Friday, June 04, 2010

Armando Galarraga, Jim Joyce & Christian Virtues

Pitching a perfect game in professional baseball is rare having happened only 20 times. The feat amounts to a pitcher facing 27 batters (3 per inning over 9 innings) and getting each of them out with none of them getting a hit.

Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers apparently pitched a perfect game last Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians. He had successfully faced 26 batters. The 27th batter, Jason Donald slapped a shot to the infield. Galarraga raced to cover first base, caught the throw to first, tagged the bag before Donald got to first. Should be game over and let the celebration begin.

However at that point umpire Jim Joyce remarkably called Donald safe. The call is irreversible, the perfect game no longer possible and Galarraga returned to the pitcher’s mound and got an out on the 28th batter so that the Tigers won 3-0.

If you don’t care about baseball hang with me for two more minutes because what transpired afterward is a tremendous picture of grace and Christian virtue. Let me hasten to admit that I don’t know if Galarraga and Joyce are Christians. Perhaps we’ll find out soon.

Here’s what happened. Joyce later saw a television replay of his call and how he was mistaken. With genuine remorse and regret Joyce went public with an admission of his error and even sought out Galarraga to make a personal apology for costing him a perfect game.

Galarraga not only forgave Joyce but humbly commented that mistakes happen. The next day the two teams were playing again and Joyce was set to umpire the game. When Joyce walked into the baseball stadium the Detroit fans cheered and applauded for Joyce. Joyce stood in the field with a stiff professional stance, but a close up revealed tears streaming down his face at the magnanimity of the Tiger’s fans. When Joyce and Galarraga passed by each other on the field each gave a pat on the back to the other.

In an unexpected place and circumstance the virtues of confession, accepting responsibility, forgiveness and reconciliation were all in play along with the lesser matter of a game.

In a day when we wish for these virtues in a BP exec or the oil industry or even the President we find it on a ball field in a beleaguered city.

God help us to become men and women of such grace.

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