is hard. Knowing when to quit is harder still.

Ken Griffey is – was – a pro. He must have known at age 40, when most of us think we’re hitting our prime, that he was finished. Sure, he could have held on until the end of the season. Mariner fans love the guy, and we have little enough to celebrate at the moment, but I think it was time Junior took the bow and made for the showers. He knew when to quit.

I want to remember Griffey in his prime, jumping up against that ugly outfield wall in the old Kingdome pulling in a fly ball or dropping the bat at home plate after one of the most perfect swings in baseball history sent one of his 630 home runs into a bullpen in some ballpark. Griffey had a Willie Mays quality to him – they both wore number 24 – that before all the injuries, made him a joy to watch, in part, because he seemed to be having so much fun playing a little kid’s game.

As the New York Times noted, Griffey was as good as any in his generation, a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, and no taint of scandal, no personal excess and limited ego. He was the real deal, a natural. I’ll miss The Kid, but to everything there is a season and it was time.

Griffey’s announcement in Seattle was overshadowed by umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call in Detroit that cost Armando Gallarraga a perfect game. To Joyce’s never ending credit he was in anguish after the game telling reporters that he missed the call “from here to the wall” and “kicked the s–t out of it.”

Predictably, everyone has an opinion about what to do ranging from more technology to aid the umps, a bad idea, to a suggestion from that loudmouth Keith Olbermann that the Commissioner ought to intervene. A really bad idea.

Come on. Baseball, its been correctly said, is a game of inches played on a huge expanse of grass and dirt. Few things in baseball are perfect, which is part of the reason it is such a perfect game. Baseball is a game of judgment and error. You’re a brilliant hitter if you fail only seven out of ten times. In what other game would a ball that hits the foul pole on its way out of the park be declared fair?

There is no crying in baseball and no do overs, either.

I love the Tigers and I hate it when one of the boys in blue impacts a game, but that is the game. We’ve already had two perfect games in this long season and its only the first week in June. Perhaps the baseball gods just deemed three in a season one too many.

And, by the way, how about Jim Joyce for Congress. At least the guy can fess up to a mistake.

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