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Juan Gris: Glass and Playing Cards (1915)

"Play ball, not perfection!"

"The 10 regular seasons in between (2013 through 2022) featured 22,765 imperfect games," wrote NYTimes sportswriter Tyler Kepner the morning after. A PerfectGame was pitched the evening before by Yankee's pitcher Domingo Germán, who fans booed off the mound his previous start. It had been eleven years since the last Major League Baseball PerfectGame. Only twenty-four have been accomplished in MLB's long history stretching back to the 1800s. The feat will not guarantee the pitcher Hall of Fame notoriety. If history's any predictor, he's much more likely to retire into obscurity. Perfection remains just what it used to be, without lasting honor, especially in its own land.

I Hone with the implicit notion that I am seeking more perfection.
Not necessarily absolute perfection, but something more akin to a relative kind, as Lincoln invoked in his second inaugural when he claimed he sought a "more perfect Union." A perfect game doesn't necessarily produce much of a spectacle. Between innings, the Yankee's dugout was preternaturally quiet. Not even the usual background horseplay seemed tolerated. In late innings, teammates sat as if waiting for a root canal appointment. The tension seemed palpable, but acknowledging its presence must have felt impossible. Nobody wanted to break the tenuous trance.

When the Yankees took the field, they played dutifully, if not necessarily inspired. Our pitcher did not blaze the space between the mound and the plate with sizzling fastballs or dizzying curves. He'd toss an eighty-miler, the equivalent of a slow-walker by current MLB standards, and still reliably fool each batter. Half the ninety-nine pitches were curves but achingly slow ones. The Oakland batters seemed entranced, a normal state for a team now forty games under .500 with the season not yet half over. It might seem inevitable that the As would fall prey, but that's not how this play occurs. Any team in any game, any pitcher in any outing, might stumble into perfection. It seems like an honor expressly reserved for the undeserving.

I've rarely seen more boring play. Were it not for the tension the announcers kept mentioning—"Only four pitches away from Eternity!"—I could have mistaken play for an exhibition or a pre-season practice session. The pace of play moved quickly because Germán threw remarkably few pitches, as few as five or six per inning, totaling only ninety-nine in the whole nine-inning game. With the new rules this season, games have tended to move too quickly for my taste, and this game moved even more rapidly than most. Oakland remained hapless, retiring batters as if that was their grand strategy for winning, the underlying purpose of their play. None of them ever made first base, and they call that perfection.

I'm reminded that the pursuit of perfection does not come without cost. The more haphazard engagements tend to bring more excitement and enjoyment for both the fans and the players. The game was not intended to be executed like some regimented clockwork but by unlikely accidents. The wild pitch provides more thrill than any perfect one. The players seem better characters when they vacillate between angels and bums, not when they fail to make some human mistake. I was pleased I didn't have to sit through the whole game. The Muse and I stumbled upon the outcome just as the game ended, then replayed the last few innings to share their accomplishment. It had, after all, been eleven years since perfection last manifested. May it be at least eleven more, and may we quickly return to ordinary times where we can count on inherent imperfection to provide a more perfect entertainment. Play ball, not perfection!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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