MLB15 Chin Music: The Perfect Game That Wasn’t

6 Jul

.......Ruth&Shore.Bain.wc.LoC.thmb

Perfection.

It’s a rare bird in this wild we call life, but it is out there, if you‘ve the inclination and eyes to spot it.

The varieties are many.

The following are a sampling of some of the perfects this watcher has spotted:

The perfect rain: warm, windless, not heavy but a good soak (‘bow optional);
Snowfall: Big flakes, 3-5, 24° still as Sunday and seen while snug inside;
Summer blooms: zinnia (color-burst) and gardenia (smells like Trix®);
Revolutionaries: Emiliano Zapata (1879-19) and Spartacus (111.BC – 71);
Perfect gams: Ginger Rogers, “zowie!;”
......Crawford.Rain.1932.wc.cca.thmbPerfect Hollywood profile: Joan Crawford;
Perfect British film noir: They Made Me a Fugitive (47);
Perfect American film noir: Murder, My Sweet (44);
Perfect comedies: Midnight Run (88) & The Party (68);
Perfect sporties: National Velvet (44) & Bull Durham (88);
Perfect ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ movie: The Verdict (82);
Summer cine: Caddyshack (80) & American Graffiti (73);
Tragic figures: Vincent Van Gogh & Bobby Driscoll;
Anti-hero: Steve McQueen, Hell is For Heroes (62);
Star-crossed romance: Waterloo Bridge (40) and Bonnie and Clyde (67);
......Clemente.wc.cca.thmbSaturday sandwich: peanut butter & bacon (crispy);
70s voices: Karen Carpenter & Gordon Lightfoot;
Gamers: Tinkers, Evers, Chance & 1907 Chicago Cubs;
B-ball rivalry: Magic Johnson (LAL) v. Larry Bird (BOS);
Baseball player: Roberto Clemente;
Baseball pitcher: Christy Mathewson;
Pick-up gun: Rossi M720;
Sedan: 2007 Honda Accord®;
Hearty casserole: Ore-Ida® Tater Tot®, cooked crisp. Oh…my…gosh.

Perfection can be grand but can be taken it a bit…too…far.

Those perfect 10s judges hung on the gymnastics of Nadia Comăneci in 1976 rocked the Olympics. Imagine the hubbub today. Nadia’s routines were sublime but maxing the math don’t leave much room to maneuver: 10.5?

.......Whitmore&Garner.wc.8.19.77.NBC.thbPerfection, more precisely, “pretty,” was the norm in the classic Rod Serling Twilight Zone, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” After counseling & cajoling from Richard Long and early super-model Suzy Parker, Collin Wilcox opts for conformity to become #8 model (“Valerie”). “Life is pretty, life is fun, I am all and all is one!”

A favorite episode of The Rockford Files stars Tom Selleck in one of his early TV roles as the dashing but dumb-lucky private eye, “Lance White (“White on White and Nearly Perfect”).” James Garner and the writing staff composed it as only Cherokee Productions could:

A ‘Lance White’ admirer: “He’s just…perfect.”
Jim: “Yeah, it’s his only flaw.”

And it’s been a centuries long custom that a Persian rug is woven intentionally to include an flaw into the weave so as to, in Muslim belief, not offend the only force permitted to bestow perfection in all existence, that being God (Allah).

......Ruth.Culver.1916.421k.wc.thbMost believe the called Creator endowed people a mind to not only delineate perfection wherever they find it, i.e. the killing (living) machine that is the shark, but to design it as we see fit.

In truth, we’ve got perfection coming out of our ears.

One example in sport: baseball’s designation of the so-called perfect (pitched) game:

“An official perfect game occurs when a pitcher (or pitchers) retires each batter on the opposing team during the entire course of a game, which consists of at least nine innings. In a perfect game, no batter reaches any base during the course of the game (mlb.com).”

There’ve been 23 perfect games in MLB history dating back to it’s birth in 1876.

Lee Richmond of Worcester tossed the first on June 12, 1880 (1-0), quickly followed by another just five days later when Providence Grays’ John Montgomery Ward pitched his own perfect outing on June 17, 1880 (5-0)). The most recent perfect picture was painted by Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Seattles (Mariners) on August 15, 2012 (1-0 v TEX), the third of three in that season alone (See: M. Cain (SF) & P. Humber (16-23)).

Today we’re closing in on the 100 year anniversary of one of the most curious pitching occurrences in major league annals.

......Ruth.wc.1933.Goudey.thbIt didn‘t make the official perfection roster but calls attention because it reminds us of the strict standards that baseball and the perfection thing both require, as well as the man who starred in it’s brief opening act and who made a quick and ignominious exit, stage strange.

It happened on June 23, 1917.

The place: The Hub City at the still spanking new Fenway Park (b.1912);
The teams: Red Sox (H.Frazee) and Washington Senators (C.Griffith (10%)); and
The principals: BoSox southpaw starter, George “Babe” Ruth, Boston reliever, Ernie Shore and AL umpire Clarence “Brick“ Owens (b.Milwaukee).

The gist: Ruth, in his last full season as a moundsman (and though future Sultan a’ Swat would surprisingly ding a mere two taters in 142 PAs in ‘17), would face just one bats-man in his brief outing, issuing a free-pass before being tossed by umpire Owens for excessive arguing and, as some recounted, hostile intent. Not exactly the Bambino legend we‘ve come to appreciate.

A closer examination of Ruth’s pitching line suggests he was likely off base.

Though a two-time 20-game winner and post-season stalwart (WS: 3-0, 0.87), his walk-to-SO ratio was always iffy and grew steadily worse: 85-112 (‘15), 118-170, 108-128, 49-40, 58-30 (’19). Benefit-of-the-doubt: umpire.

.....Shore.wc.1915.Harris.Ewing.thmbWith his hot-tempered starter hauled off in human handcuffs, BoSox mgr. Jack Barry turned to his other big man, righty Ernie Shore who was pretty spiffy himself in October (WS: 3-1, 1.82) and was 48-28 in three seasons through 1917 (13w).

What happened in the next one hour plus was…unexpected.

Red Sox took care of the initial walkee after Ernie’s first offering in a failed stolen base attempt. It was a good omen for the Papagos (beaneaters).

He then proceeded to set down 26 consecutive Senators, issuing no hits, no balks, no walks, no past-ball nor error-induced base-runners for a 4-0 Red Sox victory and a perfect outing.

Shore had pitched perfectly, but not a perfect game (See: above).

Unfortunately for the man from East Bend, North Carolina, whose 13 wins in ‘17 would be his last productive season, the official line, while initially tagging as perfecto, would eventually term the performance a combined, no-hit shutout win for Ruth, Shore and Boston. Not too shabby, but a no-no ain’t necessarily perfect and then sharing it is, well, kinda’ like kissing your sister’s very pretty but very married best girl-friend.

Baseball is baseball and rules are rules.

Ernie’s career would peter-out not long after, heading to rival NYY for a brief 2-year run to pave the way for his colorful cohort Ruth (’20 (1895-48)) whose name came to be synonymous with every towering shot (Ruthian), sans Statcast, as he embarked on what’d become the most memorable life in our sporting lore, a legend that grows bigger each year with the tainted ‘tistical tallies that today populate the scene.

But to Mr. Shore (1891-80), Red Sox rooters and those who drink in life like it were a long, cool glass of perfect brew, they’ll reflect on June 17, 1917 as a day of perfection, for what constitutes perfect is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

......canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: Ruth, wc.cca, LoC, 1919; Ruth&Shore, LoC, Bain, wc; J.Crawford, Rain, MGM, 1932, wc; R.Clemente, wc; Whitmore&Garner, NBC, wc, 8.19.77, TRF; Ruth, wc, 1916, Culver; Ruth, 1933, Goudey, wc; Shore, wc, 1915, Harris-Ewing; canned-corn.
Posted: 7.6.15 @ 12:09 am; edit 11:26am EST;
Copyright © 2015

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