Umpire Jim Joyce Besmirches Good Family Name

JamesJoyce

Blindness apparently runs in the Joyce family. Last night the Detroit Tigers played the Cleveland Indians, and Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from pitching a perfect game, which would have been the third in the MLB in four weeks–an unbelievable record. But the Umpire Jim Joyce, who was at the first base line, made a terrible call with two outs in the 9th and called safe a runner who was out by what looks like a good five feet. He’s already gone on record saying that it was a bad call, but because of the MLB’s ridiculous instant replay rules (they only allow it to influence calls for home runs), Galarraga was denied his perfect game.

Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between James Joyce, beloved eccentric and author of Ulysses etc., and Jim Joyce, a once capable-but-largely-anonymous umpire who is now, according to a quick Twitter glean, one of the most hated men in the world.

Blindness

Both the author and the umpire apparently suffered from eye problems in the middle of their careers.

The author was stricken with multiple problems, including glaucoma, irititis, and conjunctivitis, and by 1924 was wearing an eyepatch. Though he never went totally blind, his eyesight was a major hindrance and one of the reasons why Finnegans Wake took 17 years to write. He underwent eleven eye surgeries, had all his teeth removed (they were abscessed and exacerbating his irititis), and used leaches. Despite being nearly blind for almost a third of his life, he still created Ulysses and Portrait and Dubliners.

Umpire Joyce was like ten feet away from first base. According to the MLB, you need 20/20 vision with or without corrective lenses in order to qualify. But this call could be a symptom of something like presbyopia or glaucoma, and he should really get that checked out.

Apollonian v. Dionysian tendencies

Despite the free-associative qualities in the texts of Joyce’s later work, the author did not believe in a Dionysian approach to art. His works are highly structured, following a rigid set of internal laws.

The other Joyce, despite umping since at least 1978, is supposed to have undergone training to make calls according to an external set of rules, i.e. if the first baseman catches the ball and touches the bag before the runner, the runner is out. It could be that he was adding a bit of Dionysian flare, or he was under the spell of said Wine God. Either way, you could argue that it was a highly modernist gesture that flaunted accepted convention.

Legacy

If you haven’t read Ulysses, you probably shouldn’t call yourself a writer. Becket, Nabokov, Borges, Pynchon, DFW–these are just very few of the people whom he has influenced, and are probably influencing you. He was on money and stamps and every June 16 is dedicated to reading his 700+ page novel out loud. Ballin’.

Umpire Joyce is now the tenth ump to ruin a perfect game with two outs in the 9th. He follows in the footsteps of Bruce Froemming, who, in 1972, apparently called a ball when it was just outside. Joyce is probably going to be more well known than Galarraga (for the record, I had to look up his name again before I typed it, so yeah), but not in a good way.

So yeah. It sucks to be Jim Joyce (it also kinda sucked to be James Joyce, too, but more in a tortured artist w/ severe eye pain kind of way). Hopefully Bud Selig will overturn the call!

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