Monday, May 10, 2010

Perfection is Rare

How many of us can say that we've accomplished something "perfect" in our lives.?
That question is probably impossible to answer. In sports, you can bowl a "perfect" game by rolling a 300 game, all strikes, and in big league baseball, perfection can only be achieved on the rare occasion that a pitcher throws a "perfect" game...not one batter reaches base successfully...he didn't allow a batter a hit, he didn't walk any batters, he didn't hit any batters, no batter reached base in any other words, the pitcher was perfect in every way, 27 batters went up to bat, and 27 batters went back to the dugout without success. A perfect game doesn't happen very often, there have only been 21 thrown since 1880, but that is why baseball is special, why you never know what will happen when you go to a big league game.
Yesterday in Oakland a little over 12,000 fans went through the turnstiles to watch the A's play baseball's best team, the Tampa Bay Rays. Little did they know what would happen when A's pitcher, and California native, Dallas Braden took the mound in the first inning yesterday.

Braden grew up in Stockton, California. If you want to call Stockton, the area code is 209...that's the section...209, that was the designated area where Braden's friends and family gathered on Sunday in the Oakland Coliseum to see him pitch, and on Mother's Day, a day that Major League Baseball celebrates moms everywhere by putting pink ribbons on every uniform, and by having players use special pink bats in honor of their mothers. Dallas Braden found another way to honor his mother.

Braden's Mom passed away when he was a senior in high school, in 2001, but his beloved grandmother, Peggy Lindsay was there, and she gave her grandson a big hug as she came on the field after Braden threw just the 19th perfect game in Major League Baseball history, beating the Tampa Rays, 4-0. It came 40 years and one day since the last A's perfect game, pitched by the late Jim "Catfish" Hunter on May 8, 1968 against the Minnesota Twins.

The rarity that is the perfect game is that in only 1 in 11,000 big league games does it occur, and no pitcher has ever thrown more than one. Only 12 big league clubs have had pitchers throw a perfect game, and just 13 teams had had a perfect game throw against them.

The perfect game is celebrated by the winning team, and it's fans, but what about the team that had the gem thrown against them...they were "imperfect." Dallas Braden confounded the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, just as the Chicago White Sox Mark Buehrle did against the Rays last July. The Rays have some pretty good hitters...B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, Pat Burrell...but in the span of less that ten months, the Rays have been as bad as it gets, twice failing to get a batter to first base.
The Rays are the only team in big league baseball history to have a perfect game thrown against them in back to back years, and only the second team have a perfect game thrown against them before someone threw one against another team. The Los Angeles Dodgers had a perfect gem thrown against them by the Reds Tom Browning on September 16th, 1988, and then again on July 28th, 1991 by the Expos Dennis Martinez...there were no perfect games thrown by any other team in between those two games.

Ah, Perfection...Cy Young threw the first modern day perfecto, against the Philadelphia A's on May 5, 1904, one of his Major League record 511 wins...the months of May and September have had the most perfect games pitched, six apiece...the New York Yankees have had the most perfect games pitched by a team, three,  by Don Larsen, who pitched the only post season perfect game, against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1956 World Series, by David Wells, who defeated the Minnesota Twins on May 17, 1998, and by David Cone, who's perfect game against the Montreal Expos is the only Inter-League perfect game, or no-hitter, and Cone's perfect game was also on Yogi Berra Day, and Don Larsen, Mr. World Series Perfection, threw out the first pitch to Berra, the catcher who caught his perfect game....the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers have had the most perfect games thrown against them, three times. The Larsen WS game, and against Browning and Martinez...the Twins and Rays are the only other clubs to have more than one perfect game against them...and then there's the case of big league short stop Alfredo Griffin. He has the distinction of playing, and batting without reaching base, in a perfect game for the losing team three times, in 1981 as a Blue Jay against the Indians Len Barker, and on the two Dodger teams, 1988 against Browning, and in 1991 against Martinez.
When a pitcher tosses a perfect game he also throws a no-hitter in the process, and that will oncee again get the A's Braden thrown into the spotlight his next start, as he attempts to do something that only one pitcher in big league history has ever done...throw back to back no-hitters...the Cincinnati Reds Johnny Van Der Meer, who blanked the Boston Bees 3-0 on June 11th, and then no-hitting the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, 6-0 just four days later.

Braden, and the Colorado Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, who no-hit the Atlanta Braves on April 17th, will be looking to join Vandermeer, the Yankees Allie Reynolds in 1951, the Detroit Tigers Virgil Trucks in 1952, and Nolan Ryan of the California Angels in 1973, as the only pitchers to throw two no-hitters in the same big league season.

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