Many of you, whether or not you are baseball fans, may have heard the recent story about Armando Galarraga, the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers baseball team who came as close as one could come to achieving the ultimate accomplishment for a pitcher—pitching a perfect game.
It's a rare accomplishment in baseball for a pitcher to throw a no-hitter, where none of the batters that he faces gets a base hit. But to throw a perfect game where none of the batters even reaches first base (no walks and no errors) is even rarer still. A total of 27 batters come up and all 27 are forced to make an out. In over 130 years of major league baseball, a perfect game has been achieved only 21 times!
In June, Armando Galarraga was pitching with two outs in the ninth inning. He had retired all of the previous 26 hitters and was just one out away from legendary status in baseball. The 27th batter hit a ground ball to the first baseman, who scooped it up and tossed the ball to Armando, who had run over to cover first base.
With one foot on the base, he felt the ball hit his glove just a moment before he sensed the runner's foot hit the base. The third out had been achieved and the perfect game was complete—except for the fact that the umpire, Jim Joyce, called the runner safe!
Video replays clearly showed that the batter should have been called out, but in baseball, the umpire's call stands. It's tradition that umpires don't change their calls, and it is also part of baseball tradition for the players to argue close calls with great drama.
So, how did Armando react when he heard the umpire call "safe"? After all, he had just been robbed of his perfect game! He didn't say a word. He simply smiled a disappointed smile, went back to the pitching mound and proceeded to get the next batter out. After the game, Joyce apologized to Armando, and Armando told reporters, "I felt so bad. I didn't feel bad for me. I felt bad for him."
By baseball standards, Armando had been dealt a terrible and dramatic injustice, but his response showed self-control, tolerance and a good-natured response to an incompetent call—in other words, forbearance! It was an unusual display of forgiveness, class and genuine sportsmanship.
He does have the distinction of getting 28 batters out in a game, and his classy reaction brought him a lot of positive attention and perhaps more fame than if he had pitched a perfect game. General Motors even gave him a new car!
The Price of Not Forbearing
In contrast to this was a response to an almost identical play in a dramatic game in the 1985 World Series, where the St. Louis Cardinals also suffered an injustice at the hands of an umpire. In the sixth game of the series against the Kansas City Royals, the Cardinals were leading the series three games to two and were leading by a score of 1-0. It was the ninth inning and they were only three outs away from the World Series championship.
The leadoff batter for the Royals hit a ground ball to the Cardinals' first baseman, who scooped it up and threw it to the pitcher who was covering first base for the apparent out, except, just like the other game, the umpire called the batter safe. Again, the replay showed he was clearly out.
While it was true—the call was not fair—they did not forbear! In a sharp contrast to Armando, the Cardinals argued, they yelled, they screamed and generally behaved like little boys throwing temper tantrums. And in the process, they lost their composure and began to fall apart as a team. In spite of the umpire's call, they still had multiple chances to win the game, but they blew those chances! They muffed a pop fly and committed a passed ball, which led to their opponents scoring two runs to win the game.
Of course, the Cardinals still had another chance to win the World Series. All they had to do was win the seventh game! Unfortunately for them, they did not recover their composure and showed a definite lack of forbearance. They argued with the umpire, argued among themselves, discouraged each other and lost the ability to work together as a team. Both their manager and their pitcher got kicked out of the game, and they lost 11-0!
There were two identical wrong calls at first base and two completely different reactions. Neither response changed the umpire's call; that is, the response had no effect on what had already taken place, but both responses had tremendous impact on the events that followed. The response didn't change the past, but it definitely impacted the future.
There Isn't Always Justice
As Christians, how do we respond when we're treated unfairly? Do we forbear and respond with the fruits of the Spirit or do we respond with the works of the flesh? It is a test of our Christian character.
In this world, there isn't always justice. At times we're forced to suffer because of the incompetence, mistakes and sins of other people, even in the Church. God's Church and His people aren't perfect.
In 1 Peter 2:18-24 Peter reminds us to be submissive to our masters, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh, as it is commendable if because of conscience toward God we endure grief, suffering wrongfully (when it isn't fair). Christ left us an example to follow. He certainly wasn't treated fairly, yet He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He didn't revile in return; when He suffered, He didn't threaten!
There may be times, however, when it is appropriate to defend ourselves or others against unfair treatment or to pursue justice, but it must still be done with respect and forbearance. For example, the apostle Paul used his Roman citizenship to defend himself against the unfair treatment he was receiving at the hands of the local authorities in Jerusalem.
Often, however, we won't be able to gain justice in this day and age in the circumstances that we find ourselves facing, and we may have to accept the fact that we have to deal with a very unfair situation. Fortunately, we serve a God of justice, and God will eventually correct all injustices, whether in this lifetime or in the future.
So remember, when it isn't fair, we must still forbear! UN