People are funny, aren’t they? Many of us insist on being “right” even if we know we are wrong; it’s as if there is some shame in making a mistake or that it somehow diminishes our quality as a human being.
Recently there was a fascinating situation in professional baseball, where a batter was called safe at first base when he actually should have been out. Anytime a bad call is rendered in professional sports it’s a bad thing because the rules are everything, and a bad call gives the other side an unfair advantage. This situation was especially unfortunate, however, because a perfect game was at stake.
A baseball pitcher’s ultimate goal is a perfect game. That means that every single batter that the pitcher faces either strikes out or is thrown out at first base. No walks, no hits, no errors; three batters in each of nine innings: 27 batters to the plate and 27 out. Period. It’s like a 300-score in bowling or a hole-in one in golf. It is so difficult to do that there have only be 21 perfect games in all of professional baseball history!
On this fateful day, the pitcher (Armando Galarraga) was facing his twenty-seventh batter, the last batter between him and that perfect game. The ball was hit and he was thrown out at first base--perfect game! But wait--the umpire (Jim Joyce) called the runner safe! There was quite a hubbub about it: the pitcher’s team protested but the game continued and the next batter was the last of the game.
After the fact, video of the play showed that the runner was clearly out, and that Joyce had made a mistake.
What a great opportunity for stress; after all, Galarraga was cheated out of a perfect game, and Joyce made a major mistake with huge consequences. Galarraga could have complained and jumped up and down, the umpire could have been defensive and stuck to his guns no matter what, and the fans could have lynched him.
Here’s what actually happened. When the bad call was made, Galarraga just stood on the pitcher’s mound and shook his head, smiling in resignation. After the game, when Joyce saw what an egregious error he had made, he went to the locker room and apologized to Galarraga personally.