posted by Joe Anaya on October 21st, 2011

As the 2011 baseball season nears it’s end, for me, nothing that happened this season compares to last year when Detroit Tiger’s pitcher Armdando Galarraga was perfect and umpire Jim Joyce was not. Yet both men personified why we recognize sports as a great metaphor for life, creating opportunities to model good behavior under pressure and situations full of teachable moments.

In a game against the Cleveland Indians, the Tiger’s, Galarraga, was one out away from throwing the first perfect game in Detroit’s history. The Indian’s Jason Donald hit a grounder toward Tiger’s first-baseman Cabrera, pulling him off the bag. Galarraga covers first-base and makes the catch with his foot on the bag. He’s ecstatic. But umpire Joyce calls the runner safe. Cabrera can’t believe it. Nobody can believe it. Even Donald can’t believe it. Everyone, except Joyce, thinks it’s a bad call, robbing Galarraga of perfection.

Galarraga, with a chance to be only the 21st pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game, reacts with surprise when he sees Joyce’s call. Then in the grace we hope to instill in our kids when we sign them up for leagues, he reveals a smile of bemused resignation. As the players and fans in the stadium and at home rain down their displeasure, and the announcers proclaim their disbelief, Armando simply takes the ball and walks back to the mound to get the final out.

But the story doesn’t end there. After the final out, standing firmly in the belief that he got it right, Jim Joyce, to his credit, goes to Detroit manager, Jim Leyland, and allows himself to be yelled at by the manager and any other player passing by. He walks into the clubhouse to view the tape and to his horror, realizes he missed the call. He immediately goes into the locker room and finds Galarraga to apologize. With tears and hugs, he admits to making a mistake. Obviously still shaken, but determined to take responsibility for a mistake, he then stands in front of the media and admits to the press and the world, “I missed the call.”

Armando Galarraga continues to defend the man who’s mistake denied him a place in history, “Nobody’s perfect.”

File Under Weekend Warrior