10 June 2010 0 Comments

Galarraga Takes the Lead


Even if you don’t follow baseball, you probably heard the story. Last week, after three hours on the mound and seconds away from becoming the 21st player in baseball history to pitch a perfect game, Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga lost that title because of an error – the umpire’s!

A “No-Hitter” is every pitcher’s dream. But a Perfect Game – when no player even gets on base – that’s for fairytales.  So when the 27th batter hit a simple ground ball to the First Baseman who easily tossed the ball to Galarraga covering first base, you can imagine Galarrega’s elation.  Foot on the bag – ball in his glove – YES!  He did it!

But wait, the runner is safe?

Even umpire Jim Joyce later conceded that he made the wrong call.  He was devastated.  How could such a skilled expert make such a bad call on such an important play? 

Galarraga’s reaction? Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated captured it best:

As soon as Joyce made the call, the camera cut to Galarraga.  And he smiled.  That’s all.

No argument.  No theater.  No wild waving of arms.

No, he just smiled, a smile that seemed to say: “Are you sure? I really hope you are sure.”

There are two important lessons here:

1. Team players can be leaders.

Sure, the pitcher is a leader. But at that point, Galarraga was just another player. Yet, his reaction set the tone for his teammates, the coaching staff and the fans.  Think about it: Galarraga had the most at stake. The team still won the game, but his name would not be among the elite 21 players in over a century of baseball.  Despite all he lost in that instant – the fame, the glory, the satisfaction, the endorsements! – Galarraga’s reaction showed he is a true winner.

2. Grace has healing power.

Jim Joyce understood the gravity of his mistake, and it was eating him up. The next day, he was to be the lead umpire for the same teams. As the game started, it was Galarraga who handed the starting lineup to Joyce – an intentional public gesture of the same grace he showed privately.  And the fans joined in, many applauding.

Jim Joyce arrived at work an emotional wreck, but left significantly healed.

What About You?

  • When did you lead without being the designated leader?
  • Have you ever experienced the healing power of grace from a co-worker?

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