Five years later, Nate Jones recalls a near-jinx experience in Philip Humber's perfect game


The last thing any baseball player wants to do is "jinx" a teammate's perfect game or no hitter by uttering those forbidden words. But there's another way someone could play into that longstanding superstition, which White Sox reliever Nate Jones almost did back in 2012. 

Friday marked the five-year anniversary of Philip Humber's perfect game against the Seattle Mariners, and the 31-year-old Jones is the only current White Sox player who was at Safeco Field that day. Back then, Jones was only a few weeks into his major league career, and he almost committed a perfect game faux pas from the bullpen.

"I think it was the fifth inning, because at that time I didn't have a defined role, I could come in at any point," Jones said. "So around the fifth inning, I started getting up and stretching between innings, which usually takes me into our inning when we're out on the field. 

"So before that inning started, Hector Santiago was like ‘Hey Nate, why don't you sit down.' I'm like, ‘Nah, I'm good, I'm just stretching.' He's like, ‘No, sit down.' And once he said it the second time, I'm was like, uh oh, something's going on. 

"I sat down and looked up at the scoreboard and I was like, oh gosh. Luckily I didn't screw that up. I didn't jinx it with my stretching."

Humber only needed 96 pitches to retire all 27 Mariners batters he faced, with catcher A.J. Pierzynski leaning heavily on the right-hander's unhittable slider. Humber ended his historic afternoon with a controversial strikeout of Brendan Ryan -- who pleaded to home plate umpire Brian Runge that he checked his swing on a 3-2 slider -- and was rapidly mobbed by his teammates. 

For Jones and the rest of the White Sox relievers, there was a logjam trying to get down the stairs from the left field bullpen onto the field to go join the dogpile on the pitcher's mound. Jones remembers Santiago, who's now with the Minnesota Twins, taking an adrenaline-fueled shortcut. 

"He went from the bullpen bench and jumped the fence (while) we were trying to rush down the steps," Jones said. "And he was the first one out. 

"It was an unbelievable feeling to make that and to celebrate what he had done, even though we didn't really do anything. But to celebrate what he had done and what the defense did and what A.J. did behind the plate, that was an awesome experience."

Added Jones: "That's the fastest I ran in a long time, that's for sure."

There's nothing comparable in sports to witnessing a perfect game develop. There's a swell of intensity as the players, coaches and fans begin to realize what's happening, and by the eighth and ninth inning, every pitch is thrown with the pressure of Game 7 of the World Series. 

For Humber, success was fleeting -- he was dropped from the White Sox rotation less than four months after his perfect game, and never made it back to the majors after posting a 7.90 ERA in 2013. But that doesn't take the shine off his perfect game, which will endure in White Sox history and the memories of everyone who was there five years ago. 

"That was something else," Jones said. "It's something I'll never forget, that's for sure." 

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