Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fast Facts About Every Perfect Game

More than 300,000 games have been played over the course of baseball history. Only twenty-three of them featured a pitcher retiring all 27 batters in order. Here are some miscellaneous items of interest for each perfect game.

On June 12, 1880, Lee Richmond of the Worcester Worcesters tossed the first recorded perfect game in history. In Richmond's day, one umpire presided over the entire field and it's possible (even likely) that he got the benefit of some questionable calls.

On June 17, 1880, John Montgomery Ward pitched a perfect game over the Buffalo Bisons. At twenty years of age, Ward remains the youngest pitcher to record a perfecto. An interesting side note, the mound was only fifty feet from home plate in 1880.

On May 5, 1904, Cy Young completely dominated the Philadelphia A's. Parks were smaller in those days and only 10,000-plus Bostonians witness Young's historic feat. By then, the mound had been moved to its current distance of 60 feet, 6 inches.

On Oct. 2, 1908, Hall of Famer Addie Joss turned in one of the most efficient pitching performances of all time, using just 74 pitches to retire every White Sox opponent who came to the plate that day. The game was over in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

On Apr. 30, 1922, Charlie Robertson of the White Sox was perfect against the Tigers at Detroit. Despite his masterpiece, Robertson never recorded a .500 record in any season. He was 49-80 lifetime with a bulky 4.44 ERA. There would not be another perfect game in the majors for forty-two years.

On Oct. 8, 1956, Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. Witnessed by a huge crowd of 64,000-plus, he shut down the Dodgers, 2-0. Larsen had such a notoriously weak fastball, writer Shirley Povich once remarked that it "ought to have been equipped with backup lights."

On June 21, 1964, Phillies right-hander Jim Bunning was perfect against the hapless Mets at Shea Stadium. Of all the pitchers who have achieved perfection, Bunning is the only one to have served as a United States Senator. Bunning chatted with teammates between innings throughout this game--a somewhat unusual practice considering what was at stake. 

On Sept. 9, 1965, Sandy Koufax pitched a masterpiece against the Cubs at Los Angeles. This perfecto was unique in that it featured the fewest hits by either team (1) and the fewest base runners (3). The Dodgers' only run was unearned.

On May 8, 1968, Catfish Hunter got his name on the map with a perfect game over the Twins. When it was over, A's owner Charlie Finley called Catfish and informed him that he had just cost the team $5,000. When Hunter apologized and asked why, Finley told Hunter that he would be increasing the hurler's salary by that much the following year. 

On May 15, 1981,Len Barker of the Indians efficiently disposed of every Toronto hitter he faced. This was the second most sparsely attended perfect game in history with just over 7,000 fans on hand. Only Hunter's perfect game in'68 drew fewer witnesses. 

On September 30, 1984, Mike Witt of the Angels completely derailed the Texas Rangers. This was the last game of the season. Witt would participate in a combined no-hitter with Mark Langston six years later. 

On Sept. 16, 1988, Cincinnati's Tom Browning threw a perfecto against the Dodgers. Browning had come close to a no-hitter earlier that year, going eight and a third innings against the Padres without yielding a hit. Predictably, it was Tony Gwynn who broke up Browning's bid with a grounder through the hole at short.

On July 28, 1991, Dennis Martinez completed a perfect game over the Dodgers. Hailing from Nicaragua, he was the first pitcher born outside the U.S. to attain the feat. At thirty-six years of age, he was the second oldest. (Cy Young was thirty-seven.)

On July 28, 1994, Kenny Rogers of the Rangers etched his name into the record books against the Angels. Interestingly, the home plate umpire was a minor league substitute working in place of veteran Ken Kaiser. He had only six games of major league experience calling balls and strikes. 

On May 17, 1998, Yankee bad boy David Wells completed a gem against the Twins. Wells claimed to have been hung over from the night before. Actor Billy Crystal came to the clubhouse to congratulate Wells and joked: "I got here late--what happened?"

On July 18, 1999, David Cone became the third Yankee hurler to attain immortality. His historic game occurred on "Yogi Berra Day" at Yankee Stadium. As fate would have it, Don Larsen had thrown a ceremonial pitch to Berra before the game commemorating Larsen's '56 World Series perfecto. 

On May 18, 2004, left-handed strikeout king Randy Johnson vanquished the Braves in spectacular fashion, striking out 13. At forty years-old, he became the oldest pitcher to toss a perfect game. 

On July 23, 2009, Mark Buehrle of the White Sox threw the only perfect game in the history of US Cellular Field. In the game following Buehrle's historic effort, he retired the first 17 batters he faced. His 45 consecutive outs broke a record previously held by teammate Bobby Jenks.

In 2010, Dallas Braden of the A's and Roy Halladay of the Phillies pitched perfect games just twenty days apart--the shortest time span between any two perfectos. Halladay pitched a no-hitter later that year against the Reds in the NLDS, becoming the second pitcher to turn the trick in postseason play.

2012 was a historic year as Philip Humber of the White Sox, Matt Cain of the Giants and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners all achieved perfection. This had never happened before and quite possibly never will again. Humber is perhaps the most undistinguished pitcher ever to throw a perfect game. He played in less than a hundred contests from 2006-20013 and left the majors with a 5.31 ERA. 
Just goes to show you that on any given day...

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