Few and far between in life are the moments that feel immediately historic. Instants where a period of reflection takes place so quickly after the happenstance, that you have yet to fully fathom the monumentality of what just occurred.
We will all forever remember where we were when Roy Halladay pitched the 20th perfect game in the 135-year history of major league baseball. Every single one of us. Forgetting our own personal recollections of Halladay’s masterpiece decades from now would be harder than remembering them.
For example, I can easily envision myself waxing poetic forty years from now, recalling to my grandchildren about how I watched this game with my father, the night after his 56th birthday. It will always stand out to me because my dad lives in a “DVR-world,” as he so eloquently puts it. A world where he sacrifices the actual viewing of a live game in order to fast forward the idle time between pitches.
But it just so happened that of all nights, this was the night he chose to sit down with me in the living room and watch Roy Halladay fillet the fish.
There are two roads I can take you down at this point – The Road of Analysis and The Road of Reflection. Odds are, you’ve read the ESPN recaps. You’ve been to Phillies.com and you’ll eagerly anticipate Jayson Stark adding his oodles of fascinating tidbits.
So, rather than waste your time and repeat what you can find on any other website, let’s make this moment personal for all of us. Let’s discuss the sentimentality of this Billy Chapel-like performance. Tell me your stories. In the comments section, write and tell me where you were when this game took place; what made it memorable; what made it special.
Because that is exactly what it was – special. The jittery, bubbly feeling we were left with when Ryan Howard sprinted from the first base bag to the pitchers mound, or after Carlos Ruiz and Halladay embraced felt eerily similar to the moment etched in time when Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske. Both were feelings of satisfaction, pride, and, most importantly, relief.
Halladay’s perfecto was the second in Phillies history and the first since Jim Bunning’s 1964 gem. Until now, any of us under the age of 50 have never truly experienced one of our guys pitching a perfect game.
My dad was nine years old when Bunning man-handled the Mets. He clearly remembers watching it in the basement of his friend Stevie’s house, a boy who is now a middle-aged math teacher at my former high school. For my dad, this was the one shining moment during a dark period of both Phillies baseball and American history.
Much like many other young children, my dad was deeply wounded by John F. Kennedy’s assassination the year prior to Bunning’s perfect game. Just as he remembers being in Stevie’s basement watching Bunning, he remembers playing football with his friends and dedicating a touchdown to the memory of JFK the day he died. Both represented those aforementioned “immediately historic” moments – one glorious, the other tragic.
After Bunning’s perfecto, we all know what happened to the ’64 Phillies. Many of you older fans can probably tell me exactly where you were on the final day of the 1964 season, too, when it sunk in that the Phils had let a massive lead slip away. You can tell me where you were when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were killed, and where you were at the end of 60s when “one giant leap for mankind” was made.
That’s the point. These are moments when statistical analysis does not matter, moments when groundball-flyball ratios and criticisms of pinch-hitting Wes Helms for the fleet-footed Cameron Maybin are secondary to the unforgettable mark a perfect game leaves in each of our hearts.
Unforgettable was the rocket Wilson Valdez launched from deep short to nail Maybin at first base, the scorched one hopper that Juan Castro snagged at third, or the game-ending groundout from the bat of Ronny Paulino. And of course, Halladay being Halladay, most of his praise was re-directed to Ruiz for calling such a magnificent game.
Whether or not you care about the personal reflections I’ve outlined in this space, take this moment for what its worth and just smile. Let’s embrace this feeling and talk about stats tomorrow.
We could go the rest of our lives without seeing another Phillie retire twenty-seven men in order.