Human Error

In the last month, there have been two perfect games in major league baseball. That is really extraordinary; in the entire history of major league baseball, there have only been around 20 perfect games. Tonight, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers should have gotten the third perfect game this year. Inexplicably, the first base umpire blew the call, with two outs in the ninth inning:

What is noteworthy, I think, is not that the ump made a mistake. Human error is something that we all live with, every day. But this umpire, Jim Joyce, watched the replay, and realized that he had blown the call:

“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.”
“It was the biggest call of my career,” said Joyce, who became a full-time major league umpire in 1989. …
Joyce faced a group of hostile Tigers — led by [Tigers manager Jim] Leyland — between the pitching mound and home plate after the final out and was booed lustily by the crowd of 17,738 as he walked off the field.
“I don’t blame them a bit for anything that was said,” Joyce said. “I would’ve said it myself if I had been Galarraga. I would’ve been the first person in my face, and he never said a word to me.”

Maybe this is one more occasion where the sports world can set an example for the political world. Baseball umpires, like football referees and other sports officials, are required to make split-second calls, time after time. Remarkably, they get them right the vast majority of the time. But every once in a while, they make a mistake, sometimes when it makes a big difference. Human error is inevitable, in sports as in politics and business. But maybe we can all take a lesson from Jim Joyce, who watched the replay and admitted that he missed the biggest call of his life, and from Armando Galarraga, who got the short end of the stick on that call but walked off the mound with the victory, and at that moment, at least, didn’t say a word.

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