The Unbearable Lightness of Perfect Games

There have been 20 official Perfect Games (sorry, Harvey Haddix; sorry, Pedro Martinez) in baseball history, and thanks to Dallas Braden and now Roy Halladay, there have been two of them in just twenty days.

Of course it’s more preposterous than that. Because Mark Buehrle threw his perfecto for the White Sox just last July 23rd, there have now been three perfect games (15 percent of all of them, ever) in the last 130 days of Major League Baseball play.
Wait – it gets worse. The first perfect game, by Lee Richmond of Worcester of the National League, was thrown on June 12, 1880. The second, by Johnny Ward of Providence (also still in the NL that season), took place just five days later. So now we’re talking about a quarter of all of them, ever, being concentrated in a net span of 135 days of play.
Wait – it gets worse still. After Richmond and Ward set the standard for pitching perfection in less than a week, the next perfect game thrown in their league, was a mere 84 years and four days after Ward’s, on June 21, 1964. That was Jim Bunning’s 27-for-27 against the Mets, which, to round it out neatly, was the last such game thrown by a Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher until Halladay did it tonight in Miami.
And yes, therein lies the last bizarre coincidence. Halladay’s victim: Florida. Braden’s, three weeks ago? Tampa Bay. Buehrle’s, last year? Tampa Bay. Those three perfect games in the 130-day span were each against the two Florida teams.
HELMETS AND GROUP HUGS:
Baseball got lucky again; David Huff of the Indians was sending out his own health updates on Twitter, and actually back in the ballpark with his teammates before they finished their rally against the Yankees. But the luck can’t last forever: at the current rate of growth of bat speed, a pitcher will be maimed or killed before the decade is out, and the sport must take any action that will even slightly reduce the chance or delay the possibility. The easiest solution has been mentioned here before: since at the end of their deliveries, pitchers are closer to batters, than batters were when the pitchers released the ball, pitchers and batters alike should be wearing helmets. Period.
As to the Kendry Morales disaster, this too has been coming for awhile (ask Jake Peavy about it, or Denny Hocking). You are not excluded from the laws of physics just because you’re happy and celebrating. Presumably this needs no new rules, just players seeing the videotape.
MAYBE IT’S THE DO:
Having just watched John Axford (right) record his second career save with a 1-2-3 inning against the Mets, I’m beginning to wonder if half of closing is style.
IMG_2387.jpg

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                                   COURTESY WPIX-TV
Axford’s story is well-known now: Notre Dame, Tommy John surgery, transfer, independent ball, released, A-ball last season, and suddenly thrust into succeeding Trevor Hoffman in Milwaukee when his velocity jumped up to the mid-90’s this spring. Plus he donned the Rollie Fingers style handlebar. The gentleman on the left you may not recognize, and if he had his way, this photo would never have seen the light of day. It is during his time in the Puerto Rican Winter League of 1972-73, at which point his career stats were 7-1, 4.28, 2 saves. Soon would come a Fu Manchu (and a grownup haircut), 309 more saves and eventually Cooperstown. That’s Rich Gossage, aged 21, and, no, the hair wasn’t attached to the cap.

39 comments

  1. mrlyngreen

    I knew you were going to blog this. I am not psychic but I couldn’t see how you could pass this one up. At least it was a National League pitcher this time. One of my twitter followers mentioned the 1880 statistic to me. If we get one more perfect game this year we will have a hat trick:>) For poor Florida’s sake though I hope it is not against them.

    Goose’s hairstyle reminds me a little of Gene Wilder. The mustache? Don’t forget Al Hrabosky.

    P.S. Jim Bunning does not count. Fool.

  2. rochdalian

    Is this the first time that there’s ever been two perfect games in a season?

    Goose’s hair in that picture made me remember his teammate with the Yankees and White Sox, Oscar Gamble. He had a perfect swing for Yankee Stadium, but how did he ever keep is hat on his head?

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  3. entireofitself@aol.com

    Wow… I feel like I should be hearing the theme to the “Twilight Zone” right about now. Poor Florida… I live here, and I have to say – although it has nothing to do with baseball, every time I hear you talk about a dumb criminal on Oddball, I always think to myself “Please not Florida, please not Florida, please not… oh damn!” What is it about Florida, anyway?? Jeez. 🙂 So as to the style issue – is it perhaps that the hair is just so distracting to the hitters? Okay, I’m mostly kidding…. Great stuff, thanks!

  4. mrlyngreen

    You either edited this post or I am hallucinating. I don’t recall the part about Huff and Morales being there before .{shrugs}

    I agree that helmets for pitchers is a good idea. Being 90 feet in a straight line from the batter is a dangerous place. What do you figure is the velocity of a liner hit straight to a pitcher by say Albert Pujos or Alex Rodriguez? Ouch.

    I am glad Huff is okay. The next pitcher might no be so lucky.

  5. ktwoa

    Celebrating. Didn’t the Phoenix Cardinals have a kicker who ruined his career hopping about after making a kick in the NFL???

  6. ajmilner@cavtel.net

    The ninth perfect game ever was Catfish Hunter’s in May 1968. If we agree MLB began in 1871, that means there were exactly nine perfect games in the first 110 seasons of big league ball (until Len Barker’s in May 1981).

    Well, last night’s perfect game by Mr. Halladay was the ninth occuring during Jamie Moyer’s MLB career (debut June 1986).

    Food for thought.

  7. grk9

    And then there are perfect games that ARE perfect games until an umpire rules the batter safe at first with two out in the ninth… even though the runner is out by a full step from any angle you choose to watch.

    Nothing can make this a perfect game anymore. No ruling by Selig, no apology by the umpire (they do make mistakes).

    But for that moment before the umpire’s ruling was made, this was a perfect game.

  8. ubuntu214@gmail.com

    I am suspicious of players who all of a sudden raise their pitch velocity into the mid nineties when they have never pitched at those velocities consistantly in the past.

  9. doughope@earthlink.net

    Keith: Only comment is super blog… nice to read things that are from years gone by and today all in one breath… very refreshing.At almost 71 years of age my first memorable baseball experience was in at Wrigley Field on April 22nd or 27th 1947… I was with my grand father… couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get a set… Jackie Robinson’s first game in Chicago… still have the ticket and program… speaking of… I know you are a rabid card collector… I have 33 assorted boxes of cards… over 330,000 total cards… am divorcing and don’t have space for them… have printed list of everything… more than just cards… would give you something to do in your spare time… but it would be easy as they are all organized in specific boxes… drop back with mailing address so I can send you a copy of what I have if you might be interested in increasing your collection…

    Regards, Doug Hope
    doughope@earthlink.net

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