Friday, June 4, 2010

i just felt sick for him

i'm an amateur umpire. i ump baseball games all summer long (almost always its teenager's games) so i know a little bit about this sort of scenario.

a perfect game is very rare. it happens when a pitcher goes a full 9 innings and nobody gets on base in any way. no walks, no hits, no errors. 27 batters and 27 outs. there have only been 20 perfect games in Major League Baseball in over 100 years of baseball. that's millions of professional baseball games.

Armando Galaraga was on his 27th batter when he got a ground ball to the 1st baseman who flipped the ball to Galaraga to make the out at first base. the guy was obviously out and yet Jim Joyce the umpire at 1st base called him safe. no more perfect game even though it WAS a perfect game.

i had an experience like that. i was the base ump at a Western Canadian Bantam (age 15-16) Championships when i absolutely and completely KICKED a call. it was a routine play at 1st base but for some stupid reason i never saw that the 1st baseman didn't catch the ball. the runner hit 1st and was standing on 2nd base when i turned to him and told him that he was out. what i saw was simply that the 1st baseman made the play and the guy was out ... but what really happened was that the first baseman never caught the ball. the guy just stared at me in disbelief as i stole his single away from him.

just watch a place explode around your ears when something like that happens. spectators walked clear down the length of the ballpark to tell me how i got that one wrong in the height of "i told you so" behaviour (because everybody LOVES an i-told-you-so-er). it was a great example of the lack of grace and forgiveness in this world. i didn't have the benefit of instant replay, unless you count the instant replay of multiple voices in my ear telling me how much of an idiot i was.

Jim Joyce got torn several strips off him by players, managers and fans and he stood there and took it all. once the game ended he went inside, took a look at replays and realized that what he was sure that he saw was not at all what happened. he immediately went to the Tigers clubhouse to apologize in person to Galaraga and all the Tigers for his mistake.

the next day Jim Joyce went back to work in the same ballpark with the same two teams playing in front of him. this time though he was the home plate umpire. when he came out ... he was cheered ... he was forgiven ... because he had made amends. Armando Galaraga came out to represent the Tigers at the pre-game meeting with the umpires and Jim Joyce wiped away tears for his mistake and for the forgiveness that guys like Galaraga could show to him. the biggest moment of Galaraga's career turned into the biggest moment of Jim Joyce's career and somehow both were redeemed by the moment together the next day.

i still regret my own error on my day ... but my umpire supervisor still believed in me and in fact he sent me out to do the Peewee (aged 13-14) Final as my very next game. to get assigned to any Final is a plum for these tournaments and to get a plate in a Final is a special honour. i guess in a way, i was redeemed too. i had a great game in the Final and moments like a blown call would be enough to cause someone to quit such things, but i didn't.

redemption is a beautiful thing. right Mr. Joyce?

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