The Absolute Power of an Apology

Donald Miller

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.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller has been telling his story for more than a decade, now he wants to help you tell yours. He’s helped over 1,000 companies clarify their message through the StoryBrand Workshops. For an introduction to what he’s doing now, check out the 5 Minute Marketing Makeover.

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  • That is truly rare nowadays for someone to go beyond the extra mile to apologize and make amends! I loved this story. And I have to say it — Go Tigers! 🙂

  • It is imperative to learn to admit that we are not always right. When we do, it is a very freeing feeling because we no longer have to try to be perfect, we can just be the person that God desires us to be.

  • Mitchell Easter

    Wow. Stories like this one never get old. I believe that apologies are truly against human nature. An act such as Jim Joyce admitting his mistake is a great representation of one laying down their pride. I think the video did him justice by saying that this is a true man.

    I would continue to agree with Michael Heredia – The best pastors are the transparent pastors, willing to admit they are not perfect. The same goes for everyone else as well. There’s definitely much to learn here.

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  • Gabriel Camsell

    I would say that in my personal experience there is nothing more daunting beforehand and freeing afterwards than giving an apology. I once heard someone say that an apology is one of the most powerful acts of evangelism because it clearly shows that we are not christ, but that we do follow him.