We've all had a moment at work like Jim Joyce did Wednesday night. We've all had that action or decision in front of us that we've done a million times before and really thought nothing of it—until we got it incredibly wrong.
For most of us that isn't the end of the world. We aren't Doctor OZ in the operating room or Captain Sully landing a stricken airliner. We can't take back the error but it didn't cost anyone their lives, their fortune or their good name.
It also didn't cost them baseball immortality, which is where all of us diverge from Jim Joyce and his epic Wednesday night blunder.
Joyce was the first base umpire Wednesday night at Comerica Park when the Detroit Tigers took on the Cleveland Indians. Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga was mowing though the Indians order and found himself covering first base on what should have been the last out of the 9th inning and the 27th out in a perfect game. The throw and Galarraga's foot both beat Indian Jason Donald to the bag, but something misfired in Joyce's brain and the safe call was made.
Replays showed again and again from every angle this side of the International Space Station that Joyce had blown the call badly and cost Galarraga a perfect game. Galarraga then went back to the pitcher’s mound and got the next out which says much for his professionalism. The fact that Joyce didn't have to eject the entire Tigers’ bench says much about just how stunned the team was. Just how could a major league umpire make such a horrendous call?
Most major league umpires would simply have headed to the dugout and taken their thoughts on the matter with them (unless they are Joe West whose publicist would have issued a statement that ended with a reminder that West would be available to comment on the Yankees and Red Sox). Jim Joyce apparently couldn't live with himself if he did.
This too is where Joyce diverges from many of us.
Joyce did the unthinkable after the game and approached Armando Galarraga to admit his error and to apologize to the pitcher. Man to man Joyce looked him in the eye and admitted his mistake and asked for forgiveness. Both men were said to embrace following the exchange.
"I cost the kid a perfect game” Joyce told reporters after the game.
Yeah, Joyce ruined a piece of baseball history, damaged himself as an umpire and just might have triggered the beginning of the end of his major league umpiring career.
But Jim Joyce did something almost unheard of in a world gone mad. In a world full of cheating superstars, blow hard politicians and lying talk show hosts, he stood up and owned up to his mistake. He showed character in the face of adversity and humanity in a moment when too many won't.
Blast Jim Joyce for a bad call. Rip him for being a bad umpire. But admire Jim Joyce for being a man about it.