Only 22 pitchers have been perfect in MLB history
The pitcher stands on the mound and battles the opposing batters for nine innings.
Although the pitcher strives for perfection every time out, he rarely is perfect.
As a matter of fact, in the history of the game, only 22 pitchers have thrown a perfect game, which is allowing no hits and no opposing player to reach base for at least nine innings.
Of the 22 perfect games, 11 have occurred since 1988.
The first perfect game was hurled against the Cleveland Blues by Worcester Ruby Legs’ Lee Richmond on June 12, 1880. The last was tossed 132 years and one day later on June 13, 2012 by San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain, who beat the Houston Astros, 10-0.
The perfect game is so rare and so special of an event, it’s on my bucket list.
I want to watch a Major League perfect game from start to finish on television and in person.
I watched Cain’s on the MLB Network and got to scratch off “watching a perfect game from start to finish on television.”
The key phrase is “from start to finish.”
Note to reader, on June 2, 2010, I watched on television from start to finish Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga nearly become the 21st pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game.
Facing the Cleveland Indians, Galarraga retired the first 26 batters he faced, but his bid for a perfect game was ended one out short when first base umpire Jim Joyce blew the call and incorrectly ruled that Indians batter Jason Donald reached first base safely on a ground ball.
I thought I was going to be able to check off one of my items on my bucket list, but one bad call denied me of that honor, and Galarraga of history.
However, it’s all trivial now. But then, much of baseball is trivial, until trivia reveals things bigger and more obvious facts can’t reveal.
And even if it doesn’t, try enjoying some of these fun and trivial facts about baseball’s 22 perfect games.
The most common margin of victory for perfect games in 1- 0 and there were six thrown. The second most common was 4-0 and five.
Until Cain’s perfect game, no perfect game was won by double-digits. Prior to Cain’s 10-0 win, the largest margin of victory was 6-0 and there were two (New York Yankees’ David Cone in 1999 and Philadelphia Phillies’ Jim Bunning in 1964).
American League pitchers have hurled 13 perfect games compared to nine in the National League, despite being 25 years older.
Eight of the 13 pitched occurred after the designated hitter rule took effect in the AL.
There have been four “shortened” perfect games, which by rule in not considered to be a “complete” perfect game. The last was thrown by Baltimore Orioles’ David Palmer in 1984.
Six perfect games have been thrown between May 5-18, four were hurled between June 9-17 and four occurred between July 18-28.
To throw a perfect game, a pitcher must face the minimum of 27 batters. So, only one of the 22 pitcher wore No. 27.
That distinction goes to Oakland pitcher Catfish Hunter, who wore No. 27 for his perfect game in 1968, when the Athletics beat the Minnesota Twins.
The oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game was Arizona Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson (age 40) when he beat the Atlanta Braves, 2-0, in 2004.
The youngest pitcher to throw a perfect game was by Providence Grays’ John Montgomery Ward (age 20), when he beat the Buffalo Bisons, 5-0, in 1880 — just five days after the first-ever perfect game.
The New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox are tied for first with three perfect games each, while the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians and the Oakland A’s are tied for second with two each.
There are 15 men alive who threw perfect games; for comparison, we now have four living ex-presidents.
Catfish Hunter’s three singles and three RBI (before the DH) is the best hitting performance by any perfect pitcher; Jim Bunning’s 1-4 with a double and two RBI is the second best performance.
Chicago White Sox pitcher Charlie Robertson, who was perfect against the Detroit Tigers in 1922, is the least successful pitcher to throw a perfect game: he never had a winning season, pitched over 155 innings in a season just twice, and posted an ERA of 8.36 four years after his perfection.
The worst team to have a perfect game (Randy Johnson) goes to the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks, which finished the season at 51-111.
Ron Hassey is the only catcher to catch two perfect games; he nearly caught a third for the 1989 A’s. He caught Cleveland’s Len Barker’s perfect game on May 15, 1981, and 10 years later in 1991, he caught Montreal’s Dennis’ Martinez perfect game on July 28, 1991.
The 1988 L.A. Dodgers are the only team in Major League history to have a perfect game thrown against them in the year they won a World Series.
Here’s a strange fact. A dozen perfect games were thrown since 1991, which occurred during the two most prolific offensive decades in MLB history.
Six Hall of Famers have thrown perfect games, with Randy Johnson set to become the seventh in about five years.
First base umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call in 2010 denied three historical firsts.
The blown call denied Galarraga his first perfect game as well as the first Detroit pitcher to hurl a perfect game. In addition, it also prevented the third perfect game in 2010.
Instead, 2010, 1880 and 2012 remain in a tie for the most perfect games in one season — two.
The number of pitches required to retire 27 batters has ranged from 74 (Cleveland’s Addie Joss in 1908) to 125 (San Francisco’s Matt Cain).
Four of the last six perfect games have involved three of the four most recent expansion teams in the majors (Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins.)
Seven perfect games had small crowds of less than 10,600. Six also had crowds of more than 40,000. The largest crowd ever to witness a perfect game was in the fifth game of the 1956 World Series when 64,519 fans watched New York Yankees’ Don Larsen thrown his perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers (2-0).
New York Yankees’ David Wells (1998) and Don Larsen (1956) are graduates of the same high school — Point Loma High in San Diego.
Now you may get why it’s so important to me to check off the other half of my “perfect game” from my bucket list.
You never know when the next one, if ever, will be pitched.