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Sportsmanship Reborn for MLB

Sportsmanship was reborn on June 2 and it wasn’t without a lot of labor pains.

In one of the most debated and discussed baseball games in years, Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly called a Cleveland Indians’ ground ball to first base with two outs in the ninth inning, safe. A video replay showed otherwise. That one call cost Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga a coveted perfect game.

Fans booed in the stadium and online. That led to not a riot (although if I read correctly, one wasn’t far off), but a most classy and likely unexpected move by Galarraga who met with the highly respected Joyce soon after the game. He said they hugged and Joyce expressed his regret for the call.

As bad as he felt for himself and Tigers’  fans, Galarraga took the high road and recognized that umpires – this umpire – is human and people of all shapes, sizes and professions make mistakes.

It was a day later that the very best of professional sports displayed itself to fans when Detroit manager Jim Leyland asked Galarraga to deliver the Tigers’ lineup to Joyce, who was to man home plate. An emotional Joyce met Galarraga at home plate to receive the lineup with obvious tears in his eyes as the two shook hands.

Later in the afternoon, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig reviewed, and decided not to reverse the call. Many said that Selig’s decision was right; others didn’t think so.

I was one who on Wednesday night, thought the league should reverse the call for Galarraga, the Tigers and Joyce, who was more remorseful than I’ve ever seen any official in a sport, knowing this call would follow him and baseball through history. After the decision was announced by the Commissioner’s office, I changed my mind. To reverse the call would have set a negative precedent for a sport that for the most part, is judged by human beings. This was human error, plain and simple. No one fell ill and everybody walked away from the ballpark. (It’s unfortunate that the league has to provide Joyce and his family with additional protection because of fans’ misguided threats.)

Maybe this episode in professional sports was a blessing in disguise. Of course no one wishes a game so monumental to end like it did. What happened afterward, however, put as positive a light on sports as I’ve seen. Joyce’s effort to speak and apologize to Galarraga, Leland’s comments after the game and move to have Galarraga present the lineup to Joyce the following day all led to unprecedented displays of sportsmanship. While there are some people that are still bitter about the flubbed call, there are others talking glowingly about Major League Baseball and sports. That, especially from a PR standpoint, is a good thing.

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4 Responses to Sportsmanship Reborn for MLB

  1. Tom Farmar June 4, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    Very good recap of this unfortunate incident. Amazing what sportsmanship and class
    can accomplish. I thought this ump was done, career ruined, and here he is less than
    24 hours later behind the plate and accepting the lineup card from Galarraga.
    Congratulations to all parties involved, esp Galarraga and Joyce. Valuable lessons
    to be learned for all of us.

  2. Gail Sideman June 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, Tom. This situation could have ended up so ugly and now instead of the blown call and potentially poor behavior that could have resulted from it, I think people will remember the graciousness extended from both sides.

  3. Dan Sullivan June 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    I wrote about this on my blog and it's a really difficult situation. On one hand, you rationalize that it was the last out, it was an out fair and square, just the wrong call was made. By reversing the call, no one would be hurt, the pitcher would get his perfect game, and the game wouldn't have turned out any differently (except for one less hit). On the other hand, however, changing this one call means you would have to change too many others. It would make for a sticky situation. This does make a compelling case for why we need more instant replay in baseball. Good read.

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