Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Phil Humber's Perfect Game & a Soxian Delight at Pat's Diner

SOUTH TRENTON -- I took that photo of Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson moments after he pitched the 17th perfect game in Major League Baseball history, against the Atlanta Braves. It was the night of May 18, 2004, and I was alone in my room at the Coolidge Hotel in White River Junction, Vermont. The TV was so old-school 1978 or some vintage thereof. Tiny. But a perfect game is beautiful to behold whether it's on a 50-inch HD screen or the small-ass screen you see above.

About an hour ago I took this photo of photo of Chicago White Sox pitcher Phllip Humber moments after he pitched the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history, against the Seattle Mariners.

It is April 21, 2012, and I was not alone. I was eating dinner at Pat's Diner in South Trenton and taking photos of this and that, including the Yankees-Red Sox game on the 25-inch HD TV above the doors leading in and out of the kitchen. I knew before I walked to Pat's that Humber was halfway through his perfecto but didn't give it another thought till Fox cut into the Yanks-Sox game because Humber was through 8. I remember thinking that the White Sox seem to always be in a perfect game. On July 23, 2009, Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle recorded the 18th perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Humber became the third White Sox pitcher to throw a perfect game. It was the 18th no-hitter in White Sox history.

Anyway, the Red Sox were beating the crud out of the Yankees, 9-0, at Fenway. Right about now is when six seniors walked into Pat's: a couple in their mid- to late-60s sat at one table, and two other couples about the same age sat at a table close to them. The volume on the TV was loud enough for patrons to hear the action, but the six elderly folks couldn't hear the score. One waitress told one of the folks that the Yanks were losing 9-nothing to Boston. The six were bummed, but not too much. But I loved the fact all six inquired about the score. You could tell these six were baseball fans. You just know.

But soon as the waitress announced the 9-0 score, Mark Teixeira killed one over the Green Monster to make it 9-1. I told the old man in the yellow shirt what just happened, and he said that "Teixeira is starting to come around." I nodded in agreement. I also remember thinking that the Yanks have zero chance to win this game but how cool would it be if they did? I was about finished with my dinner, and dessert, when Fox flipped from one Sox game to the other, more important, Sox game. It was bottom-9 in Seattle, and Phil Humber needed to retire batters 25, 26 and 27 to become a special pitcher in history.

Here are some of the shots that came out clear enough. It's not so easy taking photos of a TV with a camera phone, but I think I captured the moment as well as can be expected.

Coke and water and Yankees and Red Sox
Here's when Fox did the split-screen: Sox on one side, Sox on the other
Yanks were still getting creamed 9-1 at this point
No WAY the Yanks come back and win this one, right?
When's the last time a team went from 9-0 down to 15-9 winning?
The Prince of New York, from Pequonnack
But at this point, Humber was the Prince of Fox TV
He was on.
And the Mariners were baffled by Humber
Philip Humber, pride of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Rice U.
Poor Mariners
And that's your perfect game, final out K/2-3.
They went nuts in South Chicago, as captured in South Trenton
Did I swing? Should I run? Whaaaaat?!
Welcome to the club, Philip Humber.

Humber, who had Tommy John surgery 7 years ago, fell behind Michael Saunders 3-0 to start the 9th but fought back to strike him out with his devastating breaking ball. John Jaso flied to right, and by now the owner of Pat's Diner had joined me at the counter to watch, both of us anticipating the great moment. And it came to be when Humber struck out pinch-hitter Brendan Ryan, although Ryan checked his swing and wasn't quite sure if umpire Brian Runge rung him up after the ball got away from catcher A.J. Pierzynski and went to the backstop. I think he went around far enough to warrant the K. Pierzynski raced to get the ball while Ryan sort of started to the bag then stopped then started again. But by then Pierzynski had retrieved the ball and thrown to first baseman Paul Konerko for the final out of a historic moment in Seattle.

And I was only too thrilled on the south side of Trenton. 

I started to take pictures and tried to hold the phone best I could without shaking, because even the best smart phones will take blurry indoor shots if you move the slighest bit. Plus there's that whole quarter-second lag between the moment you think you're taking and the moment that appears. You have to anticipate and hope to get it right. I'd like to think I captured the moment within moments in time. Few things more thrilling in life than a perfect game.

Oh, by the way, I just checked the score, and remember when the Yankees were losing 9-0?

They just won 15-9. Teixeira hit another homer. Old man was right. Baseball is life.

And oh, by the way: Just so happens Arizona and Atlanta are playing tonight. 

But the Braves already have 5 hits through 3 innings and lead the snakes 3-2.