Vero Beach’s Dutch Rennert on perfect game ump: ‘play wasn’t that close’

VERO BEACH — Former Major League umpire Dutch Rennert, as he did throughout an umpiring career that spanned 20 years in the National League, called Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga’s bid for a perfect game the way he saw it: He was out.Rennert happened to be watching ESPN Wednesday night when they switched over for the last three innings of the right-hander’s attempt to become the 21st pitcher to toss a perfect game. As everyone now knows, the 27th batter he faced, rookie Jason Donald, hit a grounder to first with Galarraga covering and umpire Jim Joyce called him safe — though replays clearly proved him out. Gallaraga finished with a one-hit shutout. “I was watching the game,” Rennert said, “it was obvious he missed the play, but just like the old saying, you call them as you see them. I am sure that is what (Joyce) did, he called it the way he saw it. But it wasn’t a hard call, the play wasn’t that close, he was obviously out, it was a shame it had to happen.”Rennert, who will celebrate his 76th birthday next week, said technically Joyce did everything right.”He was in a good position, maybe he just called it too quick,” he said. “He’s a good umpire and now he will go down like Don Denkinger in the World series. I really feel sorry for him.”Denkinger is said by many to have turned the tide in the Kansas City Royals’ favor over the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series when he called Jorge Orta safe at first and replays showed him to be out.Rennert, who in 1983 was selected in a poll conducted by the New York Times as the best umpire in the National League, said the key to making that call at first is to watch the runner’s foot and Joyce was in the correct position about two steps in fair territory up the first base line.”You don’t watch the ball on a play like that, once you see the throw and make sure you aren’t going to get hit you watch the foot and listen for the sound,” Rennert said. “You always concentrate on the foot, if you watched the ball your head would be moving. You get that play a thousand times a year and you should be able to hear the thump of the ball, there were only 17,000 people there (attendance was 17,738 at Tiger Stadium) not 50,000.”Rennert did stay true to his old-school roots and remains adamantly against the use of instant replay — in any form.”I hate instant replay,” he said. “Baseball has been played all those years with umpires calling them as they see them and if you miss too many than you lose your job.”The former ump did acknowledge, however, that calling them like you see them can lead to missing a call that could define a career.”I missed my share of calls during 16 years in the minors and 20 in the majors, but nothing with a play as important as that,” he said. “It’s just a shame because (Joyce) is a good umpire, but now he will go down in history as the guy who ruined a perfect game.”

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