One of Barack Obama’s favourite phrases over the last year is “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
It’s from Voltaire and the way he means it, it makes a lot of sense. Better to do SOMETHING positive now than delay until you’ve found the ‘perfect’ solution.
Yesterday, a baseball pitcher slipped into a historically important category and just to show that whatever’s happening with his economic reboot Obama hasn’t lost his sporting mojo, it was a White Sox pitcher to boot.
Mark Buehrle (pronounced burly and splendidly accurate that is) pitched a Perfect Game against Tampa Bay.
27 batters faced, 27 retired with no walks or errors. Only 18 of them have EVER been thrown in baseball’s long history, because even if you have everything and a ton of luck working for you as a pitcher, that will only guarantee a no-hitter.
That’s not a small thing (usually only 1 or 2 no-hitters are thrown in a 2,300+ game season) but it’s not the great white whale that is The Perfect Game. Because for a Perfect Game to occur you need your team-mates to be perfect as well.
A single error in the field (a misjudged bounce that a player should have caught or fielded, a ball falling out of a hand as he threw, any one of a million basic failures of hand/eye co-ordination) and a runner may get on base without technically spoiling the ‘no hitter’. But the Perfect Game is gone.
Whenever a pitcher starts edging toward a no-hitter, when about the 5th inning everyone becomes aware that something amazing might be happening, the entire team starts to move differently. There’s more urgency in the dives for groundballs hit into the hole, a bit more zip on the throws to first. The custom is to not speak to the pitcher from then on unless you have to. Some players even stop LOOKING at the pitcher lest it curse him. Jaws clench, backs straighten, fist bumps and high fives disappear, and there’s less grabbing of one’s crotch while on camera. This is serious business.
By the 8th inning, even the other team have become involved. Each batter now dreads being the one to end it, and if its a Perfect Game even more so. Yet once the pitch has been made, once the ball is in the air hurtling toward him, instinct takes over and the swings will still be made with utmost ferocity. Whenever you see a sportsperson on the verge of history, you have to wonder what the opponent(s) are thinking. According to his Letterman appearance even Stewart Cink was rooting for Tom Watson, yet he gave no quarter and probably never thought to. And this was the Tampa Bay Rays, newly risen power in the brutal AL East, and kings of the deadly single. These guys were not cheap outs.
So, in the top of the 9th, with Buehrle three outs away from being the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2004 to achieve a Perfect Game, over 12,000 or so games ago, this happened:
Dewayne Wise, a nobody brought on late by manager and certified lunatic Ozzie Guillen because he can field a bit, made the catch of his career to rob Gabe Kapler (sorry, had to pause for a quick Welcome Back Kotter flashback) of a heartless dagger of a home run.
He bobbled it sure, but caught it just the same, and it will be a long, long time before Mr Wise has to buy his own beer on the South Side of Chicago.
How meaningful is it?
For Mark Buehrle its a defining moment in a quixotic career and a direct path to the Hall Of Fame for a solid but not exciting pitcher few would remember otherwise. He even got a call immediately afterward from the world’s most powerful White Sox fan.
For baseball, mired in a season so lacklustre Manny Ramirez NOT playing for 50 games was an exciting highlight, its a huge news story not related to PEDs or empty seats at Yankee Stadium.
And for me it was a phone call while I was down at the beach enjoying an afternoon scoping Yoga Butts.
“Hey, you got to get to a TV.”
“Uh-huh,” attention focused solely on scoping Yoga Butts.
“Buehrle’s throwing a Perfect Game! Seriously, you gotta catch it.”
” Holy Shit!” and I got on my bike and rode to the nearest bar to catch the last inning and a half.
So, how meaningful was it? It got me to RIDE A F*$KING BIKE. That’s Hall Of Fame worthy right there.
– Mark Tierney