Something interesting and unusual happened this week and I don’t want to miss the opportunity for all of us to learn from it. While I’m not a big baseball fan anymore, like many of you I saw the video highlight of Armando Galarraga’s almost-perfect game on Wednesday night.  On the last out of the game, umpire Jim Joyce mistakenly called the batter safe at first when he was clearly out, costing the Tigers pitcher a place in history.

But maybe both men deserve a place in a different kind of history for demonstrating three Dirty Words (as I call uncommonly good words that we’re embarrassed to use in the marketplace) in one 36-hour period…

Most people in Galarraga’s position would have been outraged at this mistake and gone on a rampage, during, after and LONG after the game was over.  Most umpires would stone-wall or make excuses about the mistake.  And most relationships would be irreparably damaged as a result.  Joyce and Galarraga aren’t most people.  Here are the three Dirty Words in action:

  • Ownership – Jim Joyce, upon seeing the replay, immediately went to Galarraga (and the Tigers team) in private to own his mistake and apologize.  He went further yet.  He went in public and said, “I blew it. I cost that kid a perfect game.”  No shirking.  No excuses. No “that’s the way it is.” Just pure ownership.
  • Forgiveness – Not to be outdone, Galarraga responded by forgiving Joyce.  He went as far as to shake his hand the next day, not just some sort of cold forgiveness that mouths the words but holds back the real deal.
  • Grace – Even in the moment, Galarraga didn’t blow a gasket.  He was surprised, even visibly disappointed.  But he went right back to the mound and got the last out of the night.  Later he said, “I understand, nobody’s perfect.” He gave Joyce dignity and respect even though the unwritten rules of the baseball diamond would not have demanded it.  Finally, we have a positive role model to talk about from sports…

Here are the application questions for us: In which relationships do we need to take Jim Joyce’s example and own a mistake? And where can we follow Armando Galarraga’s example by practicing forgiveness and giving grace? Not only will we probably feel better, but the “game” wherever we play – our firm, school, non-profit, office – will be more productive as a result.