Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Magic By the Bay

It only took 128 years.  On Wednesday evening in San Francisco, Matt Cain pitched the first perfect game in the 128 year history of the Giants, one of the oldest teams in big league baseball.  This perfect game was a thing of beauty that exemplifies this sport at its best.  There have been only nine official perfect games in the National League (they don't count Harvey Haddix's 11 perfect innings in a game he lost in the 12th) and the 22nd in major league history.  That's out of more than 350,000 games played.

Said the ESPN headline: Matt Cain wasn't just perfect Wednesday night. He may have tossed the greatest game in MLB history.

 It happened in the Giant's home park before a large and very responsive crowd.  (I've only seen one game there but the combination of the beauty of the park and the right-there electricity of the crowd in so-called layed back San Francisco was unique.)

Matt Cain has come close to no-hitters before, and he said afterwards that he'd never had better command of his pitches. He struck out 14 of the Houston Astros he faced--his personal high, and tying the most strikeouts in a perfect game with the immortal Sandy Koufax. Watching the game on TV, I don't recall seeing a better moving fastball since the young Doc Gooden.

 But a perfect game--no walks, no errors as well as no hits--is a team accomplishment.  This season the Giants have more team errors than all but one team.  But they made a number of tough plays, including Gregor Blanco's sterling catch in the right-center field "triples alley."  The teamwork starts with the catcher and pitcher, and Buster Posey was as perfect as Cain--every pitch he called worked, and Cain didn't shake off one sign the entire game. 

The Giants also gave Cain a 10-0 lead, which meant he could concentrate on the perfect game.  On the other hand, the Giants' 15 hits meant he was sitting in the dugout for long stretches, which can cool the arm of some pitchers and throw off their rhythm. 

But everything was working--Cain, the hits, the defense, the crowd that was thunderous in the late innings, after Cabrera's catch against the wall and then Blanco's instant classic, and they weren't the only excellent plays in the late innings to preserve the perfect game.  This is what makes it magical.  It can happen any game, but no one can predict which one.  If you're lucky enough to be part of it or just be there, you've been touched by magic.

This great but relatively young ball park has seen some magic before, and some history--World Series wins, the home run record broken and set. This also becomes an immortal night, to lift us out of the ugly slog of politics and"news."  To remind us that once in awhile, people can do something that's perfect.

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