Sunday, April 22, 2012

Deja vu all over again

I know I'm not the only blogger to post about this topic, but Philip Humber pitched the 21st perfect game in baseball history yesterday.

He joins Mark Buehrle and Charlie Robertson (a career 49-80 hurler) as the only White Sox pitchers to toss a perfecto.

So just who is this Humber guy, anyways?

I don't want to sound like a hipster or anything, but I was actually collecting cards of Philip Humber before his days with the White Sox, and way before yesterday's perfect game.

Humber was the 3rd overall pick in the 2005 draft. While he made it to the bigs fairly quickly, he never quite panned out. Between 2006-07, he pitched just nine innings for the Mets, with a 6.00 ERA.

Before last year (or perhaps even before yesterday), many people only knew Humber as one of the key players the Mets sent to the Twins in the deal that brought ace Johan Santana to New York.

Humber completely dropped off the radar in his time with Minnesota, pitching in 20 2/3 innings and posting a horrible 6.10 ERA. (I'm fairly certain that the above card was the only one ever produced of him as a Twin.)

It was around this time that I began collecting him. I found dozens and dozens of Humber's cards in dime boxes over the next few years. I currently own ten different Humber rookies, all thanks to dime boxes.

It was apparent that the baseball (and baseball card) community had pretty much given up on him.

I guess I did too, but I went on collecting him anyways, just for fun and a reminder of "what could have been".

I usually keep up with the whereabouts of guys I collect, but even I lost track of Humber after his time with Minnesota was done.

He signed with the Royals in December of '09. He'd go 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA in 21 2/3 innings with Kansas City in 2010, the most innings he'd pitched in a season up to that point.

The A's selected him off waivers from the Royals after the close of the 2010 season. The White Sox snagged him off waivers from Oakland a month later.

The news of Humber coming to the Sox was the first I'd heard of him in about two years or so.

He came out of nowhere to have an absolutely monstrous first half in 2011. While he didn't make the All-Star team, he was a definite contender. While he fell off a bit in the second half, he still put up a respectable 9-9 record with a modest 3.75 ERA.

The 163 innings he pitched last year more than tripled his previous career total.

He joined the likes of Brandon McCarthy in my "saved from obscurity" club.

And now this Humber has a perfect game to add to his resume. A former waiver-wire pickup, at that. (I wonder if that's ever happened before.)


...I missed it.

It's been nagging me all day. "You missed it. You missed it. You missed it."

I've had terrible luck when it comes to seeing no-hitters and perfect games live. And I've had the chance to see quite a few.

The only full no-hitter I've ever seen live was Roy Halladay's no-no in the 2010 NLDS. That easily ranks among the most amazing feats I've ever witnessed live.

I caught the end of Ervin Santana's no-hitter last year. The MLB Network cut in to its regularly scheduled programming with the last three outs.

And in a trend that continues to haunt me, I was out of the house for the majority of Francisco Liriano's no-hitter against the White Sox last year. At least I got to catch the final few outs of that one.

Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009 came on what seemed like any other lazy summer afternoon. I caught the first inning or so of the Sox game that day, until a couple of my friends called me to toss the football around at the park. So I turned off the game and hung out with them for a while.

One of my friends is a huge White Sox fan, and he has that thing where it sends you a text every time something happens in the Sox game. (As you might be able to tell, I'm not exactly up to snuff on all the features cell phones have to offer.)

Right out of the blue, he shouted, "MARK BUEHRLE THREW A FREAKIN' PERFECT GAME!". (Okay, he used a word other than "freakin'".)

We ditched the football and went over to his house to catch the highlights. I couldn't believe it. There was DeWayne Wise making one of the best catches I'd ever see. And there was Jason Bartlett grounding out to cap off the perfect game.

About an hour later, the biggest thunderstorm I've ever seen swept through our area.

I guess that was a sign.

Ironically, I remember having a discussion about Humber with that same friend last summer.

Yesterday, I was too busy ripping, sorting, scanning, and blogging about my Gypsy Queen breaks to turn on the TV. And then I went to play basketball with some other friends about an hour later.

My friends are huge basketball fans, so we went back to one of their houses to catch the end of the Bulls game. (I could care less about basketball, but I have to admit that I'm more aware of the goings-on in the NBA this year than I've ever been, thanks to my friends.)

While the game was going on, I thought I saw something flash by on ESPN's ticker near the bottom of the screen. I thought I must've read it wrong, so I waited for it to come by again, completely ignoring the basketball game. And then I saw it again:

"Philip Humber throws the 21st perfect game in MLB history."

Right away, I said "A perfect game?!". Which led one of my friends to later ask, "So, Nick, is baseball your favorite sport?" ("Yes", I told him.)

I didn't want to be rude, so I smiled and said "I'll see what happened once I get home." But I really wanted to see those highlights that second. Watching the last three minutes of that dang Bulls game was the longest three minutes of my life. And then the realization that I had missed yet another perfect game set in. And I was one of the very few who had the chance to actually see it. I did eventually get to see the highlights. I did eventually get to see Brendan Ryan strike out to end it.

Oh, well. Another "Diner" moment with my friends happened later that night. A cheeseburger and fries drowned out the fact that I missed another perfecto.

So congratulations, Mr. Humber, on tossing a perfect game.

Hopefully, I'll be there to see the next one.

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