I was there for Roy Halladay’s perfect game against the Marlins Saturday night. Good thing too, it created a memory ready to be stirred. It will forever be the evening I attended a historic game with a good friend, as opposed to the first time I’ve ever over-paid for a Marlins ticket [Club level]. Prior to the consecration, the evening appeared to be adding insult to the monetary injury, as we arrived late for the game [bot of the 3rd], proceeded to over pay for food [I suppose just stating that we ate at the stadium would suffice] and arrived at our seats to start the 5th inning.
The very idea which brought me to the game — a great pitching match-up — I soon realized was cruelly being used to turn this into my most inefficient sports-related expenditure ever, at $9.20/inning and quick innings at that!
I have attended about 5 games a season since the Marlins have been around. For a while, at or about the turn of the century, when my kids were still at an age where their hatred of attending MLB games was unarticulated, I was actually banned from purchasing Fish Bowl tickets [Depression-era pricing for last 2 rows in upper deck] at the stadium after the All-Star break. The cost of parking exceeded the cost of tickets for many a season. As an aside, this has nothing to do with where we actually sat at the games. Turns out those empty seats you see on TV, are a blessing in no disguise.
So what was the feeling at the stadium Saturday night? Despite the hated opponent and classic pitching match-up, the biggest factor about the crowd at the game was the post-game salsa concert. The higher numbers attributed to those also there to enjoy the concert, meant that we Marlin [The Marlin Fan as Jonathan Zaslow might say] fans enjoyed a respite from being out-noised in our own home during a big game.
There always seems to be an awkward detente between us baseball fans and those there mainly for the post-game concert? Latin concert goers typically include younger attractive women [I didn’t say that they were unwelcome interlopers], jewelry and a consistently unaccountable level of excitement. We baseball fans stare at them whenever they get flashed on the big screens as though they are animals to which we would give shelter, but not trust.
I wonder what Roy Halladay, with his now legendary bent-on-one-thing focus, was thinking about his start? Perhaps Graham Greene would have captured it best:
This place was very like the world: overcrowded with lust and crime and unhappy love, it stank to heaven; but I realized that after all it was possible to find peace there, when you knew for certain that the time was short.
That’s how he pitched, like time was short. Treating the Marlins with a shabby indifference, carrion for a vulture with a plan. Clearly sensing my panic over the quick pace of the game and the bleak prospects for a rain-delay, Halladay pitched as though a door had opened in his mind and allowed him to glimpse his future with this perfect game in his resume.
|Bottom of 5th – Roy Halladay pitching||PHI||FLA|
|Jorge Cantu||Strike (looking), J Cantu grounded out to second||1||0|
|Dan Uggla||Strike (swinging), Strike (looking), Ball, Ball, Ball, Foul, D Uggla flied out to center||1||0|
|Cody Ross||Ball, Strike (looking), C Ross grounded out to first||1||0|
Halladay’s perfect game through the 5th inning immediately presented a moral dilemma. Root for the chance to watch a historic game or a Marlins victory? No contest, I wanted to be at the ballpark for a historic game, as I told my friend. He looked at me like Jack Bauer looked at Tony Almeida in the DC Metro tunnels during Season 7. It’s a look I never want to see again, but yes, I still wanted to see the perfect game.
|Bottom of the 6th – Roy Halladay pitching||PHI||FLA|
|Brett Hayes||Strike (looking), Strike (foul), Strike (swinging), B Hayes struck out swinging||1||0|
|Cameron Maybin||Ball, Ball, Strike (swinging), Ball, C Maybin grounded out to shortstop||1||0|
|Josh Johnson||Strike (looking), J Johnson flied out to left||1||0|
Now I’m looking around at a number of Philadelphia Phillie fans sitting around us and imagine that it must be pretty cool to show up as the visitors and get to watch a perfect game. My attention soon focused on a family right in front of us. Left to right; Dad [seemed like a Herb], Mom [Utley jersey], daughter 1 [Hamels jersey] and daughter 2 [Victorino jersey]. They seem pretty calm about what they are witnessing. Must be veteran fans I figure, ya know, never too high or too low. To paraphrase Miles in Risky Business, I can smell MLB knowledge.
|Bottom of the 7th – Roy Halladay pitching||PHI||FLA|
|Chris Coghlan||Ball, Ball, Strike (looking), Strike (swinging), Strike (looking), C Coghlan struck out looking||1||0|
|Gaby Sanchez||Ball, Strike (foul), Strike (foul), Foul, Ball, Ball, G Sanchez lined out to left||1||0|
|Hanley Ramirez||Strike (looking), Ball, Ball, Ball, Strike (foul), Strike (looking), H Ramirez struck out looking
Hanley stood there after the called strike, like a black question mark, ready to go, ready to stay, poised on his bat.
Being at a MLB game is no way to really watch a game closely. How could Coghlan and Ramirez have not swung at close pitches during a perfect game? Were the pitches even close? Like most fanatics, the integrity of the home plate umpire [Mike DiMuro] immediately came into question … [submarine dive horn] … [submarine dive horn] PLIQ alert. My best google smear odds came down to whether DiMuro could have been a fellow Mormon like Halladay … and this game represented a … a mission to him for, yes …. Nah, no luck on the conspiracy front. The jersey-clad family, still calm. Cool customers these folks are.
|Bottom of the 8th – Roy Halladay pitching||PHI||FLA|
|Jorge Cantu||Ball, Ball, Strike (foul), J Cantu grounded out to third||1||0|
|Dan Uggla||Ball, Strike (looking), Ball, Strike (foul), Strike (looking), D Uggla struck out looking||1||0|
|Cody Ross||Strike (foul), C Ross popped out to shortstop||1||0|
The sagacious power of Halladay drew nearer to the Marlins death every inning. Easy Graham … that aside, there was something definitely wrong with the jersey-clad clan. They have not moved, they’re not even buzzing with intra-family small talk designed to avoid silence [yes I was that close], but mainly reveal a vacancy. Granted, the jumbotron ads in Spanish for the salsa singers appearing in concert after the game – Luis Enrique and Jerry Rivera – may have unnerved them. But still these are Philly fans, they have likely witnessed human sacrifices at the old Vet.
The irrational fan in me begins to take over. I fantasize about starting a rumor that Halladay is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt under his uniform. But I reject the idea. See, I would have had to start the rumor before the 7th inning for it to have a realistic chance of working.
|Bottom of the 9th – Roy Halladay pitching||PHI||FLA|
|Mike Lamb||[Stadium announcer] Pinch-hitting … Mike Lamb.
My friend, who goes by a tribal-like nickname which bears no relation to his actual name [Wichi], begins chanting ‘Lamb to slaughter’ with an unblinking H. Lector-type intensity.
Ball, Strike (foul), Ball, M Lamb flied out to center
Dear Elias Sports Bureau, would it kill you to note that it was a 430 FOOT flyout?
|Wes Helms||Strike (looking), Strike (swinging), Ball, Strike (looking), W Helms struck out looking
OK – 1 last fantasy – last hitter Paulino walks on a horrible call by DiMuro. Hallady loses his perfect game. Then Coghlan homers on the 1st pitch and Halladay loses the no-hitter, shutout and game. As he walks off the mound, he charges DiMuro …
|Ronny Paulino||Strike (foul), Ball, Strike (foul),
Herb under intense pressure from the jersey-wearing part of the family, finally rises from his seat [hell, it’s his first body motion since the 5th inning] after the 2nd strike. I make a note to remind him of this should his selfish actions have cost Hallady the perfect game
R Paulino grounded out to third