It's no secret to most of you that I am a big baseball fan. I played from the time I was 4 through a brief stint in college and other than the strike in the 1990s that led to the cancellation of the World Series—never veered away from being a rabid fan. Two fairly important things happened in baseball yesterday.
First, Ken Griffey Jr. retired. He is the best outfielder I've ever seen…including Barry Bonds. Willie Mays is my favorite player of all time, and the Mantle fans will come after me…but one can easily make the case that he's the greatest center-fielder ever. In the steroid era, he kept himself clean, and dominated with the glove, the arm, the bat, and speed. He absolutely loved playing. I wish him the best and if you ever need someone to point your kids to as an example of the complete player who played for the love of the game…point to Griffey.
Second, Jim Joyce made one of the worst officiating calls I've ever seen. Armando Galarraga took a perfect game 8 2/3 innings. One out away from the perfect game, Galarraga delivered the pitch which was grounded to the right side. Galarraga went to cover first, caught the throw and touched the bag at least a complete step ahead of the runner…who was called safe.
Good-bye perfect game.
The call was blown.
Jim Joyce admitted it after the game and literally gave Gallaraga a hug and apologized. Today, he is the boob of America…called everything from blind, to stupid, to things which I cannot name on this humble blog.
I was blessed to throw and be a part of several no-hitters and perfect games over the years, and there is simply nothing like it. To do it at the Major League level is a feat that is nearly impossible…and I am really, really, really, really, bummed for Armando Gallaraga.
I don't like umpires, referees, etc. Mostly because when I have played sports, some allow their attitudes toward players and coaches to skew their calls…pay back, etc. I learned from the time I was a kid not to let a bad call phase me visibly, because I would pay for it later. Having said that, I feel really bad for Jim Joyce today. I think he simply called it like he saw it, and blew it.
At one level…that's not OK. It cost someone a once-in-a-lifetime experience. At another level, that's OK. Nobody's perfect. Galarraga had it right in the post-game interviews. When asked for his thoughts about the call, he said, "Nobody's perfect." Atta boy. I hope he throws another perfecto next time out.
When leaders make mistakes…we need to admit it…and not in a forced, insincere way. When people make mistakes that cost us, we need to accept those apologies and show grace…because next week, it could be us, O Lord, standin' in the need of prayer.
I've made a number of mistakes over the years, and it has never served me well to cling to my pride or to pretend it didn't hurt anyone. Sure, there are people who won't accept sincere apologies, or think leaders should be perfect. You can't worry about them. You just have to call 'em like you see 'em…and when you blow a call…try to make it right if you can . If you can't, there's a crazy little thing called grace we all need and all give and receive as Christians. Whatever you do…don't hide, don't deny it when it's indisputable that you blew it. Own it, and keep calling' 'em like you see 'em. Jim Joyce probably made hundreds of correct calls before blowing that huge call. That doesn't change the ugliness of the call he made, I just don't think it means he's necessarily a terrible umpire. I do believe he's probably a capable, and, we learned, an honest umpire…and that has to count for something.
A really interesting summer read for you might be, "As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires. As the author, Bruce Weber, writes, "Who would volunteer for this duty? And why? By
now I’ve asked two dozen umpires this, and there is no consensus. Many
umpires use the word “calling” to describe their profession—“It’s just
like being called to the ministry, as far as I’m concerned,” said Jim
Evans, though that is perhaps to give the job a gravity that is hard to
justify outside the church of baseball."