Armando Galarraga, the Detroit Tiger pitcher denied a perfect game last week on a blown call at first base by umpire Jim Joyce, has missed his opportunity for immortality.
I'm not talking about Galarraga's almost perfect game but rather his decision to remain an active major league pitcher instead of walking away at the peak of his popularity.
At no time in his future will Galarraga ever be as beloved as he was the instant that Joyce called the Cleveland Indians' Jason Donald safe on an infield single while all of America saw that he was clearly out.
In the minds of baseball fans, his teammates, major league umpiring crews and front office personnel, Galarraga pitched a perfect game, no questions asked.
After the game, Galarraga's grace in the face of his enormous professional set back won him the admiration of millions.
When Galarraga presented the line-up card to Joyce before the next day's game, the umpire was reduced to tears. Galarraga and Joyce hugged.
Galarraga forgave Joyce's blunder. Everyone agreed with Galarraga: Joyce is a good man who made a human mistake.
By this time in his story, people who don't know baseball from bowling had jumped on Galarraga's band wagon. Moms and Dads, teachers, counselors and ministers all pointed to Galarraga as a paragon of virtue and an example of how to face adversity with grace.
At that moment when all the forces of good merged, Galarraga's persona peaked.
And, also at that exact moment although he didn't realize it, Galarraga also faced a choice. Should he retire and be known forever as the pitcher and gentleman who went out on top or continue his baseball career into ultimate obscurity?
Unfortunately, Galarraga elected to press on.
Then a few days later on June 8, Galarraga went to the mound to face the Chicago White Sox. During five innings, he gave up seven hits and two earned runs.
Perfection ended. Galarraga is now on his way to becoming one of dozens of pitchers who were both perfect and near perfect that, unless you are an advanced fan, you cannot tell me a single thing about.
Among the perfect game pitchers you've never heard of are Addie Joss, Charlie Robertson, Len Barker, Mike Witt and Kenny Rogers. An additional ten pitchers had their perfect games spoiled after the twenty-sixth out. Among the names you don't recognize are Milt Wilcox, Brian Holman and Ron Robinson.
Assuming Galarraga had taken my advice (too late now!), what career path could he have pursued?
Galarraga's opportunities would have been many including some within baseball. And it's probable that most of them would generate a higher income than his $400,000 major league.
Maybe the Detroit Tigers could have put Galarraga to work in its community outreach department. As a local hero, Galarraga would be an inspiration to troubled youth living throughout Detroit's inner city.
Commissioner Bud Selig's office has a similar community service job that extends throughout baseball's network of cities. Galarraga, born in Venezuela, would be able to present himself not only as an on the field champion but also as an immigrant success story.
Galarraga could have signed on with General Motors. The auto giant gave Galarraga a red 2010 Corvette convertible that advertising executives calculate is worth $9.0 million in media exposure. GM could give $1 million of that to Galarraga to make appearances on its behalf to sell cars worldwide.
How about this? Suppose Galarraga hired the William Morris Agency to book speaking engagements for him. If Bill Clinton made $51 million since he left the White House speaking political gibberish on the rubber chicken circuit, surely Galarraga could rake in $5 million talking about the importance of character.
Galarraga's alternate income possibilities are endless. Since he's already 28 and not much more than a .500 pitcher, he should have seized the day when he could have.
In a fickle America, Galarraga is already yesterday's news.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.