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He Did Not Say a Word: Reflections on the Perfect Game that Wasn’t

by Ryan Tinetti

Armando Galarraga, pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, threw a perfect game last night. Sort of.

Umpire Jim Joyce botched the call that would have ended the game and cemented
Galarraga’s place in baseball lore, and all was lost. A routine grounder between first and
second base was fielded flawlessly by first baseman Miguel Cabrera, ranging to his right,
who fired a strike to Galarraga, covering the bag. The pitcher tapped the base, a full half-
step before Cleveland Indians’ hitter Jason Donaldson made it. Perfection...right?
Galarraga began to celebrate--when he looked over in disbelief at Joyce, who had
emphatically signaled “safe.” After a momentary hesitation, with a wry smile and a shrug,
Galarraga sauntered back to the mound. The game ended after the next batter grounded
out to third.

Admitting the gaff after viewing the replay later, Joyce commended the long-suffering
Tigers’ pitcher: “I just cost that kid a perfect game...I would've been the first person in my
face, and he never said a word to me." Instead, Galarraga grinned and bore it. Unjustly,
this man of Perfection had been undone, and he did not speak a word of protest--he
simply endured his fate. In so doing, Galarraga showed himself profoundly Christlike. His
action recalled the sinless Son of God, who was led like a lamb to the slaughter and
“opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53.7).

What shall we say of these things? That “too err is human,” as several (including Tigers’
coach, Jim Leyland) have already apologetically averred? That life just ain’t fair? You can go
that route, but it’s decidedly unsatisfying. It’s an explanation, but not a justification. No--
I’m calling BS. What we want is justice. We want Armando Galarraga to get his true
moment in the sun, his arms lifted high, tears streaming down his face as his kids come to
his side and the photos flash. We want the wrongs righted, because if nothing else in this
world is fair, at least the national pastime should be an oasis of righteousness.

In the grand scope of things, of course, it’s just baseball. Even if he did get his perfect
game, Armando Galarraga would be at best a blip in history--a rather narrow slice of
history at that. But it isn’t just this game, and it isn’t just a no-name, back of the rotation
pitcher getting robbed off his remarkable athletic feat. It’s the fact that we live in a world
run amok, where the good guys get the shaft and the bad get the goods. It’s the fact that
we know, deep in our gut, that the world is wrong and needs to be put right.

Which is the other reason why Armando Galarraga has me thinking of Jesus. The silent,
sinless Lamb of God got the last word. He was delivered up for the injustice and
unrighteousness of the world, His “perfect game” seemingly snuffed out. But that’s not
where the story ends. He was raised for our justification, our rectification--ours, and all
God’s world. He rose to put things right.

I do not know if Armando Galarraga is a Christian, but the poise and equanimity he
displayed in the face of profound injustice nevertheless evoked the Christ. And because of
that One, on the Last Day, when all wrongs are righted in a new creation wherein
righteousness dwells--because of Him, if Galarraga should indeed rise with the just, I have
a hunch that just maybe the God of justice will treat him to a true scorecard, which reads:
27 up, 27 down.

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