Perfection, or Youneverknow
As observed here Monday, baseball fans in attendance at Seattle Saturday will remember what they saw for as long as they live. Phillip Humber of the White Sox threw baseball’s 21st perfect game. Sometimes, decades pass between perfect games. There were no perfect games in the regular season from 1922 until 1964. That’s 42 years.
I write from first-hand experience. On July 23, 2009, my dad and I were in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago when Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game against Tampa Bay. The picture above is my scorecard as it appeared going to the 9th. We decided on the trip about a week in advance and hopped on the Illinois Zephyr that morning.
Buehrle was sharp early. Looked like everything he threw went exactly where he intended. That doesn’t always happen. I got the first hint that something unusual might be up in the second inning when Ben Zobrist fanned. The entire atmosphere at 35th and Shields changed from a lazy summer afternoon on Chicago’s South Side in the third, fourth and fifth innings to Game 7 in the last week of October by the start of the 8th inning. The fans around us in the upper deck caught on to what was unfolding in the sixth.
Perfect games often require a great defensive play. Dwayne Wise entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the 8th. He robbed Gabe Kapler of a home run to lead off the 9th. The 26th and 27th outs were more routine and the perfect game was in the books.
The trip back to The Loop on The El was unusual. Total strangers were talking and celebrating what they’d just seen. Walking back to Union Station, it was also very easy to tell Sox fans from Cub fans. The Sox fans were strutting and beaming. Cub fans had their customary downcast look Cub fans tend to wear in late July.
Perfect Games also generate some “if only” stories. I know of two from that day in ’09. Among the passengers on the Illinois Zephyr to Chicago that morning was WGEM’s Ben Marth. He was going to visit relatives in the Chicago area and had opted not to go to the ballgame.
The other story played out right in front of me. Shortly before first pitch, a family of four, father, mother, high school age daughter, middle school age son sat down in the seats right in front of us. The mom fidgeted, the daughter got a bit whiny and pouty by the end of the second inning. The discomforts continued to build until the girls talked (badgered, actually) the guys into leaving after four innings. The son was obviously not in agreement with the decision to leave. I’m guessing that he will never let the rest of the family forget and that this unfortunate decision was revisited again Saturday evening.
We went just for the heck of it. Getting to sit in on the rarest of events wasn’t the idea.
As Joaquin Andujar said in the mid 1980's, "Youneverknow."