The family in full at the perfecto: Nicky, me, and Dot. Nicky’s wearing that night’s giveaway, the Dr. Pepper Will Clark Rangers t-shirt.
In my creative writing workshops we use an exercise — we write a memory we could carry into the next life. We’re only permitted one. It’s gotta fit on an index card, front plus back. Here’s one of mine. It’s from my parenthood baseball memoir, Stealing Home: A Father, a Son, and the Road to the Perfect Game.
That night I didn’t feel the late July Dallas heat. Even though I’d just seen that perfect game on the diamond in person, I craved a screen. Watching any event was just more real if it was on a screen. Dad taught me that TV made everything real.
The Rangers’ new ballpark had a Dr. Pepper scoreboard screen, and upon it, the triumphant Kenny Rogers, the pitcher of the night’s perfect game, grinned. I was an ex-sportswriter by that night, but I still took notes in the margins of our Bibb Falk scorebook with its sweat-stained blue cover. The notes would have to do, because a video camera was not luggable on that night 25 years ago.
I watched the scoreboard’s lights shimmer in my son’s eyes. The noise of the crowd, all 47,128 of us, rattled off the skybox fronts and the fresh green concrete of our third deck section. Beside me and holding his Indians cap, Nicky beamed, laughing and hooting. Dottie hollered and then the field got quiet while Rogers talked, a headset wrapped around his face, pretty much speechless except for varieties of, “I didn’t see this game coming.”
Me either. Not any sign that the night would deliver an official major league Perfect Game, Number 14 across 125 years of baseball history. It is the rarest outcome in all of sports. My heart buzzed, finding the luck of perfection when I was no longer looking. I had the greater luck to have my family in full under those lights that night. Two weeks of travel to eight ballparks had become the road to the perfect game.
Where do we find the perfect moments in our lives? Often in places where they find us. As a divorced dad, I pursued a perfect moment with my son. Sports was our bond. The perfection which played out was luck I believed I’d earned.