Enough with Dancing Fools like Arland Bruce and all this whole sad, Roy Halladay thing that is spinning out of control. I want to talk about perfection - about Mark Buehrle and DeWayne Wise's catch,
I want to talk about what it was like on July 28, 1991, when I was privileged to cover Dennis Martinez's perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. There have been 18 perfect games in Major League history - 16 in the modern era - and I've been lucky enough to cover two of them. I also covered David Cone's perfecto against the Montreal Expos at Yankee Stadium … and covered another nine-inning perfect game on June 3, 1995, when Pedro Martinez had a perfect game through nine against the San Diego Padres only to have Bip Roberts end it with a lead-off double in the 10th (Mel Rojas came in to close, retired the next three batters and the Expos won the game 1-0 . . . and you try writing that muthah on deadline!)
In an odd way, that game was just as much fun as Martinez's perfecto - which came two days after Martinez's teammate, Mark Gardner, no-hit the Dodgers through nine only to lose the no-hitter in the 10th. That's how close the Expos came to pitching a no-hitter and a perfect game in the same series.
At any rate, DeWise's catch made me think about how many things need to go right for a perfect game - stuff beyond the pitcher's control. Martinez's perfect game was on a Sunday afternoon after a night game, and manager Tom Runnells had a young Larry Walker at first base - one of 39 games in which the soon-to-be Gold Glove right fielder started at first that year - instead of Andres Galarraga. Walker was flawless. (Dave Martinez, who will be at the Rogers Centre tonight as the hitting coach with the Tampa Bay Rays, started in right.) Expos second baseman Delino DeShields - who would make 27 errors that year and was in the middle of such a throwing funk that coaches used to take him out to centre field before batting practice, make a square out of tape on the outfield wall, and get him to throw target practice - had nine balls hit to him in the game. He, too, handled them flawlessly.
Some other memories of that game? Dave Van Horne's 'El Presidente, El Perfecto!' call at the end of the game was perfect in its crispness and economy - and sounds even moreso when compared to the silly prattle of the Chris Berman generation of nincompoops. Ron Hassey was the Expos catcher that day, and it was his second perfect game: he also caught Len Barker's perfecto. And Dodgers pitcher Mike Morgan was perfect himself through five innings.
I voted for Martinez for the Hall of Fame when his name first came up on the ballot because … well, you pitch a perfect game and I see it? And you resurrect your career the way he did? Hell, yeah. I have no problem throwing you a bone. As a result of that perfect game, Martinez's homeland, Nicaragua, threw a government-sanctioned bash in what was a country then run by the Sandinistas and I was able to cover that for The Gazette. I sat in on a session of the Nicaraguan legislature, met Humberto Ortega, who was wearing an Expos cap and who was the strong-man of the Sandinista military and Bianca Jagger, who is Nicaraguan and who was visiting the country as a human rights activist. A bunch of us had drinks with her in the hotel bar, which was kind of cool. But the highlight was probably meeting Violeta Chamorro, who ended up beating Daniel Ortega for the Nicaraguan presidency but at that point was best known as the strong-willed woman who took over the publisher's job at her husband's paper, La Prensa, after he was assassinated by the regime of the U.S. right-wing lackies Somoza family.