Business Strategy | Ethics & Professional Issues

Ethics offers perfect ending to less-than-perfect game

I hate to keep turning to sports for examples of ethics in action, especially when there are so many notorious athletes out there.

But the good guys seem to be grabbing all the headlines lately.

Our latest examples come from Detroit.

On June 2, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was one out away from one of baseball's rarest feats -- a perfect game. Twenty-six batters faced, 26 outs. Just one more to go for immortality. The 27th batter, Jason Donald of the Cleveland Indians, hit a ground ball to Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who threw the ball back to Galarraga at first base for the final out.

Except it wasn't the final out. Umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe.

So long, immortality.

Here's the heartbreaking thing: Television replays showed that Joyce blew the call. Donald was out, and it wasn't really close. Joyce simply made the wrong call. Watch the video here.

And here's where ethics come into play.

Galarraga's initial reaction to the call could have been outrage. He'd just been robbed of glory. No one would have blamed him if he had gone off the deep end.

Instead, he smiled and walked back to the pitcher's mound. He diffused a potentially incendiary situation by simply going back to work. Later, he shrugged off the controversy with this simple summary: "Nobody's perfect."

"While we were screaming, he was smiling," wrote's Danny Knobler. "When we were demanding retribution, he was offering forgiveness."

Classy. Smart. And oh, so rare.

Rarer still was Joyce's reaction.

Those of you who follow baseball know it's next to impossible to get an umpire to admit he's wrong. But after the game, Joyce watched the replays and offered this assessment to Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci:

"I just cost that kid a perfect game. I thought (Donald) beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay."

He even apologized in person to Galarraga, who told a reporter that Joyce was crying as he apologized.

Look, we all screw up from time to time, and we've all been victimized by other people's screw-ups. What defines us is how we react to those mistakes. Are we stubborn and remorseless, or do we admit our mistakes and learn from them? Do we hold angry grudges, or do we forgive and move on?

Galarraga and Joyce chose the high road. Smart business folks do, too.


Bill Sheridan