When we headed South to Safeco Field yesterday afternoon, we thought the big excitement of the day was going to be seeing the name of my 8-year-old son’s elementary school emblazoned on the jumbotron. We couldn’t have imagined that we’d be part of history.
It was Boeing Field’s Salute to Armed Forces Day, the Chicago White Sox vs. the Seattle Mariners. Philip Humber was pitching for the Sox. It was a sunny, gorgeous day, about 65 degrees. The PTA had pre-ordered 100 group tickets, so we made the climb to the upper, upper decks to find our seats. Section 318 on the right field side. More than nose bleeds, the view made my knees wobbly looking down. We settled in and immediately the boys started talking about what treats they wanted. The three-year-old wanted cotton candy. Big brother wanted red licorice. Dad came back with both and a Pepsi for the family to share. I chatted with my friend about upcoming runs and training while nibbling Sweetarts jelly beans. The first part of the game was all about food, socializing and waiting for the jumbotron message. Time seemed to pass quickly. It was 3-0 White Sox.
Finally, at the top of the fifth, the “Mariners Welcome” went up on the big screen and we watched in eager anticipation, on the edge of our seats. I told Rassy to watch and got my camera primed. The names passed slowly, alphabetically. Then, there it was: the name of his school. We cheered wildly and loudly. We thought it would be the highlight of the day.
Around the sixth inning, my husband Mo casually mentioned that the M’s didn’t have any hits. Nor had anyone made it to base. From our birds’ eye view, it was hard to focus in on the action, especially with a three-year-old on my lap trying to cuddle and wondering what other junk food we were going to consume. But I started to watch the game and the scoreboard more closely then. More Mariners batters. No hits. No walks. No errors. No nothing.
The 7th inning stretch came and Musician 3rd Class Alena Dashiell of the U. S. Navy sang “God Bless America.” Huckster crossed my mind. We danced and sang to “Louie, Louie.” The end was in sight.
By the 8th inning everyone was talking about it—not just a no-hitter but the idea of a perfect game. Most of the crowd stayed. Very few left. Three more outs down. Three more to go. We’d gone from cheering for our team to cheering for a guy who was on track to have a huge, rare, hard-to-fathom accomplishment.
Bottom of the ninth, everyone was on their feet. As the first batter got to a 3-2 count, there was a silent wish in my head “Don’t throw a ball. Not a ball, not a ball…” Whew. Strike out. The next batter was a pop up, easy out. A pinch hitter stepped up to the plate. The count again went to 3-2. I looked at the scoreboard, taking it in. Two outs. Full count. Bottom of the ninth. A perfect game on the line. It couldn’t get much better than that. Humber threw the ball and I looked for a strike, but saw a bit of commotion. The ball had gotten away from the catcher and he was throwing to first base for the out. (it turned out that it’d been a strike out but the batter thought he’d checked his swing). Game over. I immediately looked to Philip Humber and saw him collapse to the ground, in what I imagined must have been relief, awe and disbelief. His teammates ran from every direction to dog pile on him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe what we’d just witnessed. I couldn’t believe I was there. A sunny, glorious Saturday afternoon game in Seattle. The 21st perfect game in Major League history.
We clapped and cheered and stood in amazement, finally making our way to the exit. There was a definite buzz in the air. At the gate, a young man handed us a keepsake coin to commemorate Salute to Armed Forces Day on April 21, 2012 at Safeco Field. We’ll remember it along with the elementary school’s name on the jumbotron. And the 21st perfect game in Major League history.