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Perfect game for Philip Humber means perfect fame in Cooperstown

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners

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Updated: May 24, 2012 8:23AM

SEATTLE — White Sox righty Philip Humber visited Cooperstown, looked around and was awed.

“I’ve been to the Hall of Fame,’’ Humber, 29, said. ‘‘I’ve seen the stuff that’s there. And now, to think that something of mine is going to be there? It’s pretty awesome. I don’t know what to say about it.’’

Humber artifacts are headed to baseball’s hallowed museum after he pitched the 21st perfect game in major-league history Saturday, beating the Seattle Mariners 4-0 before a national TV audience, an appreciative Pacific Northwest crowd and mentally drained teammates who hung on to every one of Humber’s pitches in the final innings.

“I have never been this exhausted after a game, and I didn’t even pitch,’’ said reliever Will Ohman, who joined a rush of charging pitchers from the left-field bullpen to pile on Humber and other teammates after the last out. “It could not have happened to a better person.’’

“I don’t know what Philip Humber is doing on this list,’’ Humber said. “I have no idea what my name is doing there. But I’m thankful it’s there.’’

It didn’t get there without heavy-duty drama during the last at-bat, a strikeout (Humber’s ninth) of pinch hitter Brendan Ryan. Humber, who threw 67 of 97 pitches for strikes, threw a 3-2 slider down and out of the strike zone. Ryan tried to check his swing but couldn’t. The ball got away from catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who tracked it down about halfway to the backstop and was able to throw Ryan out at first because Ryan questioned the swing call from plate umpire Brian Runge and didn’t run.

“Get the ball and get it to first base — as fast as possible because if I screw it up, I’m going to be a goat forever,’’ Pierzynski said, explaining his only thought at the moment.

Humber, the Sox’ fifth starter whose first turn was skipped because of a rainout in Cleveland, fell to his knees and was quickly engulfed by a team that improved to 8-6.

“I felt [pitcher Jake] Peavy on my back,’’ Humber said. “I couldn’t breathe, and I was like, ‘Let me up.’ I skinned my forehead on the ground. The best part was seeing my teammates excited. The rest of it was kind of a blur.’’

It was the first perfect game since the Phillies’ Roy Halladay threw one against the Marlins on May 29, 2010. It was the third in Sox history. Mark Buehrle’s against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009, and Charlie Robertson’s against Detroit on April 30, 1922, were the others.

“I guarantee you, he was the calmest one in the dugout,’’ Peavy said. “It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of.’’

A No. 3 overall pick by the Mets, Humber never lived up to that status with a handful of organizations because of injuries, among other things. Claimed on waivers by the Sox before last season, he became the latest in a line of reclamation projects by pitching coach Don Cooper.

“It’s hard to put into words,’’ Cooper said. “He’s got good stuff, he commanded the heck out of it and everything fell into place. I was calm in Buehrle’s game, and I was calm in this one. Get up on the rail and watch Phil. His command was very good. It’s wonderful to see the joy and emotion of a guy who gets to achieve that. No. 21 on the planet.’’

Humber talked to his dad on his phone and to his first concern, his wife, Kristan, who’s nine months pregnant.

“I was making sure she didn’t give birth when I was pitching,’’ he said.

That might have been an issue in the ninth when Humber went to 3-0 on the first batter, Michael Saunders. It was his first three-ball count, but he came back to strike him out. John Jaso flied out, and Ryan couldn’t check his swing on the 27th out.

The only thing close to a hit was Kyle Seager’s line drive to left that Brent Lillibridge ran down and Dustin Ackley’s to right that Alex Rios caught over his shoulder.

“This was the biggest rush I have experienced in baseball,’’ Rios said.

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