Every baseball game is the same.
Each team seeks to record 27 outs against its opponent. It does this in 3 out bursts, seeking to prevent the other team from recording those outs in order.
Every baseball game is different.
Every game brings players who are different from who they were the day before. Their batting averages have ticked up, or down. Sometimes they are hurt, or healed a little more. Each day hitters practice in a cage, tweaking and refining swings. Fielders take grounders and fly balls, teammates suggest methods and movements to improve. The starting pitcher's identity is, by definition, rotating around every day. Sometimes the fastball has extra pop. Sometimes a curve ball keeps hanging up. Legs tilt, knees bend, arms tire.
The same batter will find himself higher and lower in the lineup, one night seeing the bases full over and over again. On other nights, he will stand out on the bases, wondering why his teammates can't move him beyond first. Pitches bounce, runners scamper on wild pitches, balls kick into the stands, get snatched back from over the fence, deflected into the seats off of gloves (and heads), and spin fair and foul at the last millisecond.
Sometimes, if you are very lucky, you get to go to a game where almost nothing happens. When a pitcher allows no hits, and records 27 outs, he can put a 'no-hitter' on his calling card. When he allows no baserunners, and the same 27 out he can write the much more unusual 'perfect game'. It is the top of the mountain for a pitchign performance.
Every perfect game is the same.
One pitcher records 27 outs in perfect order. His solution to the challenge of 27 outs is to allow nothing to happen, except 27 outs. There is, in many ways of looking at it, only one way to pitch a perfect game.
Every perfect game is different.
Baseball is a game of stories. Because there is no clock, nothing pressing the game forward, there is time for a story between every action on the field. There does not have to be a story between every pitch, that would just be silly, but there is time for one. Every wince of a hitter who has fouled a ball off his own foot can be captured and mulled over. The look on a fielder's face when he has made an error, and is waiting for the next ball to be hit- to see if he will get a chance to redeem himself- can be read and mulled over in the moments between those pitches. Every time the ball is put into play, we, as fans, wait to see what it will add to the story.
Last night, baseball wrote a story called "Matt Cain's Perfect Game". Cain is lucky enough to pitch for the San Francisco Giants. I say lucky, not only because they were the underdog winners of the 2010 World Series, a team which Cain also belonged too, but for other reasons as well. The Giants have a wonderful stable of storytellers, many of them who put their work on the Internet. When good writers are able to write about a magic moment in the life of someone they love, about something they love, only good things can happen.
So, allow me to guide you to a few sources for the full story of Matt Cain, and his perfect game.
First the 2 highlights from MLB.com, to get you into the mood. First, Blanco's game saving catch in the 7th and the full game recap.
Here are all 27 outs:
Now, on to the stories:
Grant Brisbee wrote his reaction for the always high quality McCovey Chronicles.And he gives you 50 great things about the game, that's 50 stories in one, and there is room for them all.
Wendy Thurm seizes the keyboard at Fangraphs for this one.
Somebody noticed Ted Barrett was behind the plate, and thought that seemed familiar.
And last, the incomparable Joe Posnanski, with thoughts on the game, and the nature of the perfect game itself.
You can have a piece of this game, even if you weren't there. You, and I, for that matter, can share it now, through they eyes of others who experienced it in different ways. We, and our thought on Cain's moment of perfection, they become part of our own stories.
That is the magic. The ability to share a moment through a game, across time and space. I offer my congratulations to Mr. Matt Cain, and hope he enjoyed his magic moment as much as the rest of us did.