So many times in my life I would watch a pitcher at the start of a baseball game retire the side for an inning or two wondering if this might be the elusive jewel of pitching genius in the making, the perfect game.
I usually didn’t have to wait long, like the third or fourth inning, before being disappointed. That would change June 13, 2012 in San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
It was a game we honestly didn’t intend to stay for in its entirety. After a day taking in golf’s U.S. Open practice round at The Olympic Club, my son Aidan and I and our friend Mike who we were visiting, headed downtown to see the Giants take on the Houston Astros.
The golf course high above the city had been shrouded in a cool fog that day and even though it had lifted in the city itself the wind coming in off the bay made us wish we had dressed for football not baseball.
We took to our bleacher seats in left center and squinted through the setting sun to watch pitcher Matt Cain retire the side in the first.
The Giants scored two in the bottom of the inning then Cain went 1-2-3 to retire the side again. With the temperature dropping and our stamina fading we quietly thought about calling it a day early for the hour drive home when young Aidan, in his 9-year-old wisdom, blurted out “what if he throws a perfect game?”
We didn’t say anything for even in the second inning the superstition of sport was already rearing its ugly head, don’t acknowledge it and don’t jinx it.
Around the fourth or fifth inning though the cold began to get to us so we made the decision to move from the bleacher seats we scalped for $5 above face, to the standing room section between home plate and third. Shielded from the breeze, monitors in front of us, beer and bathrooms behind us we were set.
It was around the seventh inning I put my hands in my pockets and discovered that in my right I had placed the tickets that if this indeed became a perfect game I’d want to hold on to. I thought do I dare move them to a safe place now? Hell no, that would be acknowledging it, don’t jinx it.
As the game moved into the eighth the waiting around I thought was now worth it. I could say I saw a perfect game go into the eighth inning. When Cain retired the side yet again the crowd of 42,298 erupted in a roar unlike any I’ve ever heard.
As the Giants came to bat in the bottom of the eighth the crowd was never so happy to see three of their own make outs and get to the moment that had eluded this franchise for the entirety of its 129 year history in New York and San Francisco.
With the ninth upon us every working camera and every cell phone was poised to capture the momentous occasion. We got to two outs and I had my still camera around my neck and my video camera in hand. I panned from the field to the monitor in front of us showing the crowd going nuts down to my son screaming and proudly showing his SF cap he just got back to the field itself.
As Cain threw the final pitch I zoomed in on the hard throwing righty and heard the crack of the bat. I didn’t know where the ball had gone but a split second later by his reaction and that of the crowd around me I knew indeed this was history.
As I captured the celebration on the field I panned down once again to my son, jumping up and down, his screams drowned by the roar of the crowd around us. I tried to instill in him just how big a deal this was, that we had seen what so few over the history of this great game had. As we left the ballpark I said the way these fans were reacting is what it’s like to be at a ballpark when a World Series is won.
In looking back when we went to California on vacation we packed our baseball gloves, even though we didn’t have room for them, so that we could continue to have our almost daily games of catch. It was that love of the sport that brought us here on this night, this Wednesday before Fathers Day, to share in a moment in baseball history that will forever bond us. A story one day, God willing, he’ll share with his son.
(This is the video I captured of the final out.)