On April 21st, immortality came in Seattle for a 29-year old journeyman pitcher from Nacogdoches, Texas. Phil Humber (Umm-ber), the 3rd overall pick by the Mets in the 2004 MLB draft, had toiled with four different teams over the last seven years. His 12-10 career record wasn’t much to get excited about either. But the 30th career start for Humber was something to remember, as his White Sox beat the Mariners 4-0 making him part of baseball history forever! He threw 96 pitches (67 for strikes), struck out nine, and went to a 3-ball count only three times….all in the ninth inning. He’s an unknown no longer, and joins pitching legends like Cy Young, Sandy Koufax, and Randy Johnson who are some that have also achieved perfection!
The funny thing about perfect games……they have only come around on the average about once every 10,000 games or so. Thus, you would expect only the very best pitchers to have a shot at them. But, that has NOT always been the case. The odds were also with guys named Addie Joss, Charlie Robertson, Len Barker, and Dallas Braden. Phil Humber was REALLY a long shot. Last year was just his first full season as a starter, going 9-9 over 163 innings. In his first start this season (a no decision against the Orioles), he threw 115 pitches but lasted only 5-1/3 innings. He revealed that his bullpen warm-up just prior to his perfect game was his worst ever. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski called it crap! So, why would he become so fortunate to do something that so few pitchers before him have done? Well, luck and good fortune have hit Phil Humber before, and I’ll remind you about that episode shortly…..
But first, I can’t talk about perfect games without also saying something about no-hitters. They have been thrown on the average about once every 1,000 games……much more frequently than perfect games, as you would expect. To date, 273 are in the record books (230 since 1900). A couple of unsuspecting no-hitter facts for you….……only SIX pitchers have thrown both a no-hitter and a perfect game (Randy Johnson, Addie Ross, Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay, Jim Bunning, and Sandy Koufax), but the pitcher that has thrown the most no-hitters in baseball history (Nolan Ryan with seven) NEVER threw a perfect game! Bet you didn’t know that?
Now, back to Phil Humber……. Few will recall that he was also drafted in the 29th round out of high school by the New York Yankees. He chose instead to attend Rice University, where he enjoyed as much success as any collegiate player ever. Compiling a 35-8 record, he once fanned 17 batters in one game, and was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of the 2003 College World Series for Rice when they beat Stanford. It was Rice’s first national championship in any sport. He was also part of Rice’s iconic “Big Three”, which included Jeff Neimann and Wade Townsend. Amazingly, all three Rice pitchers were selected in the first eight overall picks of the 2004 MLB Draft. An occurrence almost as rare as a perfect game!
- Phil Humber’s Perfect Game Puts Him Amongst the Legends of the Game (bleacherreport.com)
- Heyman: Humber An Unlikely Hero (chicago.cbslocal.com)
Filed under: Pro Baseball
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