Did you see it? I hope so. As a baseball fan, every time you get into the fourth or fifth inning and look up at the scoreboard and there are still 3 zeroes on there for a team, the tingling starts in the back of your mind:
“Am I about to witness history?”
It’s the dream of every kid who has ever thrown a ball – maybe someday I could pitch a perfect game. That is, a baseball game where the other team gets no hits, no one is walked, and there are no errors. 27 batters up, 27 batters down. A perfect game.
And Armando Galarraga pitched one. Sort of.
If you haven’t seen the replay, there were 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th inning. Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, had successfully retired 26 batters in a row. The last batter hits a ground ball between 1st and 2nd base, and the first baseman goes to get it. In such situations, the pitcher runs to first base to catch the throw from the first baseman. That’s what Galarraga did, and as the replay showed, the runner was clearly out.
Except he was called safe. Dream gone. History gone. Boos filled the stadium. And as the replay flashed over and over again, every person in the world knew that umpire Jim Joyce had missed the call. Badly.
Immediately, facebook groups were started calling for his firing. Someone registered ihatejimjoyce.com. People were outraged.
But the pitcher? Galarraga? He grinned. And then he retired the next batter. He went to the locker room without saying a word. That, my friends, is class. But the story gets better.
The ump, after seeing the replay, said this: ““It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [stuff] out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room. “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”
Wow. An acknowledgent of guilt. An admittance of failure. So now the question was how the pitcher, the “victim”, would respond. And he did so like this: “You don’t see an umpire after the game come out and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you I’m sorry,’ ” Galarraga said. “He felt really bad. He didn’t even shower.”
He didn’t even shower. I love that part. And then the day after, in a tangible demonstration of mercy Galarraga brought out the lineup card to Joyce before the next game game. This brought a roar from the crowd and tears from the umpire.
There’s a great post here which lists out several reflections on the situation, and I’d like to add a few of my own.
1. It’s still just a game. In our own family, we’re launching into the realm of little league sports. And as a dad, I’m constantly having to remind myself that these are little boys. And it’s just a game. Maybe the best reminder of this was the simple statement after the game: He didn’t even take a shower. For some reason, that reminds me that it really is just a game.
2. Finally, something I can show my son. In a day of steroids, contract negotiations, and arrests for player misconduct, here’s something I can hold up to my boy and say, “See?”
3. There is always something bigger at stake. Yes, it’s just a game. Yes, life goes on. But at the same time, we’re talking about an umpire’s livelihood. His career. His reputation. But in an act of grace, one wronged pitcher changed the supposed destiny of a doomed man. I wonder how many times in my everyday life I have the chance to do that for someone else through simple gestures, extending the grace that’s been given to me. There is always something bigger at stake.