Q&A: Joyce reflects on memorable career

30-year umpiring veteran relives his most noteworthy moments

February 25th, 2017

Jim Joyce enjoyed a 30-year career as a Major League umpire, which included being selected as the best umpire in the game in an ESPN poll of 100 players.
It also included a play at first base in which Joyce admitted that he blew an out call that cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game by calling Cleveland's Jason Donald safe on a two-out grounder in the top of the ninth after Galarraga raced to cover first base on a ball fielded by first baseman .
"I just cost the kid a perfect game," Joyce admitted to media members after the game.
Joyce's candor underscored the professionalism of his career, which came to an end last week, when his retirement was announced.
Joyce is the subject of this week's Q&A:
MLB.com: What went into the decision to retire?
Joyce: Part of it was I didn't want to overstay my welcome. I felt like I'd had a really, really good career. When you start getting older, certain things start to fail. My knees were starting to go, and it was harder getting from point A to point B. I didn't want players to start looking at me and say, "You know what, Jimmy Joyce was really a good umpire at one time, but now he's starting to fail."
MLB.com: Did you make the decision after the season or earlier?
Joyce: My wife, Kay, and I talked about it quite a bit the last couple years, and we talked about it seriously right after last season. Kay is my financial advisor. We talked about, "Down the road, are we going to be OK?" And she said, "You know what Jim, we can definitely make it. We can live comfortably." I looked at her and I said, "Are you ready?" She said, "I've been ready for 10 years." I never knew that. I didn't know that Kay felt that way. It was that she just wanted me home. I think that was the best reason of all, to tell you the truth.
MLB: When you look back at the career, what will stand out?
Joyce: Well I think the obvious one, the Galarraga call. That's not a highlight, but you know what, it was my worst day as a Major League umpire. But then again, it was my best day as a person, and the aftermath.

MLB.com: It could not have been an easy situation.
Joyce: It was the hardest thing I've ever been through in my entire life, but in the same vein, it was my best time -- the way that players, fans and everybody in between gave me a lot of support. The media was more than gracious. I would thank them and they actually said back to me, "Thank you for talking to us about this."

MLB.com: How about other highlights?
Joyce: My two plate jobs in the World Series. My first World Series was in '99. I didn't get a plate job. It was a sweep by the Yankees against Atlanta. My second World Series was in 2001, and naturally we knew what went on during that September. That was the first time that the World Series ever had a game in November -- Game 5 -- and that was my plate job. It was the proverbial bottom-of-the-ninth situation, with the Yankees' Scott Brosius at the plate. Brosius puts one in the left-field bleachers, and we end up going 12 innings. That happened to be [tied for] the longest World Series game ever, but not for long. The next night went 14 innings.
Then the 2013 World Series, with Boston and St. Louis. It was going to be the last World Series played without the replay system. I had an argument at every base. I was so fortunate to be "right" at every base, and naturally the obstruction call in Game 3 when the Cardinals' tripped over Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks in the bottom of the ninth. I called interference and it was the game-winning run. It was the first time a World Series game had ever been "decided by a rules interpretation."
MLB.com: You mentioned instant replay was adopted for 2014, but there is a feeling the Galarraga call in '10 is what gave instant replay the boost it needed.
Joyce: It certainly generated a lot of momentum after that.
MLB.com: What made people so accepting in the aftermath of Galarraga was your integrity and refusal to look for an excuse.
Joyce: It's awful hard to tell your kids not to lie and not to do the bad things -- and stuff like that as you're raising your kids. -- then go out and something like that happens, especially on a world stage, and try to get out of it. I'd be a huge hypocrite. That time I just poured everything out the way I felt. I didn't think about it. I didn't say, "Well, this is what I'm going to say," or anything like that. It was just my heartfelt feelings that just came out. I'm a better man for it. I'm a better husband. I'm a better dad. And it turned into a positive in some regards.
MLB.com: It had to be tough, especially right after the game.
Joyce: You know they have the rule about one pool reporter [being permitted to interview umpires after a game]. Well after that game, there were 50 reporters waiting to talk to me. My crew chief, Darryl Cousins, wasn't going to let them in. I finally said to Darryl, "Just let them in." I answered every question. I finally just couldn't talk anymore. One reporter actually said, "I'm sorry." All I did was just kind of wave and I said, "I got to go." The only thing I thought about at that time -- the negative part -- was my family, because I knew that there was going to be some reaction to my family, because of social media. Major League Baseball security did a great job on that.
MLB.com: You and Dan Denkinger, two of the better umpires in the last 50 years, are scarred by one incident in otherwise great careers.
Joyce: Well, it's a glaring mistake. It's kind of funny, I was on the internet just looking at baseball stuff, and there was an interview with Don Denkinger over my call. I listened to it, and there's a man that has been through it and knows exactly how I felt, and he described it almost verbatim the same way I did. Yeah, you're right. It's out there ready to happen again, but replay now will correct the mistake.
MLB.com: How do you decide that you're going to be an umpire?
Joyce: I always played the game. I was lucky enough to go to Bowling Green on a baseball scholarship, back 100 years ago. My dad was an amateur umpire. Umpiring always infatuated me. When my playing career came to an end after college, I knew I wanted to stay in the game. When I was in school, I worked in the Toledo Recreation Department for Tom Ravashire. He umpired 14 years in the Minor Leagues. I used to sit there and I'd listen to him talk about umpiring, and I just thought that that'd be kind of cool to stay in baseball. I told him I'd like to umpire, so he told me to get a Sporting News and look at the advertisements for umpiring schools. I did it.
MLB.com: How long did it take you to get to the big leagues?
Joyce: It took me 12 years.
MLB.com: Doesn't take that long anymore, does it?
Joyce: No, they have set in a new system where they try to keep you from spending a whole lot of your adult life trying to pursue that dream. They make a decision on you a lot sooner than they used to in the old days. When I went through it, it was not unusual to be in the Minor Leagues for 10, 12, 15 years. You usually were the one that said, "OK, I've had enough," or finally baseball would come to you and say, "You should probably think about a different occupation." They never said to quit, but … they did have a system where you could be released. But if you were a pretty decent umpire, they would allow you to stay and just keep working. It was easier for them having the experience on the field, too.