Grace, Forgiveness and Baseball

Christine Whelan | Posted on 06/07/10

My first Yankees game was May 17, 1998 - the day David Wells threw a perfect game. I sat next to my boyfriend at the time, who tried to alert me to history in the making, without saying the words that might jinx the exciting outcome.

So when, still bleary-eyed early Thursday morning, I learned that an umpire's human error had cost Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers the rare honor of pitching a perfect game, I was furious. The replay had been clear, the umpire had apologized and everyone knew that the batter was out at first base. And yet Galarraga won't join the 18 others on that prized list. The Major League Baseball commissioner won't reverse the call, either, apparently. 

I wasn't the only one whose feathers of fairness were ruffled. The sports blogs went nuts.  

But then, both Galarraga and the first-base umpire, Jim Joyce, acted like true sportsmen: Galarraga was gracious, and Joyce apologized (repeatedly).

USA Today called Galarraga a "class act." 

CBS News noted that the umpire was a class-act, too, for admitting his mistake. 

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praised Galarraga for his sportsmanship. 

Sportsmanship isn't an official virtue, but it encompasses elements of courage, honesty and, in this case, forgiveness.

Indeed, as NPR's Scott Simon said Sunday, Galarraga showed human grace, and should be an inspiration to athletes of all stripes.

Armando Galarraga's great performance won't go into the record books as a perfect game. But the real human grace that both he and Jim Joyce displayed this week - a pitcher and umpire, as natural adversaries as cats and dogs - became a portrait of inspiration that's bigger than the fine print in any record books.

So, in a sense, it was the most perfect of perfect games.

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