EDITORIAL: Right call after the wrong call

Published 6:00 am Friday, June 4, 2010

Hey, mistakes happen. Most people are lucky because theirs don’t draw much attention. Baseball umpires don’t have that luxury, which may explain why they are uncommonly — and infuriatingly — unlikely to ever admit it when they do make a mistake. Major League Baseball umpire Jim Joyce is a refreshing exception, and his apology after Wednesday night’s horribly blown call was an example of how to err with class.

Joyce clearly made a mistake in calling a base runner safe, and thereby ruining Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. Other umpires, confronted with undisputable evidence that they have blown a call, have typically clammed up or, at best, begrudgingly and belatedly admitted an error might have been possible. Joyce, in contrast, owned up to the error and apologized to Galarraga in person after the game. “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce told reporters. Joyce has been a premier umpire for decades; he has twice been tapped to call the World Series, plus an assortment of other playoff series and all-star games. So he’s perhaps less likely to make a bad call than some other officials; but errors happen to everyone. And after Joyce’s apology, even Detroit’s manager and Galarraga had words of at least faint praise fan umpire who admitted he is not perfect.

Being wrong inevitably feels bad. Being wrong on a national stage must be excruciating. It takes a good person to own up to that error.