“There’s no crying in baseball!” At least according to Tom Hanks’ character in the 1992 film, A League of Their Own. But is there forgiveness? Thankfully, the answer to that question is, well, yes. Have you been following the drama in Detroit that featured Armando Galarraga’s near perfect game this past Wednesday?
If you missed the action, with two outs in the 9th inning and with Armando having retired the previous 26 batters, first base umpire Jim Joyce called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe, although replays clearly indicated he was out. To Armando’s credit, the native of Venezuela simply smiled, shook his head in disbelief and got back to work. He retired the next batter and recorded a one-hit shutout. But no perfect game.
No sooner had Joyce blown the call than the debates began raging. Should there be instant replay in baseball? Should the umpire be overruled? Good people can see these matters differently, it’s just a game, after all. The more interesting aspect for me than the near-perfect game was the reactions of the various parties involved.
The late Leo Durocher, otherwise known as “Leo the Lip,” was one of the most successful managers in Major League Baseball. He had a feisty personality and it’s not very difficult to imagine how he would have reacted to the blown call. “I never questioned the integrity of an umpire,” he once quipped. “Their eyesight, yes.”
The man at the center of the storm, veteran umpire Jim Joyce, immediately fessed up to his mistake after watching the instant replay. When asked if he was worried about the boos he endured and would likely endure for weeks to come, he responded with humility. “I’ll take whatever they can give me, and I’ll handle it like a man,” he reflected, “and I’ll do the best I can.”
Sports talk-radio hosts around the country universally qualified Joyce’s call as the “worst ever” in regular season baseball. Assuming they are right, what was the fallout? Consider:
- Armando Galarraga didn’t even argue the call. He also ignored and avoided the on-field melee following the game. Today, he’s being praised and labeled a good sport. On Thursday, feeling badly for the star, team sponsor General Motors awarded him a brand new $53,000 Corvette convertible.
- Jim Joyce is now viewed by nearly everyone as a man of integrity because he was quick to admit he was wrong—and gets points for quickly apologizing, too.
- Jim Leyland, Detroit’s manager, also responded with class. “First of all, you are talking about one of the best umpires in the business and one of the best guys,” he said. “You are talking about a guy who feels worse than anybody. It’s sad. This guy is an outstanding umpire.”
In an additional expression of good sportsmanship, Galarraga carried the lineup card to home plate prior to the next afternoon’s game. He and Jim Joyce exchanged kind words and patted one another on the back. Come to think of it, you could argue that everybody involved in this near-perfect game actually seems to have fared more favorably than had Jim Joyce made the right call in the first place. But that’s because Armando Galarraga humbled himself and quickly forgave the umpire.
For a parent, this incident provides a wonderful illustration of how to handle honest mistakes—and the associated benefits of offering, receiving, and accepting forgiveness. Maybe the next time your child blows it, consider reminding him or her what we learned from a near-perfect ballgame on a late spring evening in Detroit, Michigan.