July 31, 2014

The Lesson of Jim Joyce

Hearing of Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga’s loing his perfect game on a blown call by first base umpire Jim Joyce was heartbreaking.  But out of heartbreak often comes inspiration, and such was the case here.  Both men acted like….well, men.  Both were professional, humble and role models.

I’ve read a lot about this incident over the past 24 hours, but no one has put things in the proper perspective or summed up the lessons learned quite like SI.com’s Joe Posanski.  “The Lesson of Jim Joyce” is one of the best pieces of baseball writing that I’ve read this year, and I hope that you agree.  It’s a must read for fans of the game and parents everywhere.  An excerpt follows:

“…there always seemed something substantial about Armando Galarraga.

And in that moment when he had a perfect game so unfairly taken away from him, he smiled. In the interview after the game, he simply said that he wasn’t sure about the call but he was proud of his game. When told afterward that Joyce felt terrible about the missed call, Galarraga said that he wanted to go tell Joyce not to worry about it, that people make mistakes.

Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think most baseball fans will always believe that. But, more than anything, it seems that Galarraga will always believe it. The way he handled himself after the game, well, that was something better than perfection. Dallas Braden’s perfect game was thrilling. Roy Halladay’s perfect game was art. But Armando’s Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.

And when my young daughters ask, “Why didn’t he get mad and scream about how he was robbed?” I think I will tell them this: I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Armando Galarraga understands something that is very hard to understand, something we all struggle with, something I hope you will learn as you grow older: In the end, nobody’s perfect. We just do the best we can.”

Today, umpire Jim Joyce took his spot behind home plate.  Major League Baseball gave him the option of taking the game off, but Joyce, having owned up to his mistake, took the field and accepted the Tigers’ lineup card from none other than Andres Galarraga.  He shook the young pitcher’s hand, gave him a pat on the shoulder and wiped the tears out of his eyes. 

Baseball is a sport unlike any other with human umpires and very little instant replay.  It was especially nice to see that humanity and grace on display in Detroit today.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya