Bottom of the ninth.  Two outs.  The stadium holds its collective breath waiting and hoping for a pitcher’s Holy Grail – the perfect game.

This was the scene in Detroit last night before umpire Jim Joyce blew the third-out call that relegated even Ken Griffey, Jr.’s retirement announcement to a postscript.  Joyce’s egregiously bad call stole a perfect game away from Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, there is no doubt about that, but it is the aftermath that interests me.

After reviewing the replay, a clearly distraught Joyce admitted that he screwed up – badly and irreversibly.  “I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said simply.

Almost invariably, admitting a mistake and apologizing for it is the best crisis communications strategy.  But the trick is you have to mean it.  Joyce did.  He could have defended the indefensible or chosen not to comment at all, but instead, Joyce offered Galarraga the only thing he could – an honest apology and acknowledgement of his perfect game.

The right words can soften the blow of just about any mistake.  Sure, Joyce’s name will now be mentioned alongside Don Denkinger and Rich Garcia.  And yes, 500 anti-Joyce Facebook pages and the website sprung up within minutes of the call.  But the way Joyce has owned his error is doing a lot to mitigate hatred.

To his credit, Galarraga was a class act, both during the game and after.  No one would have blamed him for pulling a Jimmy Dugan, but Galarraga had a remarkably mature perspective on the evening’s events.  “I got a perfect game.  Maybe it’s not in the book, but I’m going to show my son the CD.”  (Okay, he probably meant DVD, but give the guy a break – he was just robbed of a perfect game!)

Posted by Katie Denis, Account Executive (@katiefoxdenis)

The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the views of Vehr Communications, LLC.