Updated: Sunday, May 30, 2010, 6:46 PM
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Ryan Howard had the ball in his glove Saturday night. His teammates formed a mob around Roy Halladay to celebrate his perfect game, a 1-0 masterpiece over the Florida Marlins.
Howard couldn't catch Halladay's attention. He needed to hand the ball off.
He tapped Halladay on the chest three times without response. Halladay, so robot-like whenever he's on the field, was entrenched in jubilation - imagine that - and Howard couldn't get his attention.
"I just made sure I held onto it and didn't lose it," Howard said.
Finally, Halladay saw Howard. He stuffed the ball into the pitcher's glove. They looked at one another and smiled. Then they hugged.
"We were a part of history," Howard said. "A pretty cool experience."
At 9:23 p.m., Ronny Paulino grounded out to third to set off the celebration.
Halladay did a TV interview on the field then went into the clubhouse to a round of applause. The first person he thanked was his catcher, Carlos Ruiz.
"I had no words," Ruiz said.
Later that night, Ruiz called his mother in Panama to talk about what happened and how proud he was of the moment. He stayed up well into the night with his brother, Sammy, reliving the game at the team hotel.
"Still today, I don't believe it," Ruiz said Sunday. "It was special for me."
Beginning in the second inning, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. watched from the stands behind home plate with his half brother. He only planned to spend two innings there. But when Halladay hadn't allowed a hit through four innings, he decided not to move.
The difference between perfect and ordinary is minuscule. On Saturday, it all aligned flawlessly.
"Other than winning the World Series in '08," Amaro said, "this was the most amazing moment I've ever seen in the game of baseball."
Getting an edge
Six days before he pitched a perfect game, a frustrated Halladay approached Charlie Manuel in the dugout. He had allowed seven runs to Boston and was yanked in the sixth. It was his worst start as a Phillie.
Halladay covered up the nearby TV camera and looked his manager in the eyes.
"I'm better than that," he said.
In between starts, Halladay made an adjustment on his delivery. He hadn't been pleased with his first step back in his windup, pitching coach Rich Dubee said. Lefthander Jamie Moyer made a suggestion to Halladay, and he worked on it during the week.
Halladay said it was a normal week. He was no more determined than any other time. The last start stuck in his mind, but it's harmful to keep thinking about it, he said.
Like every Halladay start, he sat down with Dubee and Ruiz in a corner of the clubhouse a few hours before the perfect game. They went over the game plan, with Halladay doing most of the talking, as usual.
But Ruiz said he had some ideas to offer this time, too. Based on how Kyle Kendrick pitched the Florida hitters on Friday, Ruiz had some tips.
"The night before I had a really good idea," Ruiz said. "With Roy, he's unbelievable. He's always on the computer, trying to get all the information he can, trying to get the edge."
At 7:17 p.m., Halladay threw his first pitch of the night, a 92 m.p.h. fastball to Chris Coghlan on the outside corner for a called strike.
These are the little things that make up the difference between perfection and just another night at the ballpark: During the day Saturday, in what appeared to be an innocent decision, Manuel chose Juan Castro to start at third over Greg Dobbs.
Castro had started two games at third base since 2007. But Dobbs had made a two-run error in Halladay's last start while filling in at third. So, with that in mind, Manuel said he went with the better defensive player for a reason.
The 37-year-old Castro made two of the biggest defensive plays to preserve the perfect game, including the final out.
"Why not?" Castro said. "In my mind, I thought, 'Hit the ball to me. I want it.' "
The first batter Halladay faced nearly tainted perfection. With a 3-2 count, Coghlan took a 90 m.p.h. cutter on the outside corner. He started toward first base, thinking he had drawn a walk. But home plate umpire Mike DiMuro called strike three.
And it began.
Halladay threw 19 pitches in the first inning, his most strenuous inning. He needed more than 12 pitches in an inning just one more time, the seventh.
Of the 115 pitches Halladay threw, 72 were for strikes. He threw his sinker the most, using it for four of his 11 strikeouts.
He shook off Ruiz just once, when Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson was at the plate in the third with a 2-2 count.
"I called curveball, and he wanted to throw fastball," Ruiz said.
Johnson swung and missed on a 91 m.p.h. cutter to end the inning.
"His tempo was real good," Ruiz said. "So I was feeling great because whatever I put down, he was going to throw it. He would hit the spot. He was painting everything. He hit the corners."
"I had a feeling"
Stay away from Roy.
When the Phillies were in the dugout, that was the only thing Howard and Chase Utley were thinking.
That can be said on any day Halladay pitches. After the game Saturday, Halladay joked that his teammates began straying clear of him around 2:30 in the afternoon. He probably wasn't too far off.
Halladay is intense in his preparation. During games, he rarely will talk to anyone. Dubee said he never once spoke to Halladay during the game Saturday.
"For the most part, I stay away from him when he pitches all the time," Utley said.
There was pressure, though. And no one would talk about it.
"In the sixth inning, I saw the score, and no hits and I was like, 'Whoa,' " Ruiz said. "You kind of put it aside, and I don't think we're not going to do it. After the seventh, I was like, 'Oh my God.' "
In the bullpen, Chad Durbin said some of the relievers were going through their normal routine, like they were expecting to enter the game at some point. But, he said, they were mostly doing it out of superstition. No one in the bullpen actually ever expected to pitch.
Durbin knew it was going to happen in the seventh.
"I've seen him get nine up, nine down a number of times this year," Durbin said. "I had a feeling."
In the broadcast booth, Tom McCarthy wasn't moving. Normally, the Phillies' TV play-by-play man gets up for a brief break in the seventh inning. Not on this night.
He didn't leave his seat.
During the broadcast, McCarthy didn't hide the fact that Halladay was pitching a perfect game, sometimes viewed as a jinx.
"I was always taught you have to tell the story," McCarthy said.
There was no scripting the final call, he said. On Sunday, McCarthy fondly remembered Vin Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 as a lesson to simply describe what is happening on the field.
In the booth next door, Scott Franzke said he wasn't thinking about his final call on radio during the ninth.
"I was just looking for a list of perfect games on my laptop," Franzke said. "But my damn mouse wasn't working."
He didn't need the list for the final call that will be immortalized with Halladay's performance.
"Steps back up onto the mound," Franzke said. "Tucks the baseball in his right hand. Now into the glove. Holds it in front of the letters. Nods yes. The wind, the 1-2 pitch. Swing and a groundball left side. Castro's got it. Spins, throws. He got him! A perfect game for Roy Halladay! Twenty-seven up and 27 down! Halladay is mobbed at the mound as the Phillies celebrate perfection tonight in Miami!"
Why sleep in?
Well, did he celebrate?
"The journey is always better than the destination," Halladay said Sunday morning. "For me, it was emotional obviously being out there. You always enjoy it after."
But really, it was business as usual.
"That's just him," Howard said.
Halladay is a freak when it comes to work ethic. Everyone knows this by now.
After pitching the perfect game, he completed his normal 40-minute postgame workout routine before having a press conference.
"It's extremely impressive," Utley said. "You saw it in spring training. He gets to the park early, and he's already sweated and showered before most people get to the field. So there's a reason for his success."
After the press conference, Halladay walked through a hallway back to the clubhouse. Strangers shouted out, "Great game, Mr. Halladay!" A security guard reached out to shake his hand, and Halladay obliged.
He went into the clubhouse to shower, but a phone call was waiting for him.
Fran Person, the special assistant and personal aide to Vice President Joe Biden, called Kevin Gregg, the Phillies' coordinator of baseball communications. It just so happens Person and Gregg both attended Episcopal Academy. And Biden, a Phillies fan, wanted to speak with Halladay.
But then the call dropped. So Gregg called the number back.
"This is Joe Biden," said a voice on the other end.
Halladay took the phone.
"He just said, 'Congratulations,' " Halladay said. "It was obviously pretty cool."
Halladay showered and called his wife, Brandy, before he left the ballpark on the team bus at 10:45 p.m. He spoke to his two young sons, Braden and Ryan, before bedtime. They watched the game, every out.
Then, on Sunday morning, a day after achieving perfection, he arrived at Sun Life Stadium at 8:45 a.m.
Why sleep in? There was no reason to do it any differently on this day.
"I don't have time," Halladay said. "I'll do that this winter."