Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday Musings on Sports - The Umpire is a Hit, or Why the Unperfect Game was Perfect

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. Although Max resigned from 1050 more than a year ago, I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

During the past week it has been nearly impossible to avoid hearing, reading or watching footage of the one hitter pitched by Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers. For those of you who were just released from solitary confinement, on June 3rd, Galarraga had retired 26 batters in a row and was facing Cleveland Indians hitter Jason Donald with a chance at immortality - pitching what would have been the 21st perfect game in baseball history.

OK, even those in solitary confinement must know that Galarraga won a foot race to first base and stepped on the bag before Donald reached it. However, the bang bang, split second play was missed by first base umpire Jim Joyce, who called Donald safe, thus ending the perfect game.

After the game finished, the media circus began. Players were interviewed, league officials were interviewed and a groundswell of support began for Bud Selig (MLB President) to review the video footage and declare that Donald was out. (He chose not to reverse the call, thus leaving the game as a one hitter).

But despite all the media coverage (for a fantastic article by Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press, please click here there were no blown gaskets. When Galarraga was interviewed after the game, he took the high road and spoke about how he would one day show his son the DVD that he had pitched a perfect game. To his credit, Joyce freely admitted that he blew the call and that he had accidentally stolen the perfect game and Galarraga's place in history.

And what about the manager? Aren't managers supposed to be fiery advocates for their players? In this case, Detroit manager Jim Leyland spoke openly after the game about how great an umpire Jim Joyce is. The following day, Leyland had Galarraga carry the lineup card out to Joyce (who was assigned to be the home plate umpire for the game) just to show that there were no hard feelings.

The fact that the Galarraga unperfect game occurred during the week of Parshas Shlach is quite ironic. The parsha ends with a description of the mikoshesh eitzim - the person who gathered wood on shabbos and was given skila (stoning) as a punishment. Rabbi Akiva teaches in gemara Sanhedrin that the mikoshesh etzim was Tzlofchad. Thus while Tzlofchad was put to death for his crime, his daughters helped Moshe teach an important principle in Parshas Pinchas as to how land should pass to the heirs of an estate when there are no sons. Additionally, the gemara in Shabbos teaches that Tzlofchad acted lishem shamayim - for Heavenly purpose so that everyone would know that this is the punishment for violating shabbos.

While Tzelofchad's death was a tragedy, many valuable lessons were learned as a result of his actions. Similarly, while at the time it seemed unfair that Galarraga was deprived of his perfect game, the lessons which have been taught by all those who were associated with the tragic events are so much more valuable. Indeed, his unperfect game may ultimately be better remembered than the two true perfect games which were pitched this season.

If you have seen this post being carried on another site such as JBlog, please feel free to click to find other articles on the kosherbeers blogsite. Hey its free and you can push my counter numbers up!

No comments: