Thursday, June 3, 2010

What It Really Means to Man Up - Thoughts on Joyce's Blown Call That Cost Galarraga's Perfect Game

Galarraga smiles following the blown call that cost him a perfect game.

I'm sure most people have heard about the blown call last night by umpire Jim Joyce that cost pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game (only the 21st in the history of the sport, but the third this season). It was on ESPN most of the day, it was on the morning talk shows, it was even on NPR.

What could have been another example of men behaving badly isn't.

We have had far too much of that in the last year with Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Taylor, all of whom are involved in sexual misconduct scandals - then there are the doping issues with Floyd Landis admitting his own use of PEDs and ratting out his former teammates (including Lance Armstrong). Recently, the world's #1 cyclist (Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde) being banned for two years, and then there are all the steroid users in baseball and football - the list of athletes behaving badly goes on and on.

So it is truly wonderful - and unexpected (how sad is that?) - that the two men most directly involved in one of sports greatest mistakes are behaving like men and not like little boys. Here is some of the aftermath from ESPN:
Joyce emphatically said he was wrong and later, in tears, hugged Galarraga and apologized.

"It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [stuff] out of it," Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires' locker room. "I just cost that kid a perfect game."

"I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay," he said after the Tigers' 3-0 win.

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Joyce asked to speak with Galarraga. Denied the first perfect game in Tigers history, Galarraga appreciated the gesture.

"You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, `Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry,' " Galarraga said. "He felt really bad. He didn't even shower.

It's rare for an umpire to acknowledge a mistake and, in one of the few sports that relies heavily on the human eye, it's certain to prompt a push for Major League Baseball to use increased replays.
Here is another take from Bleacher Report:

Most major league umpires would simply have headed to the dugout and taken their thoughts on the matter with them . . . . Jim Joyce apparently couldn't live with himself if he did.

This too is where Joyce diverges from many of us.

Joyce did the unthinkable after the game and approached Armando Galarraga to admit his error and to apologize to the pitcher. Man to man Joyce looked him in the eye and admitted his mistake and asked for forgiveness. Both men were said to embrace following the exchange.

"I cost the kid a perfect game” Joyce told reporters after the game.

Yeah, Joyce ruined a piece of baseball history, damaged himself as an umpire and just might have triggered the beginning of the end of his major league umpiring career.

But Jim Joyce did something almost unheard of in a world gone mad. In a world full of cheating superstars, blow hard politicians and lying talk show hosts, he stood up and owned up to his mistake. He showed character in the face of adversity and humanity in a moment when too many won't.

Blast Jim Joyce for a bad call. Rip him for being a bad umpire. But admire Jim Joyce for being a man about it.

Joyce stepped up in a way I have never seen an umpire do in the past. But the other person involved also stepped up in a way I probably would not have done - I would have been irate, yelling, screaming, cursing. But not Armando Galarraga. After the blown call he smiled, did not say anything, did not argue, simply walked back to the mound and got the next out - credited with a one-hitter rather than the 21st perfect game ever.

After the game was over, Joyce went into the locker room and watched the replay - then he called the Detroit locker room and asked to see Galarraga:

Later, Joyce summoned him to the umpire's room to say he was sorry.

"He really feels bad -- probably more bad than me," Galarraga said. "But nobody's perfect. I give a lot of credit to that guy because he needed to talk to me and say, 'I'm sorry.'

"His body language said more than a lot of words. His eyes were watering. I gave him a couple hugs. There is going to be a couple more -- I hope so."

Galarraga smiled and winked.

"Nobody's perfect," he added.

And nobody knew that more than Galarraga.

Yet, he handled it perfectly.
Indeed - he has shown more grace than anyone might expect from a professional athlete - these guys have not recently been known for their grace, their poise, their integrity. Galarraga handled this situation perfectly - and so has Joyce (aside from the blown call), he has shown integrity, honesty, and strength beyond what we might expect.

Elsewhere (from USA Today's collection of comments on the play):

"There's no doubt he feels bad and terrible. I have a lot of respect for the man. It takes a lot to say you're sorry and to say in interviews he made a mistake." ~ Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga.

"When I walked out of the tunnel and got applause from the Tigers fans, I had to wipe the eyes." ~ Umpire Jim Joyce, a day after the missed call.

"That was certainly the best three hours and 20 minutes that I've spent in the last 24 hours. After the second inning, I could finally spit, and by the fifth or sixth inning, I felt normal again." ~ Joyce.

Here is the audio of Joyce admitting his mistake - it feels authentic and that he is suffering for his mistake:

Here’s what Jim Joyce had to say:

“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room. “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

After reviewing the play, today Major League Baseball decided they will not reverse a blown call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game Wednesday night, commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Thursday.

And here is the story from today's game - where both men continue to act with honor and integrity:

A tearful Jim Joyce takes lineup card from Armando Galarraga

June 3, 2010


Jim Joyce, whose blown call at first base with two outs in the ninth inning ruined Detroit pitcher's Armando Galarraga's perfect game Wednesday, worked Thursday's Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians game as the home-plate umpire.

Galarraga brought out the lineup card and shook hands with Joyce, who was wiping away tears, at the pregame home-plate meeting.

At a news conference before the game, Joyce said that he was touched by the outpouring of support he received after he apologized for missing the call.

"I cannot believe the outpouring of support I've gotten, not only from my fellow umpires but all my friends, my family and, frankly, you guys," Joyce said. "I can't thank you enough. I can't thank the people enough. I'm a big boy. I can handle this. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever had to go through in my professional career, without a doubt."

Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said Thursday that Major League Baseball gave Joyce the option to skip Thursday's game, but that Joyce refused.

Tigers catcher Gerald Laird, who got into a heated confrontation with Joyce after Wednesday's game, apologized for his actions too.

"We probably were a little bit out of line, I'd say," Laird said. "At the time, I'm sure he thought he made the right call. It's just more out of frustration and wanting it so bad for your teammate. That's all it is when some of us get on him.

"I've got all the respect in the world for Jim Joyce. He's a great umpire. He's always been. I've always had a good relationship with him. I think it's just more the heat of the moment. That's why we were getting on him. You just want it so bad, something of that caliber for your teammate."

Perhaps White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs summed up the situation best (and yes, it HAS become something the White House is talking about):
"I have a 6-year-old right now who's playing baseball. ... To watch an umpire take responsibility and to watch a pitcher do what he did, the type of sportsmanship that was exhibited there, I think that gives a lot of heart whether you're a 6-year-old just learning how to play baseball, whether you're somebody like you or I who have - who watched baseball for the sheer enjoyment of the game." ~ White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Both of these men are models for sportsmanship - for what it really means to man-up. I wish more athletes would model this level of true manliness.

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