Last week, Detroit Pitcher Armondo Galarraga threw a perfect game. Through nine complete innings, he struck out or was sloppily hit by twenty-seven consecutive batters to complete the twenty-first perfect game in the history of baseball. But he won’t get credit for it. On the last play, Galarraga ran over to cover first and clearly hit the base before the baserunner Jason Donald arrived, and the umpire blew the call. Galarraga knew it, the fans knew it, and even Jason Donald knew it. Jim Joyce, standing within a few feet of the base, called the runner safe. Replays clearly showed he missed the call. The Tiger’s manager stormed first base irate, but Joyce stood his ground. It wasn’t until the game was over and Joyce saw the replay that he realized he’d blown the call and cost the young pitcher a coveted place in the history books. What happened next, in my opinion, is what really made this game such a great story. Both Galarraga and especially Joyce responded, well, perfectly.
It is rare to find a person with the strength to admit they were wrong. Joyce is under no obligation to apologize for a missed call. The human element gives baseball it’s charm. But after he saw the replay, he went to Galarraga and apologized, with tears in his eyes. Galarraga gave Joyce a hug and offered forgiveness, and in a subsequent press conference expressed deep sympathy for the umpire, saying nobody in the world felt worse than him. The next day, as Joyce went onto the field to call the game, Galarraga came out and handed him the batting order as a sign of reconciliation and forgiveness. Perfect.
Because Joyce was not defensive, and because he did not make excuses but took responsibility for his actions, players, fans and even the harshest people in the world, sports radio personalities, sang his praises on the radio for the rest of the week. Joyce had made a mistake, for sure, but asking forgiveness, showing remorse, not making excuses, that’s the stuff of the supernatural, and when we see it, there is something in us that recognizes the exceptional.
If you’re a leader and you’re wrong, admit it. People will respect you. Admit it and show remorse. And if you follow a leader who struggles admitting they are wrong, DO NOT FOLLOW THEM. We all make mistakes, and people who admit their mistakes are in touch with their humanity, and those who don’t are simply delusional. And if they are not willing to pay for their mistakes, you better believe they are going to make those around them pay.
Congrats to Armondo Galarraga for his perfect game and to Jim Joyce for his perfect response to making a mistake. I was more inspired by what happened in that game than I’ve been in, perhaps, any contest I’ve seen. Remarkable stuff.