YES Network's Ryan Ruocco and WFAN's Justin Shackil called Yankees...

YES Network's Ryan Ruocco and WFAN's Justin Shackil called Yankees pitcher Domingo German's perfect game at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland on June 28, 2023. Credit: Justin Shackil

It was a dream forged in the late 2000s, not far from Yankee Stadium, where Ryan Ruocco and Justin Shackil became close friends at Fordham, friends with similar professional aims.

On a chilly Wednesday night in Oakland, that dream and those aims converged in the same press box, far from home but close to one another.

Ruocco, filling in for Michael Kay on the YES Network, had the television play-by-play call of Domingo German’s perfect game against the Athletics.

Shackil, filling in for John Sterling on WFAN, had the radio play-by-play call.

“I thought of that around the sixth or seventh inning,” Ruocco told Newsday on Thursday. “I was like, ‘Holy [expletive], Justin and I might call a perfect game on the same night in the same ballpark for the team we both grew up loving. Like, how crazy is that? It's amazing.”

Shackil told Newsday, “It's indescribable. We were in college doing games together on WFUV and hanging out in our apartments and doing what college kids do, but we were always hustling, always trying to get better, and we were doing it together."

“I have some emotional thoughts. Wow. It's so surreal.”

Shackil was scheduled to be a groomsman in Ruocco’s wedding before it was downsized by COVID-19. He did go to the bachelor party.

As recently as Wednesday before the game, the two 36-year-olds walked the streets of San Francisco together, trying to navigate its steep hills.

“He is one of my best friends in the world,” Ruocco said. “We are ridiculously close.”

It was all just another subplot to an unlikely night before a small crowd in a doomed ballpark – not the kind of setting in which one would expect such momentousness.

“Nobody goes into a Wednesday night West Coast game against the team that might set the record for most losses in baseball history and thinks, tonight’s going to be the most memorable game of the year or a game that's going to live forever in history,” Ruocco said.

“It’s a cliche to say, but that's baseball. That's sports, right? That's what makes what we do so awesome. You truly never know when that moment is coming. For it to come [Wednesday] night was pretty dang cool.”

As German’s perfect game unfolded in what would be an 11-0 victory, Ruocco took the old-school approach of not saying the words “perfect game” out loud, fearing he might jinx the pitcher and figuring he could keep viewers informed even without using that term.

Shackil adopted the more common approach of recent decades of talking openly about what was happening.

For Shackil, it was his second lifetime perfect game. He was in the stands as a fan in 1998 with his aunt, uncle and sister when David Wells threw one against the Twins.

Shackil and Ruocco were at Citi Field together in 2015 when the Giants’ Chris Heston no-hit the Mets.

One of Ruocco’s YES colleagues, David Cone, threw a perfect game for the Yankees in 1999. Cone was not working Wednesday, but Ruocco texted him after the fifth inning for advice on when to start contemplating a potential perfect game.

Ruocco shared the exact text exchange:

Ruocco: “What inning did you start thinking about it in July of ’99?”

Cone: “Now.”

“We're all in a very unique position of working with a man who's thrown one of the 24 perfect games in baseball history,” Ruocco said. “So it was pretty cool.”

Both calls of the final out got generally good reviews on social media, each with relatively straightforward accounts of the ground ball to third base from Esteury Ruiz to Josh Donaldson that ended it.

Ruocco woke up to a text from Kay, who said he fell asleep in the second inning of the live telecast but watched all 27 outs on Thursday morning. He congratulated Ruocco for a job well done.

“It was a really, really, really nice thing of Michael to send me,” Ruocco said. “I so appreciated it.”

What did the announcers themselves think?

“Watching the final out [on replay], I was very happy with the way it ended up sounding, so I feel great about that,” said Ruocco, who credited the entire YES crew for the totality of the telecast, especially in building narrative tension.

Shackil, too, credited his colleagues for strong overall coverage, including Suzyn Waldman’s interviews on the field with German and catcher Kyle Higashioka.

Initially Shackil fretted his “voice got away” from him as he excitedly called the final out, but he added, “The more I listen to it, it's genuine emotion. I’ve never felt anything like that while behind the mic in my entire career . . . I had a lot of emotions in my head, and I just hope I met the moment at the end.”

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