His career stats indicate that he was a mediocre baseball pitcher—perhaps the epitome of mediocrity: 84 wins; 83 losses; a 4.49 Earned Run Average; a Walks-plus-Hits-to-Innings-Pitched ratio of 1.42. Yet Gil Meche, who played for the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, was responsible for one of the most astounding, yet almost unnoticed, acts of virtue ever committed by a sports figure. In the winter of 2011, Mr. Meche, then with the Royals, voluntarily retired from the game, foregoing the final $12 million on his multi-year contract. Mr. Meche was injured and would have sat out the 2012 season while receiving paychecks. “When I signed my contract, Mr. Meche explained, “my main goal was to earn it. Once I started to realize I wasn’t earning my money, I felt bad. I was making a crazy amount of money for not even pitching. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I deserved it.”
Mr. Meche’s decision is nearly unprecedented in professional sports; countless other injured players have gleefully accepted paychecks while they sat out entire seasons with injuries. “This isn’t about being a hero — that’s not even close to what it’s about,” Mr. Meche insisted. “Making that amount of money from a team that’s already given me over $40 million for my life and for my kids, it just wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Though a small event in the great arc of American history, Mr. Meche’s action would constitute an example of good character in any age, but it is especially noteworthy in the America of the early twenty-first century, an era of dishonesty, self-absorption, and greed. It should not go unnoticed, nor should it be forgotten.
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