Blown call could ultimately spur greater use of replays

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A blown umpire's call that deprived Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of completing a perfect game may go down in baseball annals as the impetus for integrating video technology more fully into the game.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, long opposed to the wide use of replays, said on Thursday that he would look into expanding its use after Wednesday night's botched call deprived Galarraga of registering MLB's 21st perfect game.

First-base umpire Jim Joyce ruled a Cleveland baserunner safe at first base with two outs in the ninth inning on a call that replays clearly showed should have been an out.

The injustice unleashed a passionate debate in U.S. newspapers and radio talk shows Thursday over whether use of replays should be expanded in baseball.

"Given last night's call and other recent events, I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features," Selig said in a statement.

A teary-eyed Joyce apologized after he saw the replays showing he missed the call and was forgiven by Galarraga.

Controversies over the use and non-use of replays are not limited to baseball -- it is a global phenomenon.

Last November, in a stunning example of an obviously missed call, France captain Thierry Henry got away with a blatant handball in the build-up to an equalizer that eliminated Ireland and gave France a World Cup berth.

Henry said he considered ending his France career over the uproar, and conceded a replay would be the fairest solution.

Individual sports have different ways of utilizing replays, though the fact that technology exists to ensure correct calls but is not always used can exasperate fans.

Replay has been used extensively in international cricket and rugby, and tennis uses technology for line calls.

North American team sports employ a variety of approaches, including giving coaches a number of challenges to use.

Veteran umpire Tim McClelland told ESPN Radio Thursday that he believed umpires were growing in favor of expanded replay.

"There's such an increased scrutiny on umpires and officials in general, in all sports -- maybe undue or unfair," McClelland said. "But I think more umpires are coming around to that way of thinking."

The botched call by Joyce was eerily reminiscent of blown call that might have changed the course of the 1985 World Series, and the umpire at the heart of that controversy also believes replays should be used more often.

"There probably should be expanded replay," Don Denkinger told the radio station.

With the St Louis Cardinals leading 1-0 in the ninth inning of a potential Series-clinching Game Six, Denkinger called Kansas City batter Jorge Orta safe at first when replays showed he was clearly beaten to the bag by the pitcher, who received a toss from the first baseman after fielding a grounder.

The Royals went on to win that game and also Game Seven to capture the World Series.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who was upset by the umpire's call after Wednesday's game, tried to bury the hatchet Thursday and defuse the anticipated negative reaction of fans by having Galarraga bring out the Tigers' lineup to Joyce and the rest of the umpiring crew at home plate and shake hands.

"I just really think it's a day for Tigers fans to really show what we are all about in a positive way."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)