A Lesson from Galarraga

I don’t watch a lot of baseball on TV.  I love the sport, but I don’t want to devote three hours to anything, not with the mound of chores I always have to do.  If I do watch baseball, I’ll watch an Atlanta Braves game, so the fact that I caught the ninth inning of the Detroit Tigers versus the Cleveland Indians is completely by chance.  And I’m glad for my husband’s unusual change of the channel.

It was the ninth inning when we tuned in, and Armando Galarraga was pitching a perfect game.  He had retired 24 batters in a row, no walks, or errors committed.  We watched as the center-fielder made an amazing running catch to keep Galarraga’s once-in-a-lifetime dream alive.  Out one.  The next batter up swings and is thrown out at first. Out two.  It was now time for Galarraga to make history–only 20 other men have ever thrown a perfect game in the Major Leagues.

It was a hard hit, and the first baseman ran to retrieve the ball.  Galarraga ran to cover first base, arriving in time to make the catch.  He stuck out his glove, extended his foot out to touch the bag, and he and his teammate turned excitedly toward the first base umpire to see the call:  SAFE!  The umpire extended both arms out to the side making the signal that forever changed the way this game would be remembered in history.

The replay was clear; the runner, in fact, was not safe.  He was clearly out.  It really wasn’t even a close call, but baseball doesn’t use instant replay, so it was the final call.

As I watched this play unfold, I literally felt my stomach turn queasy.  I may not have any experience as a baseball player, but I know how rare a perfect game is.  A no-hitter is an amazing accomplishment for a pitcher, but a perfect game–that’s more like a dream.

But what amazed me most wasn’t the bad call and horrible ending to this game.  No, it was the events that happened since that call was made.

Armando Galarraga, after getting this call that blew his chance in history, didn’t yell.  He didn’t throw his glove.  He simply smiled at the ump.  Yes, it was a smile that said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” but it was a smile nonetheless.  He then walked backed to the pitcher’s mound and faced his 28th batter.  He got the out and won the game for the Tigers.

As he walked off the mound to the dugout, he was greeted by the catcher who hugged him. Galarraga was clearly disappointed.  The rest of his teammates came to congratulate him and offer sympathy at the same time–Galarraga earned a perfect game, but it was taken from him. And then his coach and teammates went for the umpire.

I can’t imagine what it felt like to be Jim Joyce, that infamous umpire,  booed by the crowd, surrounded by hostile teammates defending their pitcher, but it was clear he wanted to get out there. But, apparently, he didn’t get out of there and go home.  After seeing the replay for himself, he sought out Galarraga and apologized.  In the interview I saw last night on the MLB Network, Galarraga said the umpire came to him and said he was sorry with tears in his eyes, still in his sweaty clothes.  Joyce knew he made a bad call that ended Galarraga’s perfect game.

And Galarraga hugged him.  He hugged him.  He said in his interview that Joyce was only human; mistakes happen.  In fact, I heard that phrase many times that night.  The coach, catcher, and center-fielder all said the same thing: Joyce was a good umpire.  He made a bad call, but he was human.  That’s baseball.

Galarraga smiled and joked with the reporters.  Yes, he was disappointed, but he would show his son someday that he pitched a perfect game.  It might not be in the record books, but he knew he did it.

After the game was over, the interviews finished, and the clock screaming that I really needed to get off the couch and clean up the kitchen, I continued to sit.  I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had witnessed and heard.  I wanted to process what I had just learned.

Finish What You Start

Galarraga could have stormed off the field after the bad call, and while it would’ve been unprofessional, no one would’ve blamed him. He could’ve lost his composure and given up a hit with that 28th batter.  Instead, he made the out and secured the win for his team.

Live in Such a Way that Others Will Fight for You

After viewing that final inning and the events afterwards, it was clear to me that those teammates surrounding Joyce weren’t just protesting a bad call.  They were fighting for a good man, a man who deserved a perfect game.

Have the Guts to Admit When You’re Wrong

If I were Joyce, I would’ve run away and hid.  Instead, he confronted this pitcher face-to-face, not in an e-mail or over the phone, but to his face, and in the same night he made the mistake.

Freely Forgive, and Keep Moving

Galarraga and his teammates all agreed; Joyce was a good umpire who made a bad call.  They felt sorry for him–Galarraga suggested that Joyce might feel worse about the ending of the game than he did.  After the fury of emotions immediately following the game died down, these players could acknowledge that the ump simply made a mistake, and they moved on.

Always Choose the Higher Road

Even after a night’s sleep, I’m still in awe of Armando Galarraga.  What a class act.  It’s not too often in this sports world that we get to witness men and women with true character, men and women who don’t barrage an official with profanity and insults after a call doesn’t go their way, men and women who keep their composure during and after the game.  But Galarraga did, and he earned my respect.

When I want to teach my children about character, I hope to share this story with them someday.  Life isn’t fair, and sometimes we don’t get what we deserve when we’ve done well, but there is a respectable way to act.  And if we’ve lived a respectable life, we won’t have to fight when we’ve been slighted–others will fight for us.  And the one lesson that hit me the hardest is that we shouldn’t care about getting recognition from others–Galarraga said he knew he threw a perfect game whether or not history acknowledged him–all that should matter is what we know to be true about ourselves.  This lesson is one I have yet to master.

Before last night, I had no idea who Armando Galarraga was, and I wouldn’t have cared.  Now, I am so glad that Matt changed the channel, because what Galarraga did changed me.

29 thoughts on “A Lesson from Galarraga

  1. Jennifer,

    PLEASE send your article to all the editors of all newsworthy papers. This is so well written and thought provoking. i remember a little 2nd grader who clearly won a foot race and was robbed of the win. AND she also maintained dignity and sportswomanship. Galarraga has become a celebrity for all the right reasons. Somehow i feel AG knows the Lord, and when he finally went to sleep last night, he heard Him say,”well done, good and faithful servant.” ♥Mom

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  2. Jennifer, you should send this in to Sports Illustrated, or to the AJC. We need to hear more positive news, especially about sports figures. I didn't see this, but wish I had. Maybe there will be enough good publicity about Galarraga to inspire others to become positive role models for our kids.

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    1. Dot, my mom suggested I do the same thing, but for some reason the comments aren't showing on my blog today. Maybe I will take you two up on your advice! I was definitely inspired by Galarraga's actions.

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  3. Great post about a great man. It is unbelieveable that he handled himself so well. A great example for kids. My son plays baseball and unfortunately, all often they see adults (parents) acting horribly.

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    1. Sheri, sadly I believe that behavior is probably more the rule than the exception. Unfortunately, our society doesn't seem to value decency, anymore, but instead getting what one wants. I won't get on my soapbox, though. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. This must have been what everyone was referencing last night and today on Facebook and Twitter. I didn't understand it all until I read your post. And, I think I would have had a very different view of the whole thing without your insight. Well said, my friend.

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  5. Hi Jennifer-this is the first time I have visited your blog. Thank yo for the beautifully written post and for pointing out the really important things that went on here! I agree with Amanda's comment-kudos to you for making it more than a headline!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment! I was just so impressed with everyone's actions–I had to write while the events were fresh in my mind. I don't ever want to forget!

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  6. Beautiful post Jennifer. I'm reposting it on my fb page as everyone else should in hopes it goes viral. It definitely should be picked up by Sports Illustrated or even The New York Times. Great work!

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  7. Just read this after my friend LouAnn posted the link on Facebook. I'm from Australia, and I know little about baseball. But the story was still incredibly meaningful because of course, its not really about baseball. It's about being an amazing human being full of love, forgiveness and positivity. It's about being incredibly talented but also flawed, being humble and wise. There is so much in that story, and it's so well written, I do hope it goes to a wider audience.

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    1. Yes, God is definitely showing me that people will remember the kind of person that I am more than the awards I have won. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your support.

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  8. That was a great post, Jen! Thank you for taking the time to write it and write it as well as you did! What an awesome lesson in humility by Galaragga and Joyce!

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  9. This story is very touching. I do hope it makes the headline news. I too have posted it on my facebook page. You have a way of expressing what many people are thinking. I hadn't heard about this until I read your article. He deserves to have the wrong made right. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for posting this story to your fb page! It's nice to hear stories about people who can serve as role models for our kids instead of the usual disappointments we hear on the news.

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  10. Thank you for sharing your insight – what a good read! Talk about two really exceptional guys. Hopefully Sunday school teachers as well as secular educators will use this story to convey what good character and good sportsmanship is really all about. Let's pray that Armando pitches another perfect game and that that one gets into the official record books.

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    1. Wouldn't that be wonderful if he could do it again? And it would be even more wonderful if Joyce could have another chance to give a pitcher the final out that would put him in the record books!

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  11. Jennifer, I had to forward this to all of my friends and children. It is so well written and gives such a fresh meaning to humility. My oldest daughter plans to use this in her fourth grade classroom next year. Thank you for sharing with us.

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    1. Wow, what a compliment! Thank you. I'm so glad I happened to see this game and was able to share what I saw with all of you. I don't imagine Galarraga and Joyce have any idea of the impact they have had on all of us!

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  12. It's much harder to be a good loser than a good winner. Galaraga, in this instance, lost pitching a perfect game in the record books because of a bad call.
    He knew he pitched the perfedt game and so does everyone else, include Joyce.
    He may have lost pitching tye perfect game according to the record books but he won the hearts of many because of his great sportsmanship. And Joyce made a bad call, he knew it and acknowledge it. That took quite a man to admit it. Galarage can dream about the perfect game he threw and smile but Joyce can
    only play over and over in his mind how he threw his hands out to the side indicating the runner was safe. I hope he will get over it and realize he is only
    human. You captured the essence of what happened beautifully. i'M very proud
    of you.
    Love, Dad

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  13. Very nicely written. I was traveling and didn't see it happen live, but of course saw replays. My first time to your blog, but I was glad to find this courtesy of Twitter.

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