There’s a line in the song “Little By Little” from the band Oasis – my favorite band of all time – that I’m thinking about while writing this blog post. Am I thinking about it because I’m a few hours away from seeing Oasis’ former lead songwriter and co-vocalist Noel Gallagher in concert? Maybe. (Yes.) But it’s applicable here:
True perfection has to be imperfect
I know that sounds foolish but it’s true
I’m not really sure what this means, to be totally honest, as I’m not really sure what a good deal of Oasis’s lyrics meant. But – it’s true. On July 26, in front of 4,895 fans at Alliance Bank Stadium, Columbus starter Justin Germano was both far from – and truly – perfect.
It was a beautiful Tuesday night for baseball – 81 degrees, clear skies overhead – with the Chiefs back home from a four-game road swing at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The finale had been one of Syracuse’s ugliest losses, a 15-1 defeat that saw relief ace…er, outfielder…er, relief ace Jeff Frazier mop up with his second scoreless appearance of the year. No reason to fret, though, as the Chiefs would see a 28-year old with an 0-2 record and 4.58 ERA in 20 games with Columbus in 2011 – Justin Germano.
(It is worth re-pointing out the fact that, yes, Germano had ZERO WINS coming into this game. You or I, whoever you may be, seemed to have as good of a chance of throwing a perfect game as Germano did at this moment.)
From what I can remember, there was nothing out of the ordinary for the majority of the day. I likely had a coolatta at Dunkin Donuts’ or some chicken strips from KFC. I interviewed Josh Wilkie for our pregame show. I chatted with my friends Alex and Krista on Gmail. There was no reason to expect anything extraordinary about the day.
And it seemed that way once the game started, as well. Michael Aubrey hit a laser of a ground ball in the first inning. Chris Marrero lined out in the second. I specifically remember thinking that the Chiefs had a couple of exceptionally-well hit outs in the first few frames. Germano was getting outs, but looked nothing like the overpowering starter he would soon become.
But then he settled into a groove. Germano struck out Corey Brown to end the third. He fanned two Chiefs in the fourth. He whiffed Seth Bynum to end the fifth. And by that point – with 15 straight outs – I started to feel like something was up here.
The Clippers had already put a few runs on the board – and their three runs would be two more than Germano needed. He struck out Brown again to end the sixth. He got Aubrey on a rare sharp grounder to end the seventh. By this point, Germano’s curve ball was absolutely flummoxing the Chiefs.
In the eighth, Chris Marrero as part of another 1-2-3 frame. And then came the ninth. Jhonatan Solano hit a ball fairly well – but right at center field Tim Fedroff. One out. Jeff Frazier flied out weakly to left fielder Jerad Head. Two outs. Then Corey Brown came up, and Germano fired over a couple of strikes, and then…this.
On an imperfect night – for an imperfect starter – it was true perfection, indeed.
Thanks for a great season, everyone. Let’s do it again in 2012.
It’s not easy to do four of anything consecutively. It’s not even easy to place four round tokens in a row:
As you can see from the instructive video, sometimes one of the tokens will skydive into your nearby bowl of popcorn, thwarting your attempt to place four in a row.
On May 14th, 2011, nothing–snack food or otherwise–stopped Michael Aubrey.
Entering the game, Aubrey had taken 59 at-bats in more than a month. Over that time, he launched exactly as many home runs as my mom Sue, Kevin’s car Floyd (RIP) and Jesse and the Rippers: 0. After belting 22 homers in 366 at-bats with Norfolk a year prior, this vast taiga of homerunlessness was rather unexpected.
On the Saturday in question, though, Aubrey let loose.
In the first inning, against Jeremy Hall, Aubrey did this:
Then, his next time up, Aubrey did this:
In the fourth inning, against reliever Chris Bootcheck, this:
And in the seventh, with reliever Ryan Reid seemingly disinterested in throwing to Aubrey, this:
Four times at the plate. Four homers. Unfathomable. Here’s what a prescient Aubrey said the next day:
A perfect game and a four HR game. In the same ballpark. Less than three months apart.
A special season. Enjoyed spending it with you readers and you, Kevin. Finish us off.
Before 2011, I would rank my favorite annual holidays in the following order (note: I say annual because otherwise the release of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012 would trump all of these) –
5. Flag Day/Veterans Day/Memorial Day
After 2011, sorry days of patriotism, you’ve been released – Strasmus is definitely going in the Top 5. (Don’t worry, Festivus, you’re safe.)
Stephen Strasburg took the baseball world by storm in 2010 when he exploded on the scene with Harrisburg, Syracuse, and eventually the Nationals. The right-handed phenom was 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA in the minors and 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 major league starts. But then – on an August 21 start against Philadelphia – disaster struck. Strasburg was taken out of the game after a pitch to Domonic Brown with an apparent shoulder injury. It was one. A torn ulnar collateral ligament meant Strasburg had to have Tommy John surgery and miss nearly a year of action.
But a quick recovery – criticized as perhaps too quick – put Strasburg back on a minor league diamond on August 7 with Hagerstown. And after a few starts – some dominating, some not so much – the “most hyped and closely watched pitching prospect in the history of baseball” (Sports Illustrated’s words, and I’d tend to agree) returned to the Alliance Bank Stadium mound.
The fervor was a bit muted from Strasburg’s initial surge through Syracuse in 2010 – but not much. A packed lower bowl and a crowd of nearly 10,000 made its way to Alliance Bank Stadium – and Strasburg delivered in his fifth rehab start with astonishing results.
First inning: Strikeout swinging. Groundout. Groundout.
Second inning: Strikeout swinging. Strikeout swinging. Strikeout swinging. (Gulp.)
Third inning: Groundout. Groundout. Groundout. (Efficient.)
Fourth inning: Groundout. Strikeout swinging. Strikeout swinging.
Fifth inning: Groundout. Flyout. (The only one of the game) Strikeout – you guessed it – swinging.
It was, simply put, the most dominant pitching effort I’ve ever seen in person, and I have a hard time thinking of one I watched on TV either. It seemed like Strasburg could throw 15 innings and not allow a baserunner.
Of course, the story turned when Rochester strung together a few singles in the sixth, knocking out Strasburg at 64 pitches. It didn’t seem like he’d expect to return for the sixth inning, with a pitch count of 65 nearly reached – but a quick duo of batters ended the righthander’s night.
Maybe it’s because I was only around for one of Strasburg’s starts in 2010, and that was as the official scorer – but I’ve never been so awed by an athlete’s performance from my press box seat. It was a merry Strasmus, indeed.
JB, time for your #1…I’m guessing Jeff Frazier’s second pitching performance tops the list?
Perfect: a : being entirely without fault or defect : flawless <a perfect diamond>
Alliance Bank Stadium, this season, was a perfect diamond. I argue that it was so twice.
In 2011, there were two flawless performances at 1 Tex Simone Drive. One by a gentleman with a bat and one by a gentleman attempting to avoid nine bats.
Choosing between perfection is like forcing a Greek citizen to choose his or her favorite God. They’re all limitless within their realms. And this season, Justin Germano of the Clippers and Michael Aubrey of the Chiefs were both heroic in their own ways.
As I write this, I still have the queasy feeling in my stomach of a decision gone wrong.
#2: O Germano, Where Art Thou?
In the bottom-right corner of my scorebook’s home team side on July 26th, I have this note:
“Traded for Joe Randa ’05”
This refers to that night’s Columbus starter, Justin Germano, being offloaded to the Reds in the middle of the oughts for a third baseman who played in just 50 more Major-League games after the deal in question.
In the bottom-left corner lies this:
“14 GP 4 GS, 0-2, 3 SV, 4.58 ERA”
Germano, as that reads, had pitched in relief six more times than he’d started. He’d yet to win. And his earned run average was exceedingly mediocre.
The third batter of the game, Michael Aubrey, had Germano sized up:
1) The hardest hit ball of the night for the Chiefs.
2) The only three-ball count of the night for the Chiefs.
More than Germano’s middling 2011 or his transient existence scrawled in my lineup card, this note told the story:
Germano hadn’t walked a batter over the lifespan of two-and-a-half games. And his control kept the Chiefs off the basepath through eight and two-thirds. Then, Corey Brown came up:
A perfect game. The first one in the International League since 2003. And here’s what it looked like:
Postscript: Germano was lined up to face the Chiefs five days later in Columbus. Before that happened, though, he jumped a flight to Korea to play for the Samsung Lions. Still awaiting word on whether or not he was compensated in U.S. dollars, South Korean won or universal smart phones.
Since I started following sports back when I was eight years old or so, baseball’s been my first love. But my first love within that first love was the New York Yankees. I’m from Long Island and my dad’s always been a huge Yankee fan – so it wasn’t a difficult choice. (Plus, when you’re a kid, you generally follow every team your dad does.) I learned to idolize Derek Jeter’s jump throw and Mariano Rivera’s cutter. I slammed my head into the floor as an eight-year-old when the Yankees fell behind 5-2 to San Diego in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series. I jumped for joy a few innings later when Tino Martinez’ grand slam put the Yanks ahead 9-5.
But when you’re a Yankee fan, it’s not enough to love your own team – you need the same level of emotion, only negative, for the poorly-accented AL East rivals from Massachusetts – the hated Boston Red Sox. The worst day of my baseball life was – and still is – Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, when the (bleep)ing Sawx jumped on the unholy trio of Kevin Brown (no relation), Javier Vazquez (*shudders), and Esteban Loaiza (seriously) and completed the greatest single-series comeback in…oh, major league history. I couldn’t stomach it later when Boston inevitably won the 2004 World Series – AND then turned the trick three years later in 2007. (Side note: I was dating a Red Sox fan at the time. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t last.)
So I had a predisposition to hate everything about the Red Sox. Well, not quite everything. I always liked Johnny Damon, even before he came to the Yankees. I always wanted to walk inside one of the most historic venues in the United States – Fenway Park. And I…OK, I can only think of two things. I got my wish on the first one in 2006 when Damon signed a four-year deal with the Yankees. And I finally got my wish on the second one this year.
I got a call from Jason on a random February day while I was upstairs in my bedroom. It went something like this.
Kevin: “What’s up?”
Jason: “I know you’re a Yankee fan, but you’re gonna have to call a game in Fenway Park this year.”
Kevin: *shocked silence*
As Jason recapped, the Chiefs were in Fenway for the annual Futures game. My one regret is I didn’t get to go up on the Green Monster seats – but outside of that, it was baseball heaven. (And plus, it gives me motivation to get back there again.) My biggest impression of Fenway was just how small it felt – I sat behind the infamous Pesky Pole in right field and felt like it was about 200 feet from home plate. It’s a bit cramped, but it doesn’t quite feel that way. The smells, the sights, the sounds, the fact that I was sitting in the press box for the Boston Red Sox – it was all a bit surreal. I think I toned my energy down a bit because I didn’t want to be over-the-top – but I was going mentally crazy the entire time. I can’t wait to return.
Oh, and the Chiefs won on the strength of two RBI from Seth Bynum and two hits from hometown kid Matt Antonelli. The icing on the cake to what was sort of an out-of-body experience.
So you short-shrifted Aubrey because you weren’t there? Boy, oh boy. Is the U.S. over Russia less of an upset because you weren’t born? Is The Sing-Off less of a show because you don’t watch it?
As an aside, The Sing-Off is an a capella singing competition where vocal groups battle–without musical accompaniment–for a recording contract. Each week, when one of the “bands” gets booted, the show forces them to sing one more time to say goodbye. That usually yields awkward glances and feigned sadness, but this week, a group from Rochester used it to make a funny:
#3: But they sent you away, oh Randy
Chiefs manager Randy Knorr’s door is always open. Asleep on the couch, door open. Writing a report, door open. Talking to his mother on the phone, door open. He is a welcoming and engaging soul.
On July 28th, he opened the door to hilarity and welcomed applause by engaging in an argument that came directly from his soul.
With Tommy Milone on the hill, the Chiefs facing the Columbus Clippers and a pair of LPGA Futures Tour golfers visiting the radio booth, IL veteran Shelley Duncan came to the plate in the third. After fouling one pitch off to Jupiter down the left-field line, Duncan bashed another…
That decision lasted for roughly 30 seconds….until:
A few points:
1) Randy Knorr flung one ball left of the foul pole to indicate what fair looked like and what foul looked like. We later learned that a previous manager of his did something similar while Randy was here as a player in Syracuse.
2) First base umpire Kelvin Bultron decided to overrule plate umpire Fran Burke.
3) Randy Knorr credits Jeff Mandel as the MVP of the display. When Knorr demanded two baseballs, Mandel armed him perfectly from the left-field bullpen. Both baseballs, Knorr says, hit him square in the hands.
4) The golfers in the booth were highly entertained.
5) Randy received a phone call the next morning from one of the Nationals staffers who was visiting Short Season-A Auburn. That staff member told Randy he saw a crazy manager on TV that night….and realized pretty quickly that the crazy manager was Randy.
On May 14, 2011, Michael Aubrey hit four home runs in a single Triple-A baseball game.
Only 15 players in the history of Major League Baseball have hit four home runs in a single game.
Michael Aubrey entered the game hitting just .203 – with not one, not two, not three – but ZERO home runs on the season. Needless to say, this was a history-making, unforgettable event, which I will likely never see in person in my lifetime. So how in the world can I rank three things ahead of this – unless they were a perfect game, a World Series game where a team was down to its final strike twice and came back to win, and…well, that’s it really.
(Spoiler Alert: One of these is actually in the top three. Spoiler Alert II: It does not involve David Freese.)
Well, the simple, sad truth is this – for one of the greatest individual performances in International League history, on a day that no one who was at Alliance Bank Stadium will ever forget – I wasn’t there. I was graduating.
Syracuse University has two days of graduation ceremonies. Saturday, each individual school has its graduation, and on Sunday, the whole darned university comes together. Saturday was graduation from the Newhouse school – a day where I was honored to be walking across a stage at the Carrier Dome to receive my diploma and hear my name called in front of the entire graduating class and families. (I was also just happy to be awake after coming down with some kind of nasty sickness, which left me unable to speak or broadcast the previous night’s game, and made me sound like Tom Waits on Thursday’s broadcast. Who knew allergies were so much fun for somebody who speaks for a living?)
The ceremony was wonderful and the afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable. I had a blast taking pictures upon pictures with fellow soon-to-be-alums and enjoying cookies and lemonade at the reception afterward. Then, I returned to my dorm room, and turned on the game, which had just ended its fourth inning of play. While in a commercial break, I loaded up twitter – and was greeted with a thoroughly surprising tweet at the top of my timeline from our broadcast intern Zack Brown. (Follow him at @zjbrown13. Actually, wait, follow ME at @kevinnbrown. #shamelessplug #gratuitoushashtag) Here’s the tweet:
My response was, let’s say, very John McEnroe-esque. I tuned in, on pins and needles – and three innings later, Aubrey launched, on a 2-2 pitch, his fourth home run of the ball game, sending Alliance Bank Stadium – and 842 Sumner Avenue – into hysterics.
There were four games I was neither in studio nor at the ballpark for this season. Two of them were missed in-studio games because of a pneumonia/strep throat combination, one was a missed in-studio game for the Syracuse Press Club Awards – and one was Michael Aubrey tying a Triple-A single game record.
I’ll never forget it – or more appropriately, never forget that I never got an in-person chance to forget it – but I have this only number four because I wasn’t there. I’ll never get the upcoming three moments not just because of the sounds – but because of the sights and sounds.
Three to go…
Kevin, Kevin, Kevin…..have you not been to http://www.bahamen.com recently? The group’s new single, “Go”, is now available. How dare you brand such an iconic and versatile collection of artists as a one-hit wonder? Scoff. The Baha Men make Oasis look one-dimensional. I mean, who actually can tell the difference between Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova?
#4 I think I’ll go to Boston
As I was walking out of my Civil Rights Remedies course February 4th, I received a text message from one of the voices of the PawSox, Dan Hoard. It said “Did you hear that we’re playing in Fenway in August?”
Awesome, I thought.
As I reached the parking lat at Wake Forest, I called Kevin to let him know.
Awesome, he said.
We were both right.
On August 19th, the Chiefs beat the Gwinnett Braves in the series finale at Alliance Bank Stadium. Then, we all loaded on the bus for Beantown and a 4:30 start time in the shadow of the Green Monster the next day.
The bus ride was long. It was made even longer by our driver’s difficulty in finding our hotel in downtown Providence. This hotel might as well have been Atlantis. At least when searching for the lost city, there are no one-way streets. at the bottom of the ocean.
We finally got to the Marriott at roughly 3 A.M. For whatever reason, I wasn’t terribly tired. So, I turned on the TV to find Piers Morgan embroiled in a roundtable discussion regarding his own conduct on his show the night before. Christine O’Donnell walked off of his show and claimed Morgan was sexist afterward for asking about her stance on gay marriage. This was riveting viewing. His guests said Piers wasn’t sexist. I’m sure he slept like a little baby because of that result.
The next morning, we woke up and drove to McCoy Stadium, the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox. That’s where the Chiefs dressed for the game–Fenway’s clubhouses were off limits.
As the team got ready, I wandered outside to watch some of the Chiefs–Garrett Mock and Josh Wilkie among them–play catch on the field. That didn’t last for long, though, as the skies opened to unleash some of the heaviest rain you can imagine.
Sometime during the rainstorm, Jeff Frazier strolled out of the clubhouse and took residence of a seat on the bench nearby. Shortly later, Steve Lombardozzi wandered outside. He said something to the effect of, “We better play.” See, Lombardozzi was with the Potomac team a year before when it was rained out at Fenway Park. A no-go for Lombo was a no-no.
Frazier, sensing an opening, told Lomardozzi that the game would be postponed at any sign of rain in order to preserve Fenway for the big Red Sox. Lombardozzi, crestfallen, went inside. Frazier had his fun.
And, there was no need to unveil Frazier as a jokester. When we arrived at Fenway–through the garage entrance–the sun was beaming down. Kevin and I were whisked by a Red Sox staffer to the press box where we would sit for the game.
After we dropped our stuff off, we each wandered around to take pictures of the scenery. I walked to the right-field bleachers and sat and stared. I wanted to act like I’d been there. But I hadn’t. I was mush inside. Chilling. What a place.
Soon after, I found Josh Jones and Paul Fairbanks in a suite reserved for the Chiefs. Everyone seemed to have something in common that day: we all thought it was funny to speak in bad Boston accents. As we walked toward the press box, Paul, Josh, Josh’s friend and I came upon Kevin who was walking a ramp parallel to ours. This exchange followed:
Kevin: Where were you?
Me: <pointing> Ovah theah.
This is our idea of fun. After the Double-A game ended–Binghamton beat Portland–we set up our equipment and sat down. At Fenway Park. To call a game.
The Chiefs players were standing in the dugout. The relievers were standing in the bullpen. 24 kids in a candy store. And two upstairs.
Early on, Bard Meyers looked sharper than PawSox starter Kyle Weiland. But, Meyers gave up the first run:
It was Pawtucket’s only run. The Chiefs came back and won against the PawSox and reliever Tommy Hottovy, who Kevin and I both thought all season was perfectly cast in the Red Sox bullpen…
Accurate portrayal, I think.
Hottovy gave up a tatah to Corey Brown and the Chiefs won 3-1. Amazing day.
P.S. I got an extra tour of the ballyard. I left my scorebook in the radio booth and had to sprint through Fenway to get it while a bleary-eyed bus waited for me. I’m sure you all had a great time at my expense, Kev.
Whoops, that was the Drypolcherian version of the song. (I’ll let you explain that one, JB.) Side note: That is the first time in my life I’ve seen any part of Glee outside of TV commercials. I had to turn it off after 15 seconds. Seriously, America? SERIOUSLY????
#5 Mucho Gusto…Me Llamo Bradley
Well, I hate to match up again, but here we are for the second time. Truth be told – I had this at #3 as soon as 60 seconds before this post, but I had debated it a ton, and I just can’t put it up that high. You’ll see why in a few days – but still, Brad Peacock’s post-perfect game one-hitter was the best sequel since The Dark Knight.
Watching baseball the day after a perfect game – as I discovered for the first time on July 27 – is an unusual way of seeing the game. The first batter to reach base is sad. The first batter to get a hit is downright depressing. You realize that you’ve seen something that you’ll probably never see again – and yet you immediately want to see it again. When Peacock walked Luis Valbuena in the first, Jason and I both looked at each other with a smirk – but a smirk with just the tiniest bit of sadness inside, I believe. Of course – that walk wasn’t a hit. And neither was any plate appearance for the first seven innings, until Beau Mills’ double.
The game was much more than your ordinary, run-of-the-mill seven no-hit innings performance. (As if there is such a thing.) It was a night full of thoughts like “this can’t really be happening, can it?” In the 27 or so hours between Germano’s perfect game and Peacock’s performance, there was no other place I wanted to be in the world than high above the field in the Alliance Bank Stadium press box. It was – as cliche’ it sounds – a truly magical two nights of baseball.
I don’t think I ever really believed Peacock was going to throw a no-hitter, if only because of the pitch count – truth be told, it seemed like a miracle he even made it to the seventh. He threw 109 pitches in his 7+ innings – a number that was only that low because of an economical last few frames. Peacock walked four in the game and came close on a few others – but still retired 21 hitters without surrendering a hit in the Chiefs’ 2-0 win.
My favorite anecdote from this game was finding out postgame that Peacock and Randy Knorr never had a discussion about if or when Peacock would come out of the game. Brad likely knew it was one bad pitch away from ending in the eighth – but the trust between manager and starting pitcher was already established in just the third Triple-A start for Peacock. This was more than just a great game – it was a coming-out party. Peacock’s first two Triple-A starts had been disastrous and decent – but July 27 was downright dominant.
The right-handed hurler ended up 5-1 with a cool 3.19 ERA in nine Syracuse starts, striking out 48 in 48 innings. Opposing batters hit just .205 against Peacock in Triple-A. On July 27, they hit .045. And oh, how close it was to being .000.
You didn’t really think I was going to get through a response to the last post without a one-hit wonder of my own, right?
Kevin, you assume that Randy used words like *bleep* and *bleeping*, but I don’t know where you’d get that idea. I’ve never heard such coarse language………….
#5: Mr. Peacock, with the encore, in the bank
Generally, these moments which we’ve walked through so far have been stand alone, ad hoc moments. They haven’t needed any context to propel them to whichever spot they’ve been in. This one got a little prop-up from the night before.
On July 26th, the Chiefs were perfected by Justin Germano of the Clippers. Nobody reached base. This, I believe, will show itself somewhere up the ladder on the list.
That next morning, Kevin and I spent time trying to get highlights to ESPN, talking on radio shows and generally doing research on perfect games–how rare they are, who’s done it.
That evening, two hot-shot young pitchers took the hill at Alliance Bank Stadium. Jeanmar Gomez and Brad Peacock, ages 22 and 23 then, respectively, went out for game two of the series between Columbus and Syracuse.
In the anti-climax of all anti-climaxes, Luis Valbuena walked in the first for Columbus and both Seth Bynum and Michael Aubrey singled for the Chiefs. No perfect game. Sad.
Columbus had four baserunners on in the first four innings. All via the walk. Beau Mills reached on an error in the fifth. In the sixth, Columbus went 1-2-3. Still no hits. Perfect game one night, no-hitter the next? Beau Mills led the eighth off:
With that soaring fly ball, Mills made sure that no history would be definitively made at the ballpark that night. Beau Mills sent Peacock to the land of:
In seven innings, Brad Peacock was a one-hit wonder, one night after Germano. And, as we just saw, a night before Randy Knorr’s launch-a-ball.
(Editor’s note: If the preceding videos do not cause some sort of musical argument between me and Kevin, I will be surprised.)
Peacock, by the way, went to the big leagues about a month later and allowed one run on seven hits in 12 innings. Good luck guessing the Nats’ rotation next year.