On Saturday, Philip Humber became the third White Sox pitcher to achieve perfection by twirling a gem in the Emerald City. So let's take the time to take a look at perfect moments in White Sox history.
In 1908, while the Cubs, Giants and Pirates were in the thick of a heated pennant race which culminated with the "Merkle Boner" and ended with the most recent World Series win for the Northsiders, the White Sox were also fighting it out for the flag.
On September 29th, Ed Walsh, carrying the team on his back all season long, recorded his 38th AND 39th victories of the season, both complete games, over the Red Sox by scores of 5-1 and 2-0, while allowing only 7 hits and striking out 15 in his day's work.
Three days later, Walsh was at it again, this time in Cleveland, striking out 15 Indians. The Sox and Tribe combined for four hits on the afternoon...but all four were by the home team. It was Addie Joss, nicknamed "The Human Hairpin" for his slender physique, who emerged with a 74-pitch, 1-0 perfect game victory. It was the fourth perfecto in Major League history, and when the next one was thrown, it would be one of Comiskey's charges doing the honors.
The year was 1922, the date was April 30th. Taking the hill at Navin Field in Detroit was Charles Culbertson Robertson, a 26-year old right-hander from Texas. It was his fourth career start, and his career mark was 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA entering the game. These Tigers, led by player-manager Ty Cobb, hit .306 as a team in 1922 (with Cobb himself hitting .401) but on this day, they would get nothing.
Cobb didn't make it easy; in the fifth inning, the belligerent Bengal had the game stopped twice; first to complain that Robertson was doctoring the baseball, second to have the glove of first baseman Earl Sheely inspected. Umpires found nothing. Throughout the game, Tyrus the Terrible continued to confiscate balls put out of play to plead his case that something was amiss. When the smoke cleared, it was 27 Tigers up, 27 Tigers down; a doubly impressive feat against a Tiger lineup featuring two Hall of Famers (Cobb and rightfielder Harry Heilmann) and eyepopping offensive numbers. Robertson, the unlikely hero, finished the day with six strikeouts while offering a total of 90 pitches.
Home Plate umpire: Dick Nallin
Catcher: Ray SchalkOpposing starter: Herman Pillette
Robertson lost his next start at home against the Indians, going six innings with 4 earned runs. Unfortunately, Robertson was never able to duplicate his success. He finished 1922 14-15 with a decent enough 3.64 ERA (111 ERA), and hung on with the Sox until being claimed off waivers New Year's Eve 1925 by the St. Louis Browns, compiling a 39-56 record with the White Sox and going 10-24 in three seasons with the Browns and Braves.
His .380 career winning percentage is just below Dallas Braden (.419) for worst by a perfect game pitcher.
Fast forward to July 23, 2009 for the Sox next perfecto.
Mark Buehrle entered the game with a no-hitter already under his belt and a reputation as the long-time ace of the Southside staff. Buehrle's assignment was a Tampa Bay Rays team jam-packed with young, budding talent (and five 2009 All-Stars; Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Jason Bartlett).
Despite being a bit of a letdown after a 2008 World Series appearance, this Rays team was no pushover. Buehrle dispatched of the Rays in his customary quickness (2 hours, 3 minutes; eight minutes slower than Robertson...but Buehrle had TV commercials to deal with), equaling Robertson's six punch-outs while throwing 26 more pitches along the way.
Of the 21 balls in play, the Sox Southpaw coaxed 11 ground ball outs from the bats of Joe Maddon's Rays, with the remaining 10 in the air. The defining moment of the game came when Dewayne Wise made an unforgettable grab in left-center of a Gabe Kapler shot after entering the game to begin the inning as a defensive replacement (for Carlos Quentin with Scott Podsednik moving from center to left) in the ninth. That cleared the way for a Michel Hernandez strikeout and a Bartlett groundout to short (Alexeiiiiiiiii! YES!!!) to give the immensely popular Buehrle his place in history.
Home Plate umpire: Eric Cooper
Catcher: Ramon Castro
Opposing starter: Scott Kazmir
Buehrle went on to set a Major League record with 45 straight batters retired as he sent down the first 17 batters in his next start at Minnesota, but the Twins got the best of him, and he ended up taking the loss, giving up 5 earned runs in 6.1 innings of work.
Buehrle finished his White Sox career with 161 wins, good for 6th in franchise history, and is among the finest pitchers to don the pinstripes.
From a 38th round surprise to the third overall selection in the 2004 draft, the third White Sox masterpiece, of course was painted by Philip Humber yesterday afternoon at Safeco Field against a Mariners team suffering from historical offensive ineptitude, even if one of this generation's finest hitters; Ichiro Suzuki occupies the 3-spot.
Ironically, this was the same Humber whose first start was skipped due to a rainout in Cleveland. Humber's second start of the season featured fantastic pitch economy (according to today's standards) throwing no more than 16 pitches in any inning (16 was in the ninth), with a sequence of 8-6-6 in innings 4-5-6. Unlike Buehrle, he relied on the vast expanses of Safeco Field to produce 13 fly balls opposed to just five on the ground, while striking out nine.
That busy ninth inning included the most suspenseful at-bats, with Humber battling back from a 3-0 count to whiff Michael Saunders and the controversial 3-2 check-swing by Brendan Ryan on pitch 96 which led to a C-1B putout to end the game.
Home Plate umpire: Brian Runge
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski
Opposing starter: Blake Beavan
What's next for Humber? We'll have to wait until likely Thursday, when he'll face a much more daunting task which is the Red Sox lineup. But that's not really important, because the perfect game puts Humber in a class of just 21, which nobody can take from him no matter where his right arm takes him.
Three-hitters in each perfecto: Ty Cobb, Evan Longoria, Ichiro