The Last Great Call(s)

DeMuth: "In the first game of the World Series last year, I'm at second base. And that still goes through my mind. How in the hell, in the first inning, did I miss that call [on Kozma]? And I thank the Lord every single day ... that I had partners that said the same thing: 'Holy mackerel. How did you miss that call?' [Laughs.] ... There's nothing more [painful] than going home after a ballgame, laying in your hotel room, sitting in there, all alone, and that feeling you've got in your gut, knowing that 'Oh my God, how did I miss that? Why did I call that?' And that lays in your gut for days. Now, to have the opportunity to make that all right, it's easier to swallow. You know what I mean?"

Joyce: "We're going to miss plays. There's no doubt about that. Believe me, I'm the poster boy for that one. And it happens. But why it happens? You know what? You could take every scientist, doctor, sociologist, whatever you want, and you're never going to be able to figure that out. But we are very good at what we do."

It isn't only their fellow umpires who recognize that. As much time as the men in uniform might seem to spend grumbling about umpires, when they see truly great umpiring in action, as they did when that obstruction call came along, even people on the wrong end of it aren't afraid to admit they have great admiration for the umpires who made it.

Farrell: "You do. And that admiration continues to grow because, when you have plays that come into question ... they have one opportunity in real time to make that decision, to make a call, and get it right."

Saltalamacchia: "I've read some of the rules, and there's a lot of rules in that rulebook that you have to know. So it boggles my mind that they're able to make that call. But they did a great job in that World Series."

Middlebrooks: "Those guys, they know the rulebook inside and out. We're the best in the world at what we do. And they're the best in the world at what they do."

Never again. Never again will any umpires have to take the field in the major leagues, knowing they have only their minds, their guts and their eyeballs to rely on to make the right call. The replay machines are already whirring this spring. They'll be whirring all season. They'll be whirring forever now. And forever is a long time -- longer even than a Yankees-Red Sox game.

In a way, it's ironic that obstruction calls won't be eligible for review via replay, at least in the beginning. But the bottom line is the world is changing. So if this is where we wave goodbye to that part of baseball history -- to the beauty and purity of dramatic, spontaneous, in-the-moment umpiring decisions in a world with no tech support -- what better way to end that era than with the Last Great Call(s)?

Joyce: "I don't think there's any doubt about it. As a matter of fact, we talked about it after the World Series. ... We all went out after Game 6. And we sat around and actually talked that way. The World Series was over. And I think it was John Hirschbeck that said, 'Boys, we just came to the end of an era, because we did everything we were supposed to do, and we did it very well.' And everybody knew what he meant -- that the game is going to change. Starting now."

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