June 2010

Beyond Baseball

To err is human; to forgive is divine.”

Alexander Pope

Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was so close to perfection.  In the ninth inning of a game against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, June 2nd, Galarraga had retired 26 batters and had yet to allow a hit or a walk.  Neither he nor his teammates had committed an error.  Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game.  Until he wasn’t.

Jim Joyce called Jason Donald safe at first and suddenly Galarraga was preserving a shutout instead of celebrating history.

Seconds after the blown call, outrage hit the baseball world.  Columnists furiously typed angry words calling for Commissioner Bud Selig to reverse the call.  Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were instant gathering places for mobs of angry fans wanting Joyce’s head on a platter. 

Everyone wanted to fight.  Except the one person who was knocked down.

In the midst of the chaos and confusion, Armando Galarraga calmly walked back to the mound.  He didn’t argue the call or make a scene.  Instead, he recorded the 28th out of the night and hit the showers.

I think what has been lost in the “perfect game that wasn’t”, is this: We did witness perfection, just not in the form we are accustomed.

Instead of seeing all zeros in the morning box score, we saw greatness in the way a man carried himself following outrage and adversity.

It would have been easy for Galarraga to rip Joyce and blame him for all he had lost in that instant.  Galarraga could have huffed and puffed and threw a Gatorade tub down.  Instead, he acted in a manner I believe most of us can only wish we could duplicate.

In the clubhouse following the debacle, Galarraga said this about Joyce and the incident. “He really feels bad.  He probably feels more bad than me.  Nobody is perfect.  I give a lot of credit to that guy.  [An Apology] doesn’t happen.  He apologized.  He feels really bad.  Nobody is perfect.  What am I gonna do?  His eyes were watering and he didn’t have to say much.  His body language said a lot.” 

The only guy to who the perfect game really matters is one of the few keeping his emotions in check.

Yet one day later, the outrage among the masses is growing.  Whether it is network television dissecting the missed call or talk radio hosts giving a laundry list of reasons of how Galarraga was wronged, it seemed as if most people were missing the bigger story, the more important point.

Galarraga was undoubtedly upset at what will not go in the record books, but instead of holding a grudge, he accepted an apology.

It is not an easy task to not only admit a mistake, but issue a genuine apology.  Jim Joyce could have skipped out after the game.  He could have issued a “statement” or denied his wrongdoing altogether.  But he didn’t.

It is not an easy task to accept an apology.  Armando Galarraga could have declined to speak with Joyce.  He could have blasted him for weeks.  But he didn’t.

Joyce acted with true remorse, which was only possible because Galarraga extended forgiveness and compassion. 

Galarraga understands what many of us do not.  Feats of greatness do not need to be recorded.  They do not need to be reversed to be made right. 

Galarraga knows within himself he threw a perfect game.  He knows a mistake was made, but that error does not take away an accomplishment – HIS accomplishment.

So instead of kicking and screaming about the great “injustice” Galarraga has experienced, maybe it is best we see the true justice taking place: forgiveness.

I truly think this is a much better story to share with future generations than another notch in the record books.  You may make a bad decision on the diamond or in life, but acting with class is always the right call.