COLUMN: King Felix XXIII: A writer’s imperfect recount of perfection
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 03:09
The word “perfect” is often overused in today’s culture. It’s been devalued by people deeming very good plans “perfect.” No human has ever drawn a truly perfect circle. The idea of “perfect” probably catches our fancy simply because of its sheer unattainable nature.
That being said, on Aug. 14, I was one of 21,889 lucky witnesses to a perfect performance by Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “perfect game” is when a pitcher (or pitchers) goes through all nine (or more) innings of a game without allowing a batter to reach base by hit, walk or otherwise, and all of the fielders are errorless. Twenty-seven batters up, 27 batters down — the most impressive feat a pitcher can accomplish, and it’s only happened 23 times in Major League history.
Once we got our fish and chips — this is in Seattle, mind you — we settled into the seats on a hot Wednesday afternoon. The Tampa Bay Rays had first-ups, and their leadoff hitter, Sam Fuld, lined a ball to deep left field. I must admit, I thought the ball was going to leave the yard until right fielder Eric Thames made a running catch. I immediately wondered if Hernandez, the Mariners’ staff ace, hadn’t brought his best stuff to the park. Boy, was I wrong.
In the top of the sixth, we went to grab a couple beers and get out of the sun. We ended up right by the King’s Court, a section devoted entirely to King Felix’s dominance, complete with matching T-shirts and signs. It was during this inning that His Highness struck out the side, drawing an “All hail!” from the getaway game crowd that was beginning to realize what was happening.
We reached our seats just before the eighth frame began, and Hernandez promptly struck out the side again, bringing the entire crowd to its feet. The Mariners’ half of the eighth inning felt so strange, as all the Seattle fans were hoping they would just go ahead and get out quickly so Felix could try for three more outs.
As he headed out to the mound, the crowd rose once more, urging the King to finish off the Rays. After retiring the first two batters of the inning — both pinch hitters — Hernandez fell behind in the count, 2-0. My friend and I looked at each other, worried that he might fall just a bit short. He roared back and struck out Sean Rodriguez on the next three pitches.
I’ve witnessed several historic sporting events throughout my life, but this was easily the most unforgettable. The half-empty stadium was as loud as I’ve ever heard at a baseball game. Even during his crowning interview, King Felix had difficulty finding the words to describe the experience, just as I had trouble finding my ticket of evidence as I left town two days later.
But, hey, nobody’s perfect.
— Michael Nowels is a junior elementary education major and is a weekly columnist for The Mirror.