Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Gospel According to Baseball

If you’ve had any exposure to the media over the last week, chances are you’ve heard quite a bit about the perfect game that wasn’t quite. Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was one out away from pitching the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history when first base umpire Jim Joyce missed the call on a close play at first base. Rather than having tossed a perfect game, Galarraga now owns the most famous one-hitter that the MLB has ever seen.

Even more surprising than the missed call has been the character shown in the reactions of Galarraga and Joyce – understanding from the pitcher, regret from the umpire. Sports errors and character are usually not mentioned in the same sentence.

A full-time umpire since 1989, Joyce admitted his mistake after the game.
He said to reporters, “I just cost the kid a perfect game. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career. And I messed it up.” He promptly apologized to Galarraga, robbed of his record forever.

Even more amazing was how Galarraga displayed grace as he immediately publicly forgave Joyce. Galarraga gave the umpire a hug and said, “Everyone makes mistakes.” Surely not missing the irony he shrugged, “nobody’s perfect.” The next day the pitcher and umpire met at home plate for the customary exchange of lineup cards. They shook hands. Galarraga was still smiling. Joyce wiped away tears.

Both Joyce and Galarraga handled a very bad call in a very good way. It is, after all, only a game. The game of life is far more important than the game of baseball. Human relationships are imperfect and that means they require the ability to ask for forgiveness and to give forgiveness. Joyce and Galarraga did just that, and reminded all of us what it means to be fully human. The apostle Paul wrote, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) To forgive is not only to be fully human, but to reflect the Divine!

Joyce and Galarraga will forever be linked by a bad call in the game of baseball. Their exchange of an apology and forgiveness means they will also be forever linked for both making the greatest call in the game of life, the call to reconcile!


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