Feb. 14, 2013
HOUSTON - On the eve of the Rice baseball team's 2013 season-opener against Stanford, a special commemorative plaque honoring former Owl great Philip Humber's perfect game in the major leagues was unveiled in the entryway at Reckling Park.
Humber, who pitched for the Owls from 2002-04, threw the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history on April 21, 2012. The new Rice plaque features a photo from the Chicago Tribune`s coverage of the White Sox-Mariners game and a letter that Humber wrote to his former college mentor, Owl head coach Wayne Graham, only a few days after his perfect outing.
While Humber was attempting to reach perfection, the 2012 Rice team along with coach Graham watched the game's dramatic final inning, from the Owls' locker room. When Humber received word that Graham and the players at his alma mater had been watching, he took a moment to write to his former coach a brief letter - which is included on the new plaque in its entirety. In the letter Humber humbly had thanks and praise for coach Graham. In one part he recalled a particularly tight game against national power Texas A&M where Graham inspired him and the Owls to victory.
"...that one moment sums up what you mean to me as a person and a ballplayer. You believed that I was up to the task and because of the leader you are, I believed it, too. There were many times in my career at Rice when you told me what I needed to hear whether I agreed or not. The further along I go in life and in baseball, the more I realize how right you were. You helped me achieve more than I ever thought possible by pushing me in ways nobody else could."
For Coach Graham the respect is mutual.
"Philip was an important and talented player who helped us get to Omaha (annual site of the College World Series) every year he was with the team," coach Graham said. "He had a great career and pitched a complete game in the College World Series final when we won the National Championship (in 2003). A perfect game in the big leagues is an extremely rare accomplishment. This is a small tribute to one of our great players for his performance at the game's highest level."
Under the direction of coach Graham, who is now in his 22nd season at the helm of the program, Rice is ranked 17th in the country in the USA Today Coaches Poll, 18th by both Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers (NCBWA), and 20th according to Collegiate Baseball magazine. The Blue & Gray has won at least 40 games in each of the last 18 seasons and have won or shared 17-consecutive conference championships (including regular season and/or conference tournament titles).
The Owls play their 2013 season-opener at home at Reckling Park against national power Stanford on Feb. 15 at 4:30 pm. The contest is the first of a three-game weekend series against the Cardinal. Rice's 2003 National Championship team will be recognized at Saturday 2 pm game as part of that team's 10-year reunion.