Until last night, there had been only 20 perfect games thrown in modern Major League Baseball history. For those unfamiliar, a perfect game is thrown when a pitcher allows no baserunners throughout the entire game. Only 20…until last night. Now we have 21…not really, but almost. With two outs in the 9th inning, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers induced a ground ball to Miguel Cabrera, his first baseman. Cabrera made the play and tossed the ball to Galarraga, who stepped on the base and began to celebrate. Perfect game! Only the 21st in history. Only, not in the eyes of first base umpire Jim Joyce, who called the runner safe.
Replays from every angle confirmed that Joyce not only missed the call, but that he blew it and cost Galarraga a chance at history. There are a million different opinions on this and a million different life application angles. I can honestly say that, if I were in Galarraga’s shoes, that would have been it for me. I would have gotten myself ejected from the game, would have lost my mind, would have blamed everything on the umpire. After all, it was his fault. After all, the pitcher earned and deserved his perfect game. After all, there had been only 20 others in MLB history. Yep, I would have been tossed.
Not Armando Galarraga. His reaction was incredible. Immediately after the call, he just looked at Jim Joyce and smiled. The pitcher knew the umpire blew the call; he knew history was out of his grasp–yet, he just smiled. In fact, he was composed enough to finish the game, getting the next batter out to preserve the win for his team. Like I said, I would have been in the showers by then. This guy’s reaction was amazing. How does a man who just lost a perfect game settle down and get the final out, knowing it means nothing but a win for his team? Perspective. Perspective on life, maybe. Perspective on the humanness of an umpire, maybe. Perspective on the privilege of playing Major League Baseball, maybe. After the game, Galarraga mentioned only that he was sad. Sad? Wow. I was thinking irate, looking to get the umpire fired. But sad? Impressive. Even Jim Joyce, the umpire, was impressed, saying that he wouldn’t have blamed Galarraga for going off on him in that moment.
Equally impressive is the reaction of Joyce. I’ve played in, coached in, and watched enough games to know that umpires rarely, if ever, admit when they’ve missed a call. Often, undeniable replay evidence isn’t enough to convince them of a mistake. Not Joyce. He owned up to it, going to both Tigers Manager Jim Leyland and pitcher Galarraga to apologize (!) after the game for his blown call. Not only that, but he admitted publicly (over and over) that he was wrong. What makes an umpire, whose colleagues claim perfection, own and apologize for an honest mistake, for just being human and messing up? Humility. Humility in the fact that he’s not perfect, that he’s human, that he did, in fact, mess up. Humility in the fact that he didn’t dodge it, but owned it.
Perspective and humility. Those two qualities are lost on most of us, myself included far too often. Need a little perspective and humility? Check out James 1:2-12. Learn about how to handle the tough circumstances in life and learn about the humanity found in all of us.