Baseball umpire's imperfect call brings home winning examples of sportsmanship
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We received a major league lesson in humility and grace last week from two men on opposite sides of a ninth-inning play at first base in Detroit. Armando Galarraga, a Venezuelan pitcher in his second year with the Tigers, had kept 27 Cleveland Indian batters from getting on base and was one out away from a perfect game -- a feat achieved just 20 times in more than a century of professional baseball, and never by Detroit. Then, on an infield grounder, umpire Jim Joyce called the runner safe -- a goof that brought tearful remorse when he saw a post-game video showing it wasn't even close.
Baseball's commissioner declined to reverse the call, though he praised the pitcher, fans and apologetic ump for showing dignity. Indeed, Galarraga's on-field smile and postgame comments immediately eased the tension. Crusty manager Jim Leyland later tried to console the anguished umpire and publicly urged fans to be compassionate, too. The next afternoon, he sent Galarraga to home plate with the lineup card, which the young pitcher graciously gave Joyce with a handshake. The veteran umpire teared up again as the crowd applauded.
The classy displays dazzled sportswriters, talk radio hosts and even the White House press secretary. "To watch an umpire take responsibility, to watch a pitcher do what he did -- that type of sportsmanship exhibited was tremendously heartening," presidential aide Robert Gibbs told reporters the next day. "Somebody made a mistake, somebody accepted that apology. It's a good lesson for baseball, perhaps a good lesson in Washington." Detroit News columnist Lynn Henning wrote: " Something more enduring than a near-perfect baseball game happened Wednesday night. Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce, and Jim Leyland -- a pitcher, an umpire and a manager -- turned a supposed catastrophe into a sweet little parable."
Pitcher says: "Nobody's perfect. Everybody makes a mistake. I'm sure he didn't want to make that call. . . . He felt really bad." -- Armando Galarraga
Commissioner says: "I will examine our umpiring system, the expanded use of instant replay and all other related features." -- Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball
Columnist says: "What happened is still historic, and will end up even more famous and special because of how it happened, and how everyone reacted. . . . Galarraga is now a greater symbol of sportsmanship, for his genuine sympathy toward umpire Jim Joyce and his basic understanding of human error. " -- Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News
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