Why Matt Cain's perfect game is 'North Star' of 2010s Giants dynasty

Marcus White
NBC Sports BayArea

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area will air Matt Cain's perfect game at 7 p.m. Sunday. Below are Giants broadcasters Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Amy Gutierrez's memories of that historic night.

Mike Krukow usually has one of the best seats in the house at Oracle Park. He did not on June 13, 2012.

The Giants broadcaster drove up from his offseason home in San Luis Obispo that day after attending to family matters, listening to his colleagues call San Francisco's game against the Houston Astros on the radio. He returned to his King Street apartment near the ballpark around the third inning, sitting down with his wife to watch the game and pouring himself a glass of scotch.

Krukow watched -- and heard -- history unfold over the next few hours, taking in Matt Cain's perfect game from a unique perspective.

"It was unbelievable because every time something happens ... the place would go nuts," Krukow recalled in a phone conversation Sunday morning. "It got to the end of the game, and we were seeing it with a little bit of a delay as to how it was actually happening."

Out by out, inning by inning, Krukow heard Giants fans' anticipation build, culminating with Jason Castro's groundout to third baseman Joaquin Arias in the ninth inning.

"It was just a remarkable night," Krukow said. "It was so cool to hear the actual crowd roar from across the street. It just enhanced the whole thing for us."

Krukow, play-by-play broadcaster Duane Kuiper and dugout reporter Amy Gutierrez reflected on that night ahead of NBC Sports Bay Area's re-air of Cain's perfect game. Here's what they remember most.

Un-fore-gettable start

Cain's game-day preparation began with a swing and a splash hit. The Giants ace didn't belt a batting-practice home run, though.

PGA Tour golfer Dustin Johnson was at the ballpark that night to promote the upcoming U.S. Open, and Cain -- an avid golfer -- watched on as Johnson drove balls into McCovey Cove. Cain, as the night's starter, presumed he couldn't participate.

"But he's out there, and he's watching and he's just dying," Kuiper recalled. "He doesn't think he's going to out-drive Dustin Johnson, but he wants to let one fly. He's inching close and closer to where they're doing this, and (then-Giants general manager) Brian Sabean is sitting in the stands, all by himself. And finally somebody says to Matt Cain, 'Hey, just ask Brian if you can hit one!' "

Sabean begrudgingly approved, and Cain then stepped up to the tee set up at home plate.

"And he got out there, and he smoked one into the cove," Kuiper said. "I don't think he hit any as far as Dustin Johnson, but he hit it as far as most guys on the Tour would hit it, if not even further."

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Giants' Matt Cain golfing at Oracle Park
Giants' Matt Cain golfing at Oracle Park

Cain had permission for one swing, and he made the most of it. It proved to be a tone-setter for his night to come, even if those watching his impressive drive didn't realize it at the time.

"It was very telling of the day he was going to have," Gutierrez said. "Everything he touched that day to turned to gold."

Things get real

Kuiper said the perfect-game possibility entered his mind around the fifth inning, while Gutierrez pointed to the sixth inning. She was visting a friend and his wife who were in attendance when Melky Cabrera made the first of two game-changing catches that night.

Cabrera tracked down Chris Snyder's warning-track fly ball in left-center field, leaping in front of the outfield wall to get the second out of the inning.

Gutierrez, then, knew she needed to be on alert.

"I told my friends, 'I gotta go. This might be turning into something.' " she recalled. "I knew he had zeros and I knew he was having a really good night, but you don't put much into it because it's so rare."

Krukow heard the crowd get louder going into the seventh inning. They might have reached a crescendo during it.

With a full count in the top of the seventh, Jordan Schafer drove a ball into right-center destined to be the Astros' first hit of the night. Right fielder Gregor Blanco had a better jump on the ball than center fielder Angel Pagan, sprinting and laying out for an unforgettable catch.

Krukow didn't need to catch up to the broadcast feed to know what had happened.

"We had the door wide open, so we could hear it well and we knew something was gonna happen," he said. "On the catch from Blanco and then the last play of the game from Joaquin Arias, it was just obvious."

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Matt Cain and Family
Matt Cain and Family

Matt Cain with his wife, Chelsea, and daughter, Harley Mae, before a Giants game soon after his no-hitter. (Photo: AP Images/Jeff Chiu)

Family business

Krukow didn't mind the spoilers, but Cain's wife, Chelsea, could have used them. Watching from the stands, cameras consistently captured her reactions as her husband made his way through the 27 batters he faced.

Gutierrez said the then-CSN Bay Area broadcast crew sought out Chelsea because of experience from covering Johnathan Sanchez's no-hitter three years prior. Sanchez's father had flown in from Puerto Rico for that game, watching his son play for the first time and offering something instantly relatable to all viewers that Chelsea Cain's experience also provided: Seeing your loved ones succeed.

"Now you can understand, there's a relationship going on," Gutierrez said. "You're watching your husband perform. He's looking up at you in the stands, and it all of a sudden became something tangible for anyone watching the game. You didn't have to be a die-hard baseball fan.

"You just kind of had to be a fan of somebody accomplishing a miraculous feat, and we can kind of all get on the same page with that."

Gutierrez said she felt the crowd "white-knuckling" after Cabrera's sixth-inning catch, but arguably nobody at Oracle Park that night wore more emotions on their sleeve than Chelsea Cain. She joined her husband for his post-game interview with Gutierrez, and Krukow was gripped watching just down the street.

"I thought that was so cool," he said. "And in the end, when he got the last out and he was walking on the field, their eyes met and you could see that he was looking to find her and she found him. ... It was just so well done, and so honest and sincere."

A fitting honor

It's not often a pitcher throws a perfect game, and it's not often that Cain received any kind of run support. The Giants scored 10 runs that night, far more than the four or so they averaged in Cain's 331 career starts.

That irony is not lost on Kuiper.

"[If] a Giants starting pitcher threw great and they got no runs for him, then the expression was that he got 'Cained.' " Kuiper quipped. "So, that gives you an idea of how significant it was that he did this. [I'm not] saying it wiped out all those games where he pitched great and didn't get any run support, but it sure did help."

Gutierrez and Krukow loved seeing Cain etch his name in baseball history for that reason, too, but the long-suffering ace did something no Giants pitcher had before or since. Cain's 125-pitch, 14-strikeout performance was the first perfect game in the franchise's century-plus history. None of the broadcast crew said so in as many words that night, dreading a jinx, but understanding that kind of history was at play stopped Gutierrez in her tracks when a producer informed her of the possibility.

"I think you dream of doing something like that, but you don't really look up the stats," Gutierrez said. "Like, 'I wonder how many perfect games there have been in Giants franchise history.' He just went about his job. So, I think it made that moment for him just that much bigger and that much more special.

"And it's really, really cool that that honor goes to Matt because I can't think of a better 'Forever Giant' in my career."

[RELATED: Cain's perfect game taught our Giants insider many lessons]

"The North Star"

Cain's perfect game occurred right in the middle of the most successful stretch in Giants history. They were months away from winning their second of three World Series that decade, and just shy of two years removed from their first.

Yet each of Kuiper, Krukow and Gutierrez said that June night holds a special place in their memories. Kuiper won't forget seeing the normally reserved Cain emotionally celebrating with his wife and family, while Gutierrez called it "an honor" to be a part of the game's broadcast.

Krukow, meanwhile, didn't hesitate in identifying Cain's perfect game as the high point of the Giants' dynastic run.

"It's the North Star in the sky," he said. "It's something that is so cool, and to have it happen ... at home, to have it happen when Cain was on the mound. All those things were such a big part of the story. ... At that time, it was always a sellout. The culture had grown to the point where it was a phenomenon anyway, and then to have this thing go down and actually complete the perfect game, it was a perfect storm.

"It lined up perfectly, and it was -- and always will be -- the North Star of that era."

Why Matt Cain's perfect game is 'North Star' of 2010s Giants dynasty originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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