On Wednesday night last week, something very special happened…almost. As the Boston Red Sox game played in the background while I worked on the computer, I heard the announcer say that in Detroit, pitcher Armando Galarraga was working on a perfect game. (For those non-baseball aficionados, a perfect game is when a pitcher pitches to the minimum 27 batters in nine innings, with no one reaching base for any reason). I left my work, called my sons into the room, and we watched as Galarraga pitched to the Cleveland Indians in the ninth inning. The first batter, Mark Grudzielanek, hit the first pitch deep to left center field. I mean this ball was tagged! It carried and carried and for sure was going to break up the perfect game. Left fielder Don Kelly and center fielder Austin Jackson gave chase, full throttle, backs to home plate. In full stride, at full speed, his back to the plate, Austin Jackson (former New York Yankee prospect and now arguably one of the best all around players in baseball), reached out and caught the ball! This was one of the greatest catches I had ever witnessed. Wow! One out, surely the cards were set for Galarraga to complete the perfect game, which would have been the third in baseball this year, a somewhat magical occurrence. The next batter grounded to the shortstop—only one more out. And then something happened. Just when everything seemed to be going just right, perfect one might say, something very wrong and imperfect happened. The next batter hit a slow grounder between the first baseman and second baseman, with Galarraga running to cover first, the first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, fielded the ball instead of the second baseman and therefore Galarraga running to first had to cover as Cabrera quickly threw to him. The play was close. Umpire, Jim Joyce, called the runner safe. Replay clearly showed that the runner was out and therefore, quite rightly, Galarraga should have become the third pitcher this year and the 21st in history to hurl a perfect game. The next batter grounded out to the third baseman. Either Galarraga will be the subject of future trivia (who is the only pitcher to throw a perfect game and face 28 batters?) or the wrong call will stand and Galarraga will simply become one of many to have thrown a one-hit shutout.

When I was in college, to make a little extra money, I umpired little league games—believe me a tough way to make a buck! My younger brother’s team was in the championship game, and although I have blocked out most of the details, I blew a call that cost his team the game. There was much silence in the house for awhile, but we all got over it. That was the last game I ever umpired, by choice.

In 1986, when the Red Sox lost the World Series to the Mets, the ball that rolled under Bill Buckner’s glove is forever remembered as the single play that lost the series for the Sox. However, many other plays had to occur, before and after that event, for that to become a pivotal play—so too in Wednesday night’s game. I did not watch the entire game, but I am sure there were some balls that were called strikes, and other judgment calls that lead up to this final judgment call. Why did the first baseman Miguel Cabrera field the ball in the first place? His nerves must have got to him. He should have let the second baseman field it and he should have covered first. It would have been a much smoother play and not as close. After the safe-call, Cabrera continued his rant to the umpire. Do you think he was more angry that the ump missed the call or that he should have been covering first base? But his automatic brain would never allow for that, right?

The umpire, Jim Joyce, I am sure, realized immediately after making the wrong call that he had made a mistake. I know, because I was there, once. I knew I blew the call, but I did not reverse it. I stood by my call and that was that. Ego you say? That’s right, because ego is the face of the automatic brain. To back down is to show weakness, hence vulnerability, and therefore danger. Fighting or fleeing that danger is what we do when we stand behind something even though we know it is wrong. What Joyce should have done was take a deep breath and immediately called time out. He should have gathered the umpires together and asked their opinion as to what to do, as I believe he knew he missed the call (as he later admitted). I am sure the head umpire would have overturned the ruling and the perfect game would have ended, perfectly.

But, in the heat of the battle we rarely can reach beyond the instantaneous nature of our automatic brain. That’s why it is important to take a step back and breathe. Now that everyone involved has had a chance to do that, I think Major League Baseball should get together and figure out what is the right thing to do—don’t stand on (automatic brain) ceremony and give the guy the perfect game. But they apparently have chosen not to do that, even though Joyce has admitted his mistake.

Let us learn and remember, though, that many events lead up to those pivotal moments and each of those events are equally as important as the one to which we assign great significance. Some of those events are within our control and some are not. Be careful not to establish grandiose expectations of perfection, so if one call does not go in your favor it negates everything else that came before. Galarraga’s life journey, for now, does not include a perfect game. Does that mean he’s going to pack it in? When he let himself take a step back, and breathe, Jim Joyce was able to realize that admitting his mistake actually made him less vulnerable and more respected then sticking by his guns as his automatic brain would dictate.

Throughout our lives, we face disappointment and apparent unfairness. And although, what seems to be not so perfect right now, may actually turn out to be what is just right. We should try to view all events, good or bad, as simply part of our life’s journey—our story, our legacy, our perfect game.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Glassman began distributing a weekly motivational email message to patients and friends in January 2007. By May 2008, his distribution list had grown so much—as people on the list told others about it—
and interest in his messages had become so high—Dr. Glassman decided to turn his philosophy and advice into a book. That’s how Brain Drain came about. Starting in May 2008, his weekly messages—now distributed to an even larger audience—formed the basis for chapters of this book.
To date, Brain Drain has won in the Spiritual category at the 2009 Los Angeles Book Festival and received honorable mention at the 2009 New England Book Festival. Brain Drain has also been awarded the 2010 Pinnacle Achievement Award for best Self-Help book by NABE and is an Eric Hoffer Award winner.

Through his book, private practice, public appearances, continued weekly messages,and Coach MD (medical coaching practice) Dr. Glassman has helped thousands realize a healthier, successful, and more abundant life.

He lives in Rockland County, NY with his wife and their four children (and dog, Ginger).