Perfect moments in White Sox history

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Perfect moments in White Sox history

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.
Fun note

Three-hitters in each perfecto: Ty Cobb, Evan Longoria, Ichiro

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer took the pregame spin, part of the Blackhawks’ “One More Shift” series on Friday night. High above him at the United Center hang several retired Blackhawks numbers.

As of now, Larmer’s No. 28 isn’t among them, but he’s OK with that.

“I think that really is reserved for very special people,” Larmer said.

OK, but isn’t he one of those in the Blackhawks’ history?

“Thank you, but I think that Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito and Denis Savard and Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote are kind of in a league of their own,” he said.

Many would say the same about Larmer, who ranks fourth in Blackhawks history with 923 points, third in goals (406) and fifth in assists (517). Over his entire NHL career Larmer played in 1,006 regular-season games, recording 1,012 points. But whether or not his number is retired by the Blackhawks, coming back for events, including Friday’s, is a treat.

“It’s nerve-wracking and it’s going to be fun,” Larmer said prior to his spin on the ice. “It’s really quite an honor and a surprise to me to be able to do this and I just, it’s a great organization and they’ve always been great to me. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Larmer put together a stellar career. Many believe it deserves a retired number here – and maybe more. Blackhawks play-by-play man Pat Foley, when accepting the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in November of 2014, spoke immediately on how Larmer should be in the hall, too.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I’ve been fortunate enough to call Blackhawks hockey for over a third of the games they’ve ever played and I’ve never seen a better two-way player come through here,” Foley said that day about Larmer. “When Steve Larmer left Chicago and went to New York, it’s no coincidence that shortly thereafter, they won the Stanley Cup.”

Larmer laughed when reminded of Foley’s speech.

“Well, Pat’s a good friend,” Larmer said with a smile. “He’s always been a good friend. For the last 35 years, since the early 1980s when he was doing radio and TV back then and we all traveled together and hung out together and it was one good group. It’s fun. I mean, Pat’s always been a big supporter and a really good friend.”

Larmer would’ve loved to have hoisted the Stanley Cup during his time with the Blackhawks. Coming as close as they did in 1992 stayed with him for a bit – and it hurt.

“That stung deeply. Because you’re starting to get older and you’re thinking, ‘oh my God, that was it, that was the chance and it’s freaking gone,’ right? It’s never going to happen again,” Larmer recalled. “I’m not one of those guys who happened along and all of a sudden you’re on a team and you win like the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. We lost out to the team that always won, right? It was disappointing that way. But when you get to that point and you have that run, then we lost to Pittsburgh, that stuck with me for a year in a half. I couldn’t let it go. It was always in the back of my mind. You’re out there playing and you’re sitting on the bench and still thinking about that.”

So when Larmer got another chance with the New York Rangers – he was dealt there in a three-way deal involving the Rangers, Blackhawks and Hartford Whalers – it meant everything.

“The neat thing about going to New York is it gave me another chance to play with some great players and have that opportunity to win and finally get over that hump,” he said. “It was a neat city to win in and to be able to play with guys like Mark Messier and Leach and all those players was a lot of fun.”

Larmer put up fantastic numbers in his career. He got to hoist a Cup near the end of his career. His number should be in the rafters to commemorate that great career.

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the NHL's salary cap could stay flat next year, reports ESPN's Craig Custance.

Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed at the latest NHL's Board of Governors meeting that the projected ceiling for the 2017-18 campaign could be an increase between zero and $2 million, which isn't exactly encouraging considering the projection at this time of year is normally an optimistic one.

That means the salary cap may be closer to — or at — the $73 million it's at right now.

In the last four years, the cap has increased by $4.3 million in 2013-14, $4.7 million in 2014-15, $2.4 million in 2015-16 and $1.6 million in 2016-17. The number continues to descend, and it affects big-budget teams like the Blackhawks the most.

It makes it especially difficult for the Blackhawks to navigate because they own two of the highest paid players in the league in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom carry a $10.5 million cap hit through 2022-23. It's a great problem to have, though.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

According to capfriendly.com, Chicago currently has $60.6 million tied up to 14 players — eight forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender — next season. If the cap stays the same, that means the Blackhawks must fill out the rest of their roster with fewer than $13 million to work with and still have to sign Artemi Panarin to a long-term extension.

And they may need to move salary to do it, with the potential cap overages crunching things even more.

On the open market, Panarin would probably be able to earn Vladimir Tarasenko money — a seven-year deal that carries a $7.5 million cap hit — but if he prefers to remain in Chicago, the contract would likely be in the range of Johnny Gaudreau's six-year deal with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

With the expansion draft looming, the Blackhawks know they're going to lose a player to Las Vegas in the offseason. The two likely candidates, as it stands, are Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and the former would free up $3 million in cap space while the latter $825,000.

If that won't get the job done, the Blackhawks may be forced to part ways with a core player such as Brent Seabrook and his eight-year, $55 million contract, although he has a full no-movement clause until 2021-22 and it would be very hard to imagine since you're trying to maximize your current championship window.

Anything is possible, however, after seeing promising young guys like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw shipped out of Chicago due to a tight budget.

It's a challenge general manager Stan Bowman has certainly already been thinking about, and a stagnant salary cap doesn't make things any easier.