Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Seventh Perfect Game

Catfish Hunter May 8, 1968 versus MIN 4-0

- Continued

1 comment:

  1. While you may never know it from the authors affection for Hunter (more on this later), Catfish was pitching for OAK at the time.

    He was quite a character. Catfish made his MLB debut at 19 and pitched regularly for the A’s (then of KC) from the very beginning of his career. He had six mediocre years before finally taking off at age 25.

    Reminds me of the events of this week, with the emergence of Felix Hernandez (granted only 3 starts). He is also 19 and SEA will have him under control for 6 seasons. Imagine a power arm like that (assuming he stays healthy and SEA has had a problem keeping some great arms healthy) hitting the free agency market at 25. Which is how old Jon (nee Jonathan) Papelbon is now. But I digress.

    Hunter was a country kid from NC. A top prospect in his junior year in high school who lost some of his top status when his friend accidentally shot him that winter. Now this wasn’t a Gary Sheffield type shooting, but a hunting accident. Regardless, he still went on to a great senior year and was signed by Charles O Finey for a $75,000 bonus – one year before the first draft.

    As for the game itself – it came before Hunter truly emerged as a star. He showed flashes of brilliance (like on May 8), but had not yet consistently pitched great. Plus, for now, he pitched on a crappy team. The most impressive thing about this game was that it was against a pretty good team (maybe the best hitting opponent in a perfect game). The Twins lineup included HOFers Carew and Killebrew and All Stars tony Oliva and Cesar Tovar. From the description of the game, there were a number of “at ems” – hard hit balls that were caught. Apparently the last batter of the game (Rich Reese a veteran utility player) had a very memorable AB. An eventual strikeout to end the game, but it took 11 pitches. Reese fouled off 5 straight 3-2 fastballs before swinging through the final pitch. Imagine the tension of six straight 3-2 pitches with a perfect game on the line. The whopping crowd of 6,000 must have been going crazy.

    On a bigger note, I am getting pissed off at this book.

    First of all, the writer is obsessed with contracts and money. Every chapter it seems has some reference to a player’s contract status, bonus, holdout, the players association and reserve clause. And a lot of the writing is just giving the absolute basics. The White Sox scandal The reserve clause. The bonus baby rules of the 60s. Pension fights with ownership in the 50s. Dawning of free agency. The funny thing is these are all basic baseball facts. Most fans know all this info. And I would think that this book is not likely to be read by casual fans. It would take a real fan of baseball to read this book and those real fans already now this stuff.

    Second, he has taken a few veiled shots at the Red Sox. Of course I am likely being a bit sensitive about this but also, and thirdly the authors is a certified Yankee lover. Now I know why the Larsen chapter was ridiculous. I should have known, since the writer came up with the idea while at Yankee stadium during the Cone game. But he really is incapable of saying anything bad about the Yankees or a Yankee player.

    For instance the Hunter game – you would swear he was already in pinstripes. And Reggie Jackson was the greatest play – while still on the A’s. But of course, according to the author it would take them going to the Yankees in the 70sw before they blossomed into stars. Okay, whatever. They only won 3 consecutive WS in OAK. And the last five pages of the Hunter chapter are about what he did after the perfect game (not including the 3 WS) – his batter for FA and then his success on NY.

    I am tempted to stop reading. But will probably press on. I may vomit when I get to the NY, NY chapter. It will be interesting to see what he thinks of Cone (who was really nothing more than a mercenary in his career) and Wells (who he will probably describe as a true Yankee warrior/hero, but now pitches for the Sox).