I am not a huge baseball fan. In fact, I’d rather watch grass grow than watch baseball on TV. But watching a game in-person, live, in a stadium – now, that’s another story. But I digress… Last night, my husband relayed to me a game he had seen earlier that day – how Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, one out away from a perfect game, lost his chance at making history Wednesday on an admitted blown call by first-base umpire Jim Joyce. Apparently, Galarraga was as perfect as any pitcher could be – getting the first 27 batters out. However, he had to face 28 batters after a blown call by Joyce that robbed him of his place in baseball history.
Here’s how the game went: Cleveland Indians’ Jason Donald hits a two-out, ninth-inning ground ball to Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera who cleanly fielded the ball and tossed it to Galarraga, who was covering first. The ball arrives. Galarraga touches first before Donald. Game over and the third perfect game of the season is in the record books. Except umpire Jim Joyce inexplicably calls Donald safe.
Television replays showed that Donald was out by half a step. As soon as Joyce made the call, the camera cut to Galarraga. And he smiled! That’s all. No argument. No theater. No wild waving of arms. No, he just smiled, a smile that seemed to say: “Are you sure?” In that moment when he had a perfect game so unfairly taken away from him, he smiled. In the interview after the game, he simply said that he wasn’t sure about the call but he was proud of his game. When told afterward that Joyce felt terrible about the missed call, Galarraga said that he wanted to go tell Joyce not to worry about it, that people make mistakes.
Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. That’s the way most people saw it. And I agree. But, more importantly, Armando Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace. And when my young daughters ask, “Why didn’t he get mad and scream about how he was robbed?” I think I will tell them this: I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Armando Galarraga understands something that is very hard to understand, something we all struggle with, something I hope you will learn as you grow older: In the end, nobody’s perfect. We just do the best we can.