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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 6, 2010

Touchy situation handled perfectly


By Ferd Lewis

There is much that Major League Baseball can learn about the merits of instant replay from the imperfect finish to Armando Galarraga's gem of a bid for a perfect game the other night.

But there is even more to be gleaned from the way that the two principals, Galarraga and umpire Jim Joyce, handled the whole situation.

On a night when things went badly wrong and could have been made horribly worse, they showed us something about sportsmanship and compassion.

In a situation ripe for a loud, emotional confrontation, they gave us, instead, reason and understanding.

Joyce, a respected veteran, uncharacteristically badly blew a two-out, ninth-inning call at first base that would have given Galarraga a career-defining perfect game in Detroit's 3-0 victory over Cleveland. The kind of an opportunity he is unlikely to see again.

Galarraga was understandably disappointed and frustrated. But his comments were measured. Remarkably so when consider the whining to high heaven that can place over a missed call in circumstances of far less import.

Anybody care to imagine how high Earl Weaver might have tossed a base or how much dirt he could have kicked in that kind of situation? How far Bobby Knight could have flung a chair?

A hot-headed response might have incited the Comerica crowd to something worse than booing. But Galarraga was bigger and better than that. Fans and teammates took their lead from him.

As bad as he felt and, surely, it has to be painful to feel that a perfect game has been snatched from you, Galarraga understood that while he was the aggrieved party in all this, he wasn't the only one hurting.

The way Galarraga handled the situation had a lot to with the reception Tigers' fans gave Joyce the following night when he took the field to sympathetic applause.

Meanwhile, applaud Joyce for being quick to take responsibility and express heartfelt contrition. Too many of his brethren would have either stonewalled or sought to divert blame. Joyce didn't. He quickly reviewed the play after the game and came forth with an apology. He sought out Galarraga.

As Galarraga told reporters, "He understands. I give him a lot of credit for coming in and saying, 'Hey, I need to talk to you to say I'm sorry.' That doesn't happen. You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry.' He apologized to me and he felt really bad. He didn't even shower. He was in the same clothes. He gave me a couple hugs."

Hugs instead of hectoring. Now, there's a concept.

It is called sportsmanship.