Friday, June 15, 2012

No Jinx Just the Human Element

According to "Game of Inches" The Stories Behind the Innovations that Shaped Baseball (The Game on the Field) by Peter Morris, the first perfect game was pitched by left-hander J. Lee Richmond of Worcester against Cleveland on June 11, 1880.  An apparent clean single was erased when right fielder Lon Knight threw the batter out at first.

The first perfect game known to have been pitched- at any level- was tossed by James "Pud" Galvin of the Reds of St. Louis against the Cass Club of Detroit on August 17, 1876, in a tournament in Ionia, Michigan.

More extraordinary was that it was Galvin's second no-hitter of the day.  That morning he had shutout the Mutuals of Jackson, allowing only 3 runners to reach base on errors.  Thus only 3 fielding misplays prevented Galvin from accomplishing twice in one day a feat that had never happened before. (Note: The Cass and Mutuals were said to be stocked with former and future major leaguers.)

A little glance at the past before reflecting on Matt Cain's masterpiece on June 13, 2012.

Today is the 49th anniversary of Juan Marichal's no-hitter versus the Houston Colt 45s, the name before they became the Astros.

For Matt Cain's perfecto I listened to Dave Flemming and Jon Miller.  When the game went past five (5) innings mentions of a masterpiece were beginning to become more and more frequent.  There was absolutely no worry about such a thing as "jinxing" the pitcher.

Putting a twist on that notion, (I wonder) if all the worry about speaking too soon (a sort of prognostication) or luck was involved, thinking what you do has something to do with the fortuity supposedly taking place is preposterous.  But many superstitious people linger around and on the ballfields all across the country, don't they?

(Note:  The Giants' broadcasters weren't describing what might happen. They were only painting the verbal picture of what was happening and presenting the possibility of something almost serendipitous taking place which would be equivalent to baseball perfection.)

In reflecting on the June 13, 2012 masterpiece by Matt Cain we must first remember this is 2012.  Barring Harry Wendelstedt's call when Don Drysdale had the consecutive scoreless innings streak and plunked rookie Dick Dietz but the umpire decided to abuse his authority and take full advantage of the Los Angeles spotlight by saying Dietz never tried to get out of the way.  In young Harry's eyes because Dietz made no effort he wasn't allowing him to reach first base. 

That was in 1967.  We are in an era where batters are allowed to act as if the ball had so much movement moving wouldn't do any good.  And in Matt Cain's perfect game, this was a factor on two occasions.

Third baseman Chris Johnson and outfielder Brian Bogusevic both behaved as if Wendelstedt himself was calling balls and strikes.  And I tip my cap to their selfless efforts because they showed an appreciation for the magnitude of what was developing and did not cheapen it by becoming cardboard cut-outs.

I would have missed a good game had I not mentioned another Houston Astro player, Jordan Schafer.  Schafer was the batter who hit a one-ball two-strike pitch down the first base line that was ruled foul much to the chagrin of writer Gil Imber.  Imber pointed to video evidence and the laws of physics in his suggestion the bouncing ball glanced off the bag.

Unfortunately for Schafer, he was also the batter who was robbed by a "white shark" who goes by the name of Gregor Blanco.

Imber concludes that: after instant replay review, it appears the human element- both on the field and in the living room- has greatly contributed to the mystique of baseball's defensive dream.

I'm in agreement that instant replay effects the human element of the game as much as performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). But if the person hired to make the call is a deputy of decision he or she cannot be Barney Fife, or records will be broken not made.

Kevin J. Marquez