On Saturday, May 9, 2020, the Oscar Charleston SABR Chapter in Indianapolis held a virtual meeting and heard a presentation from Professor Todd McDorman of Wabash College.
McDorman built off of his 2019 presentation at the Baseball Hall of Fame called “‘Nobody’s Perfect’: Armando Galarraga’s (Im)Perfect Game and Instant Replay.” You can watch a replay of his talk at https://youtu.be/2iVT3Qv6ixs.
Professor McDorman analyzed the controversial (and almost certainly botched) call on what would’ve been the final out of Galarraga’s perfect game, when Galarraga’s Detroit Tigers played the Cleveland Indians on June 2, 2010. We can view this episode through Kenneth Burke’s idea of perfection, which helps analyze social rhetoric. According to Burke, humans constantly seek perfection and when we fail to achieve it we seek redemption in one of two ways: tragedy or comedy.
Viewing the Galarraga episode as tragic redemption, some commentators blamed umpire Jim Joyce for his call, blamed Commissioner Bud Selig for MLB’s inaction in remedying the call, or advocated for better instant replay, to avoid future mistakes. Here, tragedy means scapegoating and victimization. Viewing the episode, however, as comic redemption, other commentators observed Galarraga’s forgiveness, Joyce’s contrition, and baseball’s imperfect beauty. Here, baseball as comedy means humility and compassion, despite the conflict. Professor McDorman noted that in MLB’s desire to perfect the game, it might also fall into Burkean tragedy with the Zapruder-like parsing of each umpire call. Instead, Burkean comedy acknowledges — even embraces — the fact that no one’s perfect.
Finally, as for trivia, Professor McDorman claimed victory, scoring seventy of ninety possible points.
Thank you to everyone who attended. I’ll be in touch as July approaches with information about our next gathering. Given the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances under which we’ll gather in July, please let me know if you have ideas on presentations, activities, or locations, depending, of course, on city and state COVID-19 guidance.
— Trenton Morton