Matt Cain's Perfect Game: The Monty Python Connection
In Monty Python's Life of Brian, a moment of hilarity is achieved when a massive crowd chants, in unison, "We are all individuals. We are all different."
This has always been a favorite comedic theme. But, watching Matt Cain putting the finishing touches on a perfect game last night, it suddenly didn't seem so much funny as apropos.
A perfect game -- a feat in which a pitcher retires all 27 opposing batters without one so much as reaching first base -- used to be a once-in-a-generation event. There were no perfect games in all of baseball in the 34 seasons between 1922 and 1956; none between '57 and '68, and none between '69 and '81.
For some reason -- God knows why -- this has changed. In 2010, two pitchers hurled perfect games in one month. One month later, an umpire's obviously blown call with two outs in the ninth cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga another perfect game. Two years ago, we wrote about the eerie bunching of perfect games. And there have been two perfect games since then!
And yet, watching the tension of Cain's climb to the pinnacle dissolve into the euphoria of grown men wrestling on the field like children, the words of Monty Python made sense. Viewed as a statistical phenomena, perfect games are losing their six-leafed clover rarity. There have been 22 overall -- but five have come since 2009 (no-hitters are growing far more common as well).
Still, when watching the actual drama unfold -- and drama there was; Cain struck out 14 Houston Astros and was saved by a pair of spectacular outfield catches -- it became a moment unattached to a larger trend. When it comes to perfect games, they are all individuals. They are all different.
And, in this case, there was comedy, too. Your humble narrator had to subsequently explain to a group of foreigners what a perfect game was, and why this was special. And, invariably, why baseball is interesting.
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