Monday, April 23, 2012


Baseball Perfection-2012

Amidst the excitement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a spectacular gem took place last week in Seattle, Washington. Phillip Gregory Humber, a journeyman pitcher from Nacogdoches, Texas, pitched a perfect game. It was the twenty-first perfect game in major league baseball history, and the first since Roy Halladay blanked the Florida Marlins in 2010. At that time, “Doc” was with the Phillies. No Toronto Blue Jay pitcher has ever thrown a perfect game, as a Jay; however, David Cone and David Wells, both former Jays, did accomplish the feat, but as New York Yankees. There has been only one perfect game in World Series play. On October 8, 1956, the Yankees’ Don Larsen set down the Brooklyn Dodgers in order to place his name in the record books. After the final out, Yogi Berra, the Yankees catcher, raced to the mound and surrounded his pitcher with a massive bear hug. Such was not the case for Humber. Bottom of the ninth inning. Two men out. And there was a full count on the batter, Brendan Ryan. Virtually everyone in the ball park expected Humber to throw a fastball, lest he should walk Ryan and lose the perfect game. Ryan dug in at the plate, anticipating the heater. His thoughts after the game: “There’s no way he’s going to want to take a chance and walk me on the last pitch. No chance. I cannot believe he threw the slider there.” But that’s just what Humber threw. A nasty slider that was in the dirt by the time that it reached home plate. Ryan offered at the pitch, and watched the White Sox catcher, A. J. Pierzynski, scamper to his right to pick up the ball and throw Ryan out at first base. Game, Set, and Match. Yet another case of the stars lining up in order on a particular occasion. Humber is now 29 years old, but has only 12 wins to his credit in the Major Leagues. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2001, but did not sign. In 2004, he was the third overall pick of the New York Mets, and signed with them. He had “Tommy John” surgery in 2005, made his Major League debut in 2006, and was traded to the Twins in 2008. He became a Kansas City Royal in 2009, an Oakland Athletic in 2010, and joined the White Sox in 2011. He is certainly in select company, as a hurler with a perfect game on his record sheet. Len Barker, who toured the country with a group of retired ball players following his career, threw a prefect game as a Cleveland Indian against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the first perfect game against a team with a designated hitter in the lineup. Barker threw a couple of innings at the Rotary Park in Belleville, while touring with the Major League players. He told me after the game that he didn’t realize he was approaching baseball history until the late innings of his perfect game. “All of a sudden, it’s the seventh inning, and nobody would talk to me. I sat alone in the dugout while my team was up to bat. At that moment, I knew it was special.” That is another baseball tradition not to be “tinkered with”. When the Expos Dennis Martinez threw his perfect game against the Dodgers in 1991, he was crowned “El Perfecto” by the media. Cy Young is also a notable hurler who has accomplished the feat. Phil Humber will cherish his accomplishment forever. He still may have some fine years ahead, as Randy Johnson also threw a perfect game when he was forty! Yet another fine moment from the great game of baseball. James Hurst April 23, 2012

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