“Two out, nobody on, ninth inning. Bartlett’s on deck. And Braden turns, he throws …”
With all due respect to Pavarotti hitting a high C, the whine of a V12 Ferrari engine, Marilyn Monroe’s come-hither voice or whatever subjective criteria one uses to judge the sound of perfection, the 14 words in the paragraph above are the prelude to how it literally sounded on the radio Sunday afternoon.
They were spoken by longtime Las Vegan Ken Korach, a few moments before he became the 15th announcer (or thereabouts) in history to call a perfectly pitched baseball game by a representative of the winning team.
Dallas Braden, who pitches for the Oakland Athletics, the team for which Korach has root, root, rooted — albeit in a subtle, unobtrusive manner — for the past 15 years, was about to become the 19th pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game by retiring all 27 Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum with nary a one reaching base. But Korach is part of an even more exclusive club, because the first baseball game broadcast on radio wasn’t until 1921.
That meant baseball fans had to read about the perfectos twirled by Lee Richmond (1880), John Montgomery Ward (1880), Cy Young Himself (1904) and Addie Joss (1908) by Pony Express. Or, in the case of Montgomery Ward, in a Christmas catalog.
Korach was driving to the airport to catch the A’s charter to Texas on Monday when his cell phone rang for the umpteenth time since Braden turned and threw with two out, nobody on in the ninth inning.
“It’s almost like I was the one who threw a perfect game,” said the former play-by-play voice of the Las Vegas Stars and UNLV basketball and football.
Then he used a perfect word to describe the thrill of broadcasting a perfect game, although only former Mets pitcher Ron Darling (Yale educated) and Padres right-hander Chris Young (Princeton) among baseball people probably understood it.
“It’s swung on … a ground ball to short … taken there … Pennington’s got it. He throws …”
If they had the radio tuned to the XM broadcast of the A’s-Rays game in the Yankees clubhouse, Alex Rodriguez must have been using another part of speech — I’m guessing interjection — when Cliff Pennington threw across the diamond to first base.
It was A-Rod who recently said he didn’t want to add to Braden’s 15 minutes of fame after the A’s pitcher complained about A-Rod trespassing on the pitcher’s mound on his way back to first base after a foul ball — one of those unwritten rules that will get the seat of your baseball pants a good dusting when it’s your turn to bat.
Now that Braden has joined a select few that includes Cy Young Himself, I have a feeling his 15 minutes are going to last at least as long as that “Titanic” movie.
Likewise, it was something Korach said he’ll never forget.
Career highlight? Well, there were those walk-off homers by Miguel Tejada during the A’s-record 22-game winning streak a few years back and Korach also called “The Jeter Play” in the playoffs, although A’s fans don’t let him reminisce about that one much. But put it this way: Braden’s perfect game was a lot more memorable than those UNLV vs. San Jose State football games when it was raining inside the press box at Spartan Stadium.
Six up, six down. Fifteen up, 15 down. Twenty-one up, 21 down. Korach’s listeners on San Francisco KTRB-AM 860 were fully aware they were bearing ear witness to something special. “But I don’t think the words ‘perfect game’ were used until the eighth inning,” Korach said.
They were used loud and clear in the ninth inning.
“A PERFECT GAME! Dallas Braden has thrown a perfect game!”
When I asked Korach if he thought about a scripted line, some astute sound bite by which Braden’s masterpiece would always be remembered, he said I knew him better. One shouldn’t plan on history being made. One should just let it run its course, like Doris Day. That’s “Que Sera, Sera,” if you are a Latino listener, scoring at home. Then one should say the first thing that comes to mind.
“The A’s have beaten Tampa Bay, four to nothing! The kid from Stockton has done it for the A’s!”
Sounds perfect to me.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352.