Sunday, July 5, 2015

Perfect Games Spoiled (Part I)

On thirteen occasions, the 27th batter of a game has broken up a bid for perfection. The most recent example came on June 20 of the current season, when Max Scherzer of the Nationals mowed down 26 straight opponents before hitting Jose Tabata on the elbow with a 2-2 offering. Replays showed that Tabata made very little effort to get out of the way.  Scherzer ended up with a no-hitter. Other excruciating examples are as follows:

July 4, 1908: Hooks Wiltse of the Giants was facing opposing moundsman George McQuillan with a 2-2 count and two outs in the ninth. Wiltse hit McQuillan, spoiling his quest for perfection. The Giants beat the Phillies, 1-0, in ten innings. This was the only scoreless near perfect game disrupted by the 27th batter and the longest complete game no-hitter (a record that has been tied twice).

August 5, 1932: Senators pinch-hitter Dave Harris singled off of Tiger ace Tommy Bridges with two outs in the ninth. Though disappointed, Bridges was okay with it, commenting that he didn't want the game to come "gift-wrapped."

June 27, 1958: Billy Pierce of the White Sox gave up a double to Senators' back-up catcher Ed Fitz Gerald on the first pitch. Fitz Gerald fared pretty well as a pinch-hitter that year, accruing a .375 average with 12 hits and 3 walks. Reportedly, his double off of Pierce just barely landed in fair territory, proving definitively that baseball is a game of inches.

September 2, 1972: Cubs right-hander Milt Pappas came up shy of a perfect game when umpire Bruce Froemming made a controversial call on a 3-2 pitch that resulted in a walk to Larry Stahl. Froemming was behind the plate for eleven no-hitters in his career and Pappas reportedly held a long-standing grudge against him.

April 15, 1983: Detroit's Milt Wilcox coughed up a pinch-hit single to Jerry Hairston of the White Sox, spoiling his bid for a perfecto. Wilcox reportedly "felt rotten" and wandered the streets of Chicago that night.

May 2, 1988: Ron Robinson's bid ended in disaster. Facing Wallace Johnson of the Expos with two strikes and his perfect game on the line, he gave up a single. The next batter, Tim Raines, drilled a 2-run homer. Robinson was removed from the game, but ended up with a win as the Reds prevailed, 3-2.

April 4, 1989: Roberto Kelly's double ended a would-be perfect game for Toronto's Dave Stieb. Steve Sax then spoiled a shutout with an RBI single. The Blue Jays won, 2-1, but it was the third time Stieb had lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth. He pitched the first no-hitter in 'Jays history in 1990 and retired with five 1-hitters on his resume.

April 20, 1990: Brian Holman of the Mariners lost his perfecto when Ken Phelps of the A's smashed a homer. Phelps ended up with 8 pinch-hit homers during his career and this was the last. The closest Holman came to matching this performance was a 3-hitter in 1989.

September 2, 2001: Carl Everett lined a single off of Mike Mussina with two strikes, breaking up the Yankee right-hander's bid for a perfect game. It would have been the first of its kind at Fenway Park, which is known as a hitter's paradise. It was the third time in Mussina's career that he had taken a no-hitter as far as the eighth inning.

June 20, 2010: Perhaps the most infamous incident of its kind, Armando Galarraga lost his bid for immortality when first base umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly called Jason Donald of the Indians safe at first on what replays clearly showed was a ground ball out. Donald made it to third on defensive indifference as Galarraga retired the next batter. Joyce called Galarraga to the umpire's room so he could issue an apology. The pitcher appreciated the gesture, commenting afterward: "He feels really bad, probably more bad than me."

September 6, 2013: Yusmeiro Petit of the Giants gave up a single to Arizona pinch-hitter Eric Chavez, spoiling his quest for perfection. Right fielder Hunter Pence made a valiant effort at a diving catch but came up short. Petit had no regrets, commenting that he was just "happy to be [there]."

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