He Jests at Scars that Never Felt a Wound

Fenway Park in Boston at 100: Site of some of the most ecstatic and (more often) unhappiest moments in Red Sox history

New York Mets prospect Philip Gregory Humber (not Humbert Humbert or “from Humber,” either), who had a cup of coffee with his drafting-team in 2006 and 2007 before going to the Minnesota Twins in the Johan Santana deal, has pitched the twenty-first Perfect Game in major-league history.

(Cricket fans: This means the pitcher, so credited, has recorded twenty-seven outs without a batter reaching base, by any means, including a fielding error. The pressure in such games is immense. Mike Mussina, of the Yankees, came within one strike of achieving immortality, and there have been other close shaves in history. Babe Ruth started a game, argued the walking of the first batter, was expelled for thus complaining, and was replaced by pitcher Ernie Shore, who retired the runner on first with a double play and got the next twenty-six batters! Unique to say the least. Sadly, the game is now categorized as a no-hitter. [Cricket Fans: See the paragraph immediately below.] Poor Harvey Haddix pitched something like twelve innings of perfect ball when his Pittsburgh Pirates could not score, and wound up on the losing end. He of course never got credit for perfection, though he did more things right than any other pitcher in history during one game.)

Oddly, in this offensive-conscious era, there have been four perfect games hurled in the last four seasons: and even a fifth but for a bad call by usually reliable umpire Jim Joyce. The first I (Evander) could recall—and I switched the black-and-white TV to the Yankees, then at the beginnings of a memorable pennant fight, that Sunday afternoon—was thrown by Jim Bunning (later a U.S. Senator) of the Philadelphia Phillies, Fathers’ Day 1964, at then-new Shea Stadium against the Mets. The previous perfect game had been in the 1956 World Series, by the Yankees Don Larsen—probably the single greatest baseball game ever played (a big claim, I know). The Yankees have had three pitchers work perfect games. Besides Larsen, there are David Wells and David Cone.

Humber, like Larsen, is not exactly the most-obvious candidate for perfection. But that’s baseball! Another oddity: In the history of the Mets, there has never been a no-hitter. (Cricket fans: This means no batter has reached base via a hit, more common by a lot—though rare enough—than the perfect game.) But plenty of former Mets have thrown no-hitters for other teams. What makes all this especially uncanny is the plethora of outstanding pitching the Mets have developed since 1962 (which I would argue, after half-a-century, is baseball’s greatest season; one day, the subject of another blog—or maybe even another book).

The day before witnessed another form of baseball perfection. At Fenway Park in Boston, one-hundred years of that majestic field were celebrated in style. Think of this: The stadium opened but five days after the sinking of the Titanic. Fenway is older than venerable Wrigley Field, a product of the Federal League. Fenway has outlasted Briggs Stadium, Ebbets Field, Comisky Park (favored by our publisher, Paul Dry), the Polo Grounds, the original Yankee Stadium, Busch Stadium, and others as venerable. The setting matched the incredible ceremony. (In fact, this is the very field on which Ruth and Shore worked their magic one afternoon!) I am glad I was home to watch, as the Red Sox and Yankees, in old-style uniforms (the first time the Yanks ever did this; other teams have done so on other occasions: such was the importance of this setting) re-created aspects of the first game they played on April 20, 1912.

Sometime soon, I promise to begin my review of major-league stadiums, something of a passion, if not an obsession, with me.

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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