Picture this. You’re sitting in the stands at your son or daughter’s baseball game. You’re leaning forward, on the edge of your seat, and notice that you’ve stopped breathing. The pitcher – your child – is only one out away from a perfect game.
The next pitch released, you hear the crack of the bat, see the ball fielded in plenty of time and watch as the umpire calls the runner…. ‘safe.’
WHAT? SAFE? One out away and robbed of a perfect game by a bad call? How would you react, Mom or Dad? Would you yell at the umpire? Curse at the coach? Threaten to take your child out of the league? Rant and rave to anyone who would listen?
Or, would you respond with the total grace and class of all of the people involved when this actually occurred during a major league baseball game last night?
Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from pitching only the 21st perfect game in major league baseball history. And, as in all such games, there had been some spectacular fielding to bring the game to this moment. The batter connected with the pitch, Galarraga went to first base to pick up the throw and umpire Jim Joyce called the runner safe. He was wrong.
According to news accounts the manager argued, the crowd booed…. and the young pitcher went back to work, facing one more batter to win a one-hit shutout.
This is a great moment in baseball for a number of reasons, and probably far more memorable than if Jim Joyce had made the correct call.
While listening to audio of both men this morning, one thing is clear: in the moment, both thought that the runner was safe. In other words, they did the best they could with the information they had at the time. It was only after the game, when each of the men had the opportunity to view the replays, that they knew for certain the umpire had struck out.
Here’s where the story goes from good to great. The umpire sought out the pitcher and apologized to him. He endured six minutes of media questioning during which he assumed full responsibility for his actions without making excuses. Just over and over, sadly but straight up, a lot of different ways to say “I was wrong and I am sorry.”
Galarraga’s audio is equally classy. He seems far more concerned for Jim Joyce than for an entry in a record book. As he said, “I know I have it.” And isn’t that the definition of true integrity? How inspiring to listen to someone who has more faith in his own experience than in the ranting of angry fans and reporters.
If baseball is still our ‘national past time’ then this really was a perfect game.
This is the type of teachable moment that professional athletes can offer our kids: grace and class, generosity and personal responsibility. Forgiveness.
So, instead of joining the media debate about how this ‘wrong’ should be righted, let’s find a way to honor the parents of these two inspiring professionals. They did a great job.
Perhaps we should nominate them for the Parenting Hall of Fame.