On the long, sleepless night he became the most infamous umpire in America, Jim Joyce drove home to his 86-year-old mother, Ellouise. For all of his 23 years as a major league umpire, Joyce, whenever he's been assigned to work games in Detroit or Cleveland, has eschewed fancy hotels to stay at the three-bedroom, one-bath brick house in Toledo in which he was raised, not far from the factory where mother and son once worked on the same automobile assembly line.
Joyce's father, James A. Joyce Jr., also worked in that Jeep factory in the shadows of what passed for Toledo landmarks: three towering brick smokestacks erected in 1910. James Jr. worked at the factory for 33 years, though not on the labor side like his wife and son, but in management as part of the payroll department, which made for lively debate at the Joyce kitchen table.
Coming home, though, was different this season for James Joyce III. His father had died suddenly last year at the age of 85.
Jim could hear the television through the still evening air even before he reached the small stoop of the house. It was still too early for the late news. The Tigers and the Indians had played their game in just 104 minutes at Detroit's Comerica Park, the last two minutes or so made necessary only by the most heartbreaking call in baseball history, courtesy of Ellouise and James Jr.'s son. Jim walked through the door and saw his mother in front of the TV.
"Hi, honey," she greeted her son.
"Did you watch the game?" he asked.
"No," she said. "I started to, but I got interested in something else."
"Oh, so you haven't heard what happened?"
Ellouise may have been the last person on earth who hadn't heard. Her previously anonymous son had become the hottest search item on Google, displacing a porn actor who allegedly murdered a colleague with a samurai sword.
"Can you turn that down so I can talk to you?" Jim asked. Ellouise shut off the television.