When you were picked in the third round in 2004, just behind Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in baseball now, you are supposed to do something special. After two splashy but unsuccessful trades, first to the Mets and then to the Twins for quality pitchers, two releases, tendon surgery on his throwing arm and a line drive to the face, Philip Humber finally can say that he has.
While his nine month pregnant wife sat home watching, trying desperately not to give birth, and only one week after the death of a grandfather he was as close to as anyone in the family. Philip Humber, who before Saturday never threw a complete game at the major league level, compiling and “might have been” record of 11-10 in his career, became the 21st pitcher in history, the 19th in the modern era and only the third in a White Sox uniform to pitch nine innings and never allow an opponent to reach base.
He did it with fewer pitches (96) than all but one of those men and only threw three balls to two batters before retiring them, both in the last inning. The perfect game was only out of his control for an instant at the very end when he threw a low breaking pitch on a three ball two strike count to the last Seattle batter, Brendan Ryan, who took a half swing that was ruled a strike by the home plate umpire, Brian Runge. While he argued about it the ball rolled to the backstop and Humber barked at his catcher “Go and get it.” While A.J. Pierzynski complied, he shouted, “Now throw him out!” A.J. did and it was over. The visiting dugout emptied while Ryan and the umpire remained in debate about the wisdom of the call. Humber fell to the grass in disbelief and disappeared under a pile of players while the appreciative Seattle crowd stood and applauded again as it had since the seventh inning.
They will come from the Hall of Fame and collect his uniform shirt, his glove if they can, the resin bag from the pitchers mound and some dirt from the same place so that it can be enshrined with the memorabilia of the others since Cy Young's in 1904. To this Humber had a simple reply when asked how he felt about it,
“I have no idea what the name Philip Humber is doing on that list,” he said in a post game interview, “But I’m thankful it’s there.”
When it was over, the interviews done, the 100 text messages and 50 phone calls acknowledged, Philip Humber went back out onto the field alone, walked slowly towards the scoreboard in left field which remained lit with the zeroes he had put there. He shook his head in wonder.
To the names of Sandy Koufax, Roy Halliday, Cy Young, and Don Larsen, legends with perfect games, they will add the name Philip Humber. He is both awed and most grateful.