Two days before his life changed, Jim Joyce woke up and had coffee with his mom.
He knows exactly what he did that day, May 31, 2010, when he arrived in his hometown of Toledo, staying with his mom in advance of a three-game series between the Detroit Tigers and Indians at Comerica Park. His father, James Joyce, who worked in the U.S. Army Air Corps, had died a year earlier, and Joyce went see his headstone for the first time.
He went to a 7-Eleven, bought two beers, went to the cemetery, put a beer on his dad's headstone and popped open his own. He took one sip, poured the rest over the grave and had a beer with his dad.
He brought a baseball with him _ Joyce was umpiring at Fenway Park the night before; his dad's favorite team was the Red Sox _ and left it there. He drove around the city, past his old high school and took his mom out to dinner.
"It was, what I would call for me, a normal day," Joyce said. "It was good."
Joyce, then 54 years old, was in his 21st season as a Major League Baseball umpire. He was highly respected, in the upper-echelon or one of the best, depending on which former manager you speak with. Managers and players alike called him, "Jimmy."
The day his life changed, Joyce made a bad call at first base.
He doesn't really know what happened on that play, June 2, 2010, but Joyce called the baserunner safe when he was really out. It was terrible timing and made for a cruel ending _ Joyce's bad call with two outs in the top of the ninth inning ruined the 21st perfect game in baseball history, which should have been thrown by Tigers' right-hander Armando Galarraga.
People are still talking about this call, 10 years later. They are still calling Joyce up about it, emailing his daughter, Keri, to get ahold of him, still making films about it _ last week, Joyce said, an ESPN television crew stopped by his house in Beaverton, Ore.
When they did, at one point, a producer sitting six feet away was giving him a look.
"What?" he asked.
"I know what happened and I don't know your story, but listening to you tell that story, I guess I must have been doing something else 10 years ago, because the mistake you made was in a sport."
"Yeah," Joyce said.
"Well, that doesn't correlate. I guess I just don't get it."
"No, you do get it," Joyce said.
"But you have to also remember that my world was a sports world and what I did in that world was earth-shattering," he continued. "But in the real world, when I came out of that world, people really don't pay attention to that part of it."
The morning after his life changed, Joyce woke up as the most hated man in baseball.
The death threats since he made that bad call were piling up. They reached him, and his daughter, Keri, and son, Jimmy, who were both in college at the time.
"I knew what was coming," Joyce said.
But what he didn't know, what might have scared him more than those death threats _ the FBI was involved and MLB was providing him extra security _ was that an entire career of blood, sweat and tears would now be reduced to one bad call. That Joyce, an umpire's-umpire _ accurate and honest, loving the arguments but never seeking them out _ would be defined by that call.
"I was scared to death that that was going to define me," he said. "That every time that somebody looked at me, they're not going to think they're talking to Jim Joyce _ they're going to be thinking they're talking to Jim Joyce, the guy that kicked the call in 2010.
Two years after his life changed, Joyce was readying to umpire home plate in San Francisco.
One time zone away, in Phoenix, Jane Powers was trying to talk herself into attending 7:30 a.m. mass. It was a healing service and her mom had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Powers, who worked a second job in concessions at Chase Field for Diamondbacks games, would arrive hours early to the stadium to walk laps around the concourse.
The healing service was the 90th anniversary celebration of Pilgrim Rest Church. A visiting pastor, Bishop Greg Davis from Detroit, was part of the mass.
He asked parishioners to sow a healing seed when they came to the altar. Powers put $90 on the altar _ the pastors asked for an amount of "nine," to commemorate the anniversary _ and as she walked away, nearly reaching her seat in the back, Bishop Davis called her back up.
"I was thinking, 'It couldn't be me, because I'm perfectly healthy,' " Powers said. "He doesn't know anything about my mom. But, five times later, he comes and gets me and he lays his hands on me and he said, 'The Lord is going to bless you and your life is about to change in 90 days.'"
Seven weeks after his life changed, Joyce arrived at Chase Field for a game.
He was walking down a ramp to the concourse, Aug. 20, 2012, when he noticed a woman had just collapsed.
Joyce is one of those guys who is always there when the car accident happens. He has seen more seizures then he cares to admit, either people driving or walking down the street, riding a bike, "It just seems like I'm always there."
Jane Powers was not having a seizure. She had gone into sudden cardiac arrest.
"There was no time to think about that one, either," Joyce said. "It was total reaction."
Joyce began CPR, singing the Bee Gees' iconic '70s song, "Stayin' Alive" _ "That's the beat for the compressions you do for CPR," Joyce said _ and for 23 minutes, Powers alternated between life and death. She came back five or six times, was shocked by a defibrillator three times, saw a bright white light and heard her father talking to her before paramedics arrived.
"He said I was going to be OK, stay right where I was," Powers said.
Powers, then 50, wore an Irish Claddagh ring. Joyce, an Irishman, noticed this. One of Powers' friends, whom she had alerted about her light-headedness just seconds before she collapsed, stood by while Joyce administered CPR. Her name is Danielle Moore. Her grandfather, Bill Cutler, hired Joyce for his first Triple-A umpiring job in the Pacific Coast League.
Powers flat-lined two more times in the ambulance to the hospital. There, she came back for good, saved by Joyce in the best call of his career.
When she did, the nurse told her there were cameras and media outside, all waiting to interview her.
"It's a mistaken identity," Powers thought. "What's really wrong with me?"
Her brother came in and asked her, "Janie, do you remember the umpire that cost a pitcher a perfect game? He's the umpire that saved your life."
Joyce and his wife, Kay, stopped to see Powers the next day.
"As soon as he walked in, I could hear him talking and his voice, I could recognize his voice," Powers said. "Because apparently, the whole time I kept going out, he kept saying, 'Come on, stay with me, Janie, stay with me.' So I guess it's true that hearing is the last thing to go when you're dying."
Joyce and Powers have kept in touch over the years. They would get lunch every time he umpired in Phoenix before his retirement in 2016. In March, Powers received a heart transplant. She thinks about how Joyce saved her life every day.
"Talk about proud moments in your life," Joyce said.
On the last day of his life, Joyce will still be thinking about that damn call.
He still thinks about it every day, especially around this time of the year, when his cell phone blows up with reporters asking questions about the worst call he's ever made. Especially approaching today's 10th anniversary.
"I still get emotional about it," Joyce said. "It's one of those things that will never go away and it doesn't define me, but it's always there. I don't look at it any different _ I did everything I thought I could do right on that play, but it just came out wrong _ because with everything that's shaken out, I'm OK with it."
When did Joyce become OK with it?
"I think it's a gradual thing that's even still in place today," Joyce said. "The way that I look at it is, every day that goes by, there's like a little piece that's carved off of it, a little bit, that it keeps getting less and less and less. It's never going to go away _ it's going to be one of those infinity things that you keep cutting at it and there's still going to be a piece left _ and it's taken me 10 years to get where I'm at."
He has seen the replay only twice: The initial look inside the umpire's room after the game and one night, by surprise, a quick clip during Tom Brokaw's nightly newscast or something, when he turned to his wife and said, "Well, it's still the same."
Years later, Joyce sounds as at peace with the call as possible. He is self-deprecating, not nearly smart enough to know why he called safe, he says, but smart enough to know that, to most everybody, he will be defined by that one play.
He chokes up once _ "I found out that there was a lot of people that cared for me" _ and nobody has ever busted his chops about it with a good one-liner, but if they did, "Yeah, I could very easily laugh about it," he said.
Joyce, a very good umpire for a very long time, will be remembered by baseball fans for that bad call. But his legacy goes beyond the field, to the bowels of a stadium two years later, where he became remembered for something much more important than making a bad call in a sporting game.
"To this day, people are like, 'He's the one that blew the call,'" Powers said. "I'm like, 'No. I don't know anything about that.' I don't know him as the person that blew that call. I know Jim Joyce as the one that saved my life.' "
(c)2020 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.