You may have heard about the blown call by Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce recently that resulted in Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga losing what would have been the 21st perfect game in the history of baseball. Both men, many fans, teammates and managers of both teams did something significant that turned, what could have been an ugly incident, into a wonderful example of what happens when compassion and forgiveness take center stage.
The situation began when a Cleveland Indian player crossed first base just after Galarraga, running from the pitcher’s mound, caught a throw from the first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Up until this point Galarraga had retired 26 batters, no hits, no walks, no errors-an almost perfect game. Jim Joyce, the first base umpire, signaled safe-making it a base hit and ending Galaraga’s bid for a perfect game. Galarraga stood near first base and smiled and then went back to the mound and then got the final out for a 3-0 victory for the Detroit Tigers.
Replay showed that the base runner was clearly out and that Joyce had blown the call. Later that evening, after Joyce seeing the replay, apologized to Galarraga by phone. The following day the two men met at home plate for another game and shook hands. Joyce looked down, his eyes welling up with tears. “I cost that kid a perfect game,” he said. “I would’ve been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me.”
Galarraga maintained a smile through it all. “I give him a lot of credit for coming in and saying I need to…say I’m sorry,” Galarraga said. “I know nobody’s perfect.”
This is a great example of the difference between what I calling winning and success. Winning would have been Galarraga throwing a perfect game. Instead, he achieved success-behaving with such dignity and honor that he will be forever remembered for doing so. Joyce will also be remembered, not just for blowing the call, but for taking ownership of his mistake, apologizing and for conducting himself in a manner that sets an example for others.
A person can win and not have success. There are plenty examples throughout recent history where people’s accomplishments come at the expense of others. We certainly don’t have any respect for them. We are deeply drawn to the qualities of success because it reflects our true nature. We love the feeling we get when we act with compassion and forgiveness and we are touched when we see others display those qualities.
So Galarraga and Jim Joyce achieved success. Neither one really “won” but they achieved much more than a throwing a perfect game or making every call without an error. They showed in real time, under immense pressure, their strength, their heart and their humanness. I’m proud of both men and they will forever be remembered for their character, not just their achievements on the field.