When Joyce's father died in 2009, among the things buried with him was a Red Sox cap.
"He was flipping over in his grave when I made that call," Joyce says.
There are umpires and there is Jim Joyce. He doesn't want to be special, other than to have people know he does a good job. But a triangle of fate and circumstance has singled him out.
Oct. 26, 2013, St. Louis, World Series Game 3
The Cardinals and Red Sox were tied in the ninth inning, 4-4, when Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia rose from tagging out Yadier Molina at the plate to see Allen Craig running toward third base. He threw to third baseman Will Middlebrooks, but the throw was wide and went down the left-field line. Craig, barely able to run because of a bad foot, scrambled to his feet and headed toward home.
But at the same time, Middlebrooks, face down near the bag, started to get up. Craig tripped over his legs and went down, then rose and headed for home, where he was thrown out by yards.
Immediately, all hell broke loose. Home plate umpire Dana DeMuth pointed to the third base umpire, who had pointed at the play the moment Middlebrooks and Craig tangled.
That third base umpire, Joyce, had signaled that Middlebrooks had obstructed Craig. Joyce and DeMuth had yelled "obstruction" several times.
"Nobody could hear us in that noise," Joyce says, "so that's why the immediate hand signals were important."
Joyce's call, and DeMuth's implementation, meant that Craig would be ruled safe. The run scored and the Cardinals had won. For the first time, a World Series game had ended on an obstruction call.
"At the moment you are making the call," Joyce says, "it doesn't occur to you how big this is. Yes, it is a World Series game. But it is only a call.
"I'm not thinking there, I'm reacting. I'm only looking at what is in front of me."
The aftermath was predictably hectic and stressful.
"I went to the plate where Dana was explaining the call to [Boston Manager] John Farrell," Joyce says. "To his credit, Farrell never even raised his voice."
Eventually, Joyce and his five umpiring teammates headed to their dressing room, where they were greeted by several Major League officials, including Joe Torre, executive vice president of baseball operations.
"The first thing they said, to the entire crew," Joyce says, "was 'nice call.'"
And so it had been. The obstruction rule doesn't factor in intent. Soon, with the exception of hard-core Red Sox fans, Joyce's call had been universally accepted as correct.
"The next game," he says, "I went to work second base and nothing was said, other than the usual hellos. Nobody said a thing to me about it the rest of the Series."
Which, of course, the Red Sox won.