I’ll start with a note to the regular readers – we had no article yesterday for the first time in many months.  I simply ran out of time and energy and didn’t get the chance to write anything.  For those of you who read the RSS feed, you didn’t see anything new on Thursday OR Friday.  That’s because Thursday article leaked out a day early (oops) so you saw it on Wednesday, along with the article from Wednesday morning.

We’ve been a bit sports-heavy lately, and we’ll be mixing up the variety of articles soon.  Today, however, is another sports article.  We hear a lot of bad things about many of today’s sports figures – today we’ll focus on some positive role models.

A Perfect Game

On Wednesday night, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers came tantalizing close to one of the rarest feats in baseball – a perfect game (in which no opposing runners reaches base via any means).  Major League Baseball has been around since the formation of the National League in 1876.  In this span of 135 years, there have been 2o perfect games (including, oddly, 2 this year).

Galarraga had retired the first 26 batters.  With two outs in the ninth inning, Jason Donald of the Cleveland Indians hit a ground ball that was fielded by Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera.  Miggy tossed to ball to Galarraga (who was covering first base on the play).  Replays show that the throw beat the runner by a step – but umpire Jim Joyce ruled Donald safe – ending the perfect game and no-hitter.

This situation could very easily have taken an ugly turn, with the umpiring insisting he was correct and the pitcher lashing out angrily.  But that’s not what happened.  When the game finished after the next batter made an out, umpire Joyce immediately went back to the umpire’s locker room and had the play cued up so that he could watch the video.  He immediately saw that he was wrong.  He sought out Galarraga and apologized.  Galarraga accepted the apology.  Honestly, if you didn’t know better, you’d think it was Joyce who had the perfect game taken away from him – he looked much more distraught than Galarraga.

There were calls for Bud Selig to overrule the call and deem the feat a perfect game.  While Selig made the comment that he would consult with advisors regarding the possible expansion of instant replay, he decided not to overturn the call.  For longtime baseball fans, this was hardly a surprise.  Out/Safe and Ball/Strike calls are judgment calls by the umpires and are not subject to being overruled in the same manner as a rules interpretation (such as the George Brett pine tar incident).

On Thursday, the citizens of the United States, in the form of General Motors, gave a gift to Galarraga – a brand new Corvette.  I suspect that this is the first time that a pitcher has ever received a Vette as a reward for a one-hitter.  The Detroit fans even seemed to be accepting Joyce’s apology – aside from a handful of nuts who have apparently never made a mistake in their lives and feel justified in lashing out at the umpire.

The Wizard Moves On

The sports world lost a legend on Friday night when John Wooden passed away at the age of 99.

The Indiana native first made his mark on the game of basketball as a 3 time All-American at Purdue.  His coaching career completely overshadowed his playing career, but the fact is that he is one of only three people enshrined in the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

Wooden, of course, is legendary for his success at UCLA.  To say that his feats are unmatched is a gross understatement.  The 1963-1964 season was Wooden’s 16th season at UCLA and 18th as college head coach.  His team the NCAA championship that season.  UCLA also won the title in 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1975.  That’s a total of 10 championships in a span of 12 years – including seven straight.  No other coach in history has more than four championships.

The championships were no fluke.  During that 12 year span, Wooden’s teams lost a total of 22 games – and 12 of those losses came during the two non-championship years.  Four times Wooden’s teams finished the season undefeated – including consecutive seasons (1971-1972 and 1972-1973) in the midst of a record 88 game winning streak.  After the 1974-1975 season, Wooden walked away – the very definition of leaving at the top of your game.

It has been 35 years since Wooden coached a game, but he has never been forgotten.  After his coaching career was over, he continued to share his thoughts with those fortunate to spend time with him.  He autographed a voluminous amount of items for fans – until failing health forced his family to ask that fans refrain from sending him any more items.  The daily work of signing the items was causing him physical pain, and Wooden himself would never dream of denying a request.

The Kid Retires

On Wednesday, Ken Griffey Jr. retired from the game of baseball (and was subsequently overshadowed by the Armando Galarraga game).  I immediately felt very old.  I’m 35 years old, and I can very easily remember Griffey breaking into the minors as a 19 year old kid in 1989.  How can he possibly be old enough to retire?

A generation of fans will remember Junior as the greatest player they ever saw.  During his younger days, Griffey won four home run titles and a shelf full of Gold Glove awards.  In spite of the fact that injuries marred the latter years of his career, Griffey still ended his career with 630 home runs – 5th most all time.

During an era when nearly every power hitter came under suspicion for performance enhancing drugs, there was never a whisper of this with Griffey.  The biggest controversy of his career may have been this year, when a reporter wrote an article saying that Griffey had fallen asleep in the clubhouse during a game (in which he was not playing) and was thus not available to pinch hit.  This report was denied by everyone in the Mariners organization – but even had it been true, would it have been that big of a deal?  Trust me, he wouldn’t have been the first unused player to catch a nap during a game.

Griffey, along with Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson (and, lest we forget, Jay Buhner) revived baseball in Seattle.  Without Griffey, would there still be a team in Seattle?

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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