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Perfection in the imperfect

June 09, 2010
I love sports and, in particular, baseball. I love when the St. Louis Cardinals win, the Chicago Cubs lose and the brief escape from reality I get when burying my head into stats or listening to a game on a breezy Saturday afternoon. But, most of all, I love the life lessons it teaches.

Sometimes those lessons can be joyous: hard work pays off with victory. Other times they can be harsh: a momentary lapse in concentration can be the difference between success and failure. Still, there are times when the lessons can be down-right cruel.

As of Friday afternoon, 392,036 games had been played in Major League Baseball history, giving 784,072 starting pitchers an opportunity to pitch a perfect game, where not a single opposing batter reaches base — not by hit, walk, hit-by-pitch or error. Simply put: 27 up and 27 down.

The statistical likelihood of being struck by lightning or parenting a set of triplets is greater than a Major League Baseball pitcher keeping his scorecard spotless for nine innings. Only 20 big-league pitchers — 0.00003 percent, or 1 in every 39,203 — have tossed a perfect nine.

Roy Halladay added his name to the list a week ago Saturday, when his Philadelphia Phillies bested the Florida Marlins, 1-0. Unbelievably, Detroit's Armando Galarraga almost joined Halladay just four days later. I say almost because Galarraga's bid for perfection ended when the first base umpire incorrectly called a runner safe on a not-so-bang-bang play that would have been the game's last out.

For Galarraga, it was a bitter lesson about how life isn't always fair. For the rest of us, what followed was a lesson more valuable than any perfect game.

Most people would have understood if Galarraga had emotionally erupted on the umpire, Jim Joyce. After all, replays showed that the runner still was at least a foot and a half away when the ball reached first base. That may seem close, especially in real time, but for a 22-year veteran like Joyce, that's about as routine as it gets.

Likewise, most people would have understood if Joyce, after the game, had stayed away from the media, choosing instead to never admit his mistake.

However, neither man made those choices. Instead, they chose to teach us a lesson about priorities and forgiveness.

Following the game, Joyce looked at the replay and immediately understood what he had done.

"I just cost the kid a perfect game," Joyce, with tears in his eyes, told reporters. "I thought (the runner) beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career."

Joyce went to Galarraga that night and apologized, Galarraga accepted and the two appeared together at home plate before the game the following day, as Galarraga handed Joyce the Tigers' lineup card.

Galarraga, a nice, but ordinary pitcher, likely never will be that close to a perfect game again, at least not according to the odds. However, the understanding and forgiveness offered by Galarraga, along with the heartfelt sorrow and humbleness displayed by Joyce, proved more meaningful than any perfect game.

It was a life lesson that no one, from the players to the umpires to the fans, expected that evening.

In short, it was perfect.

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    Great article
    June 11, 2010 | 12:35 PM

    This is one of the best opinion pieces that I have ever read in the Clarion. Thank you Mr. Adams for sharing this insight with us.

  2. print email
    Why is Marengo disappearing?
    June 16, 2010 | 11:17 AM

    I am surprised at how Marengo has become such a ghost town. In years past it was a bustling little town and streets filled with people. Seems there is no upkeep happening, no advancement or growth. What exactly is the town coucil doing to help? Are they not aware of state grants that could be utilized to improve the infastructure? Reach out to new businesses to fill those empty buildings and bring in revenue. I would suggest citizens to really research your candidates for town council next election. Knowledge of government is key for the recovery of Marengo.

    C Martin
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    Ghost Town?
    June 16, 2010 | 08:39 PM

    I lived in Marengo for years. Our biggest export where our children. Simply because Crawford had nothing to offer our children after college.
    The older people that held the county together have all passed away. They were the people born in Crawford. Now the new comers were not really excepted by the old folks. So they popped in and out of the county and really had no interest in Crawford Co. That's why Crawford Co. will slip away to time.

    S. Bowman
Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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