How perfect is a perfect game? | Bleader

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How perfect is a perfect game?

Posted By on 04.22.12 at 05:14 PM

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Philip Humber
  • Philip Humber
Philip Humber just pitched a perfect game for the White Sox. Perfection is so elusive that there are few realms of adult life that even make a place for it. We knew kids who got perfect scores on spelling tests; but what is a perfect novel, or a perfect building, or a perfect hedge fund? A perfect crime is a crime you get away with, but who knows whether it’ll still be perfect tomorrow.

Bowlers can bowl 300. But what’s a perfect round of golf? Or a perfect dive or gymnastics routine? The routine may get a 10, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been even more graceful or harder.

What would a perfect perfect game be? Twenty-seven up and 27 down in 27 pitches, each resulting in a pop-up to the catcher? Or in 81 pitches, each swung at and missed? If the pitcher intentionally wastes a pitch low and away to set up the batter for high heat, is that wasted pitch a blot on perfection?

I once had a teacher who suggested that a couple of lines by Robert Frost constituted a sort of perfect poem:

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.

What can you add to that? What can you subtract? Frost’s thought is perfectly expressed, but it is hardly the most profound or complicated thought he ever had in his life. Does its modesty permit Frost’s perfection or compromise it? If Frost had come up with a third line as good as the first two would the poem have been more perfect or less—two being all Frost really needed?

I’m sure many of you would say that perfection is like uniqueness—it does not permit degrees.

But that’s not true. There were kids in my class, same as there were in yours, who not only got 100 on spelling tests but their handwriting was exquisite. Sometimes no one would play with these kids at recess, but that’s another story. In 1959 Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings against Milwaukee—that was taking perfection to another level. He lost his perfect game—Milwaukee scored on an error and a hit in the 13th. And that was taking uniqueness to another level.

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