The Challenge of Perfection

Recently, we were reminded of how difficult certain baseball accomplishments can be. The White Sox Carlos Rodon entering the 9th inning without having allowed a base runner, giving him the opportunity to pitch a “Perfect Game”. After retiring the fist batter, he let a breaking pitch get away and it hit the batter in the foot. Rodon got two more outs to finish with a no-hitter, but the perfecto got away.

To understand the scarcity involved, this would have been the first perfect game in almost nine years and only the 24th in the history of the game…and five of those were before 1923. What’s even more interesting is that this singular feat has not always been done by well-known hurlers. In fact, only six of them belong to members of the Hall of Fame.

Let’s take a look at the famous, infamous and ordinary pitchers who belong to this exclusive club. We’ll begin after World War II with arguably the most famous one of all.

  • 1956 – Don Larsen, Yankees – Game 5 of the World Series against the Dodgers will never be forgotten. A journeyman pitcher throws strike three to Dale Mitchell and has Yogi Berra jump into his arms. It was the first perfect game since 1922.
  • 1964 – Jim Bunning, Phillies – This Hall of Famer pitched the first National League perfect game of the 20th century.
  • 1965 – Sandy Koufax, Dodgers – One of Sandy’s four no-hitters.
  • 1968 – Catfish Hunter, Athletics – He also had three hits and three RBI’s in the game.
  • 1981 – Len Barker, Indians – The first perfect game where designated hitters were in the line-up. His lifetime record was 74-76.
  • 1984 – Mike Witt, Angels – This came on the last day of the regular season versus the Rangers.
  • 1988 – Tom Browning, Reds – He beat the Dodgers 1-0 in mid-September but L.A. went on to win the World Series.
  • 1991 – Dennis Martinez, Expos – 45,000 fans at Dodger Stadium didn’t have much to cheer about.
  • 1994 – Kenny Rogers, Rangers – Jose Canseco hit two HR’s for Texas and Bo Jackson was in the Angels line-up.
  • 1998 – David Wells, Yankees – Bernie Williams hit a HR and Jorge Posada was the Catcher.
  • 1999 – David Cone, Yankees – The first perfect game done in interleague play, Cone only threw 88 pitches.
  • 2004 – Randy Johnson, D’Backs – The oldest to pitch a perfect game, he was 40. He also had another no-hitter 14 years earlier.
  • 2009 – Mark Buehrle, White Sox – A long-forgotten OF named Dewayne Wise reached over the wall to make a catch in the 9th inning.
  • 2010 – Dallas Braden, Athletics – He only won one more game after 2010 and had a lifetime record of 26-36.
  • 2010 – Roy Halladay, Phillies – Beat the Marlins 1-0 on an unearned run.
  • 2012 – Philip Humber, White Sox – The following season, he was 0-8 and then retired at age 30.
  • 2012 – Matt Cain, Giants – Had 14 K’s to tie Koufax’s record in a perfect game.
  • 2012 – Felix Hernandez, Mariners – Three perfect games in one season and none since.

Of course, this history also has some controversy…

  • Armando Galarraga of the Tigers would have had a perfect game in 2010 if instant replay had been available and utilized.
  • Pedro Martinez pitched nine perfect innings for the Expos in 1995 but lost the game 1-0 in the 10th inning.
  • Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings for the Pirates in 1959 but lost the game in the 13th inning. Lew Burdette pitched a 13 inning shutout for the Braves and got the win.

Catfish Hunter was once asked why he was not able to pitch another perfect game. His response was, “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass all the time”.

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