June 3rd, 2010 by Demophilus
[caption id="attachment_2217" align="aligncenter" width="114" caption="There\'s No Crying in Baseball!"][/caption]Normally these pages are given over to debate about various facets of the lives and travails of our service members and veterans, but if Americans recognize The American Legion for anything other than their dedication to our nation’s veterans…it’s baseball. And baseball got a little bit more interesting last night. It doesn’t get much more dramatic in the game of baseball. How does the story go? Two outs. Bottom of the ninth…perfect game on the line. Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was facing the Cleveland Indians’ Jason Donald. The 27th batter. The concept of a perfect game in baseball is elegantly simple. A pitcher faces and retires 27 batters and the game is over. No more, no less. Donald cracked a ground ball fielded by Tigers’ First Baseman Miguel Cabrera who made the easy toss to Galarraga covering the bag at First. What should have gone down as the 21st Perfect Game in the history of professional baseball gets a little muddied here. Veteran umpire Jim Joyce, universally respected by players and umpires alike, blew the call. Safe at first. Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland and others argued the call, but it’s baseball. A call’s a call. Galarraga returned to the mound and retired the next batter, Trevor Crowe, and the game went down in the books as a one hit shutout. Only then did people start sorting through the aftermath. Let me be clear, a one hit shutout is still a pretty impressive accomplishment. A Perfect Game though, a Perfect Game is the stuff baseball dreams are made of. Going back to the statistics, there have been 20 Perfect Games pitched in Major League history, 18 of which have come in the “modern era”, baseball post 1900. In the last 110 years only 18 games have been considered “perfect”. No runs, no hits, no errors. No batter reaches base. Jim Joyce, the umpire, to his credit, owns up to his mistake. "I just cost that kid a perfect game,'' Joyce said. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.'' Joyce further went on to praise Galarraga for his restraint, saying he would have been the first guy in his face if it had been done to him and that Galarraga “…never said a word to me.” There’s a lesson there about owning up to your mistakes and taking responsibility for your actions. I think that’s a pretty class act for the umpire. There was a lot of class all around from everyone involved in this. Even manager Jim Leyland’s post game remarks expressed sympathy for Joyce with what he must be going through. Baseball is a game with some tough breaks. The measure of good people is how they behave under tough circumstances. Now, many fans and sports commentators are clamoring for the call to be reversed and to have the Perfect Game awarded to Galarraga. It would have been the last out of the game, they retired the next batter, it wouldn’t have any impact on the outcome. There aren’t any negatives here, are there? Ask any lay person on the street, somebody with no military background, who The American Legion is and you’ll probably get two responses: they guys in the hats in the parades, and the baseball folks. We champion baseball. Baseball has been called “America’s Game” and for good reason. Baseball reinforces so many good values and life lessons. The importance of hard work, learning to function as a team, possibly most important, the ability to face adversity and deal with hardships and misfortune. How many other sports keep statistics on errors? It would be so easy to reach back in time and right a wrong here, but if we did that, we’d be ignoring one of the fundamental life lessons that baseball can teach. Mistakes happen. Sometimes they can cost you a lot, but you pick yourself up and move on. The history of baseball is littered with blown calls and moments you’d kill to take back. Just ask Cubs fans how they feel about Steve Bartman. The point is you can’t go back and change things; you can only change the future. We WANT to believe that we can right every wrong, fix every hurt, but we can’t. We’re better people when we can accept this. One of the greatest things you can learn in youth sports is that life doesn’t always break your way, but it’s okay. You just keep going. Kids learn the lessons that grownups set. It may seem harmless now, but it becomes a slippery slope. Sure, now it’s only one call in one game on the last play of the game. What is it down the road? Do we start going back to look at old games decided on the last play? That’s the problem with a slippery slope…the first one’s easy, and the harder ones get easier with each time you do it. The best way to avoid it is to avoid going down that road to begin with. Teach the lesson that sometimes life sucks but you deal with it. As Scarlet O’Hara famously noted: “Tomorrow is another day” I could go into a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo about Ex Post Facto and so forth, but that’s MOTHAX’s turf, and I’d hate to infringe upon it. Some will say this is as good a reason as any to initiate “instant replay” in baseball. Maybe they have a point. To be sure, instant replay doesn’t fix everything. I must have seen the play a bazillion times but that doesn’t mean I have any better comprehension of the “Tuck Rule” and whether or not it was properly applied (MOTHAX assures me that it was properly applied to protect St. Thomas Brady from failure). Maybe replay would help out. I certainly can see arguments for it. Still, there’s something about baseball, something that’s still there. It’s the human element. The idea that at the end of the day it comes down to human beings and we’re left to deal with the consequences of that. There’s something I like in that concept. Jim Leyland even praised umpires for the vast majority of the time that they do get the calls right under lightning quick conditions, that the vast majority of their calls stand up to replay review. Replay or not, that’s a down the road decision. This game’s in the books, let it stay that way.
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