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Perfect is hard to come by in sports. Some would even argue that it is impossible.
Baseball fans, however, would remind us that perfection is possible in America’s pastime although it is extremely difficult.
It is called “A Perfect Game”.
A perfect game in baseball is when a pitcher does not allow a baserunner via hit, walk, hit-by-pitch, or error over the course of a complete game.
Let’s take a deeper dive into what the rule book and the history books have to say about perfect games.
- 1 No-Hitter vs. Perfect Game
- 2 Combined No-Hitters
- 3 Unconventional No-Hitters
- 4 How Rare is a Perfect Game in Baseball?
- 5 Who Has Thrown a Perfect Game?
- 6 The Almost Perfect Game
- 7 Has There Ever Been a Perfect Game in the World Series?
- 8 Related Questions
No-Hitter vs. Perfect Game
All perfect games are no-hitters, but not all no-hitters are perfect games.
In a perfect game, nobody reaches base safely. In a no-hitter, a pitcher may allow baserunners, but as long as they do not reach base via hit, then the game is still considered a no-hitter.
For example, a pitcher may allow two walks, a hit-by-pitch, and two runners via error, but as long as he does not give up a hit, then the game is classified as a no-hitter.
This gives the pitcher more room for error in throwing a no-hitter. Although it is easier to throw a no-hitter, it is still a rare feat. We will discuss this more later.
See more: No Hitter vs. the Perfect Game
As stated earlier, what classifies as a no-hitter is much more lenient than what classifies a perfect game.
In fact, multiple pitchers can even combine for a no-hitter, so long as none of them allow any hits. This has happened on several occasions.
In 2003 against the Yankees, the Astros set the record for the most pitchers used in a no-hitter. Roy Oswalt started that game and only lasted one inning due to injury. Five relievers then combined to no-hit the Yankees over the last eight innings and lead the Astros to an 8-0 win.
Nine years later, the Seattle Mariners tied the Astros’ record in a 1-0 win against the Dodgers. This game looked a lot different as Mariners’ starter Kevin Millwood lasted six innings, and five relievers combined to throw the last three innings.
While it is possible to throw a combined perfect game, it has never happened in the history of Major League Baseball. This is likely due to the fact that pitch counts typically stay relatively low during perfect games, so there is often no need to make the call to the bullpen.
There have been some wild no-hitters in Major League Baseball in which multiple batters have reached base.
In 1992, Boston Red Sox pitcher Matt Young threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians and lost 2-1. He allowed two earned runs and struck out seven, but he walked seven batters and allowed six stolen bases over eight innings.
Because he only threw eight innings, Young’s performance is not in the record books as an official no-hitter. However, since the Red Sox were the visiting team and were losing, it was not necessary for him to pitch the ninth inning.
In 2010, Edwin Jackson threw 149 pitches for the Arizona Diamondbacks in a no-hit performance against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jackson did allow eight walks and a hit-by-pitch over nine innings, but the Diamondbacks were able to hang on and win 1-0.
Ken Holtzman of the Chicago Cubs threw a rather remarkable no-hitter in 1969 against the Atlanta Braves. Holtzman only allowed three walks, but what made his no-hitter so unbelievable was the fact that he did not strike out a single batter.
Even Holtzman has admitted that he did not have his best stuff that day and credits the wind for keeping Hank Aaron from hitting a home run in the seventh inning.
Clearly, there is some luck involved in throwing both a no-hitter and a perfect game, but there is a larger margin for error in no-hitters.
How Rare is a Perfect Game in Baseball?
Witnessing a perfect game is something to treasure as they are extremely rare in baseball.
In the history of Major League Baseball, only 23 perfect games have been thrown.
To put this into perspective, no-hitters are also pretty rare, but there have been 314 of them in MLB history. That means there is only one perfect game thrown for every 13 no-hitters.
To put its rarity into even more perspective, there have previously been two separate streaks in the MLB of 23 and 33 years between perfect games.
If you ever have a chance to watch a pitcher throw a perfect game, take in every moment. There’s a chance you may never see another one again in your lifetime.
Who Has Thrown a Perfect Game?
Here is a list of pitchers who have thrown a perfect game in the MLB:
- Lee Richmond (1880) – 5 K’s W
- John Montgomery Ward (1880) – 5 K’s
- Cy Young (1904) – 8 K’s
- Addie Joss (1908) – 74 pitches 3 K’s
- Charlie Robertson (1922) – 90 pitches 6 K’s
- Don Larsen (1956) – 97 pitches 7 K’s
- Jim Bunning (1964) – 90 pitches 10 K’s
- Sandy Koufax (1965) – 113 pitches 14 K’s
- Catfish Hunter (1968) – 107 pitches 11 K’s
- Len Barker (1981) – 103 pitches 11 K’s
- Mike Witt (1984) – 94 pitches 10 K’s
- Tom Browning (1988) – 100 pitches 7 K’s
- Dennis Martinez (1991) – 95 pitches 5 K’s
- Kenny Rogers (1994) – 98 pitches 8 K’s
- David Wells (1998) – 120 pitches 11 K’s
- David Cone (1999) – 88 pitches 10 K’s
- Randy Johnson (2004) – 117 pitches 14 K’s
- Mark Buehrle (2009) – 116 pitches 6 K’s
- Dallas Braden (2010) – 109 pitches 6 K’s
- Roy Halladay (2010) – 115 pitches 11 K’s
- Philip Humber (2012) – 96 pitches 9 K’s
- Matt Cain (2012) – 125 pitches 14 K’s
- Felix Hernandez (2012) – 113 pitches 12 K’s
2012 was a crazy year in which there were three perfect games thrown. It is safe to say that that is not likely to happen again any time soon being that 2010 was the first year that multiple perfect games were thrown in the same year since 1880.
It may seem as though perfect games are more common these days as five have taken place since 2010, but the MLB is currently in a nine year drought since its last perfect game.
With teams putting more value in their bullpens and having a quicker trigger on pulling their starters, today’s game is even more difficult to reach perfection on the mound.
The Almost Perfect Game
In 2010, Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was one controversial call away from throwing a perfect game. Galarraga had recorded 26 outs in a row without allowing a baserunner and needed just one more to seal the deal.
On a ground ball hit between first and second, first baseman Miguel Cabrera ranged to his right to field the ball. Gallaraga covered first base, and Cabrera flipped him the ball. He appeared to step on the bag before the runner, but first base umpire Jim Joyce called the runner safe.
Manager Jim Leyland argued the call, but it was to no avail as this game was played before instant replay was available to overturn calls. Joyce later expressed regret for his miscall, and Galarraga showed his support by saying “No one is perfect”.
For a recap of the perfect game that never was, was this video.
Has There Ever Been a Perfect Game in the World Series?
Believe it or not, a perfect game in the World Series has happened before, albeit once.
Don Larsen of the New York Yankees threw a perfect game in game five of the 1956 World Series. He needed only 97 pitches to retire the Brooklyn Dodgers in order.
The Dodgers lineup consisted of four future Hall of Famers (Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella), and they had chased Larsen after just 2 ⅔ innings in game two. Game five was a different story.
The last out of the game was a strikeout of Dodgers pinch hitter Dale Mitchell. In 29 career World Series at-bats, that was Mitchell’s only strikeout.
The Yankees went on to win the 1956 World Series in seven games, and Larsen is proof that a historical moment in the biggest game of your career is enough to etch your name in the history books.
Larsen’s career, aside from his immortal moment in the World Series, was rather lackluster, winning 81 career games and losing 91. Before that game five performance in 1956, he had thrown only 5 ⅔ innings over two World Series starts.
No one remembers all of his subpar performances; they remember the day that he was perfect on baseball’s biggest stage.
Interestingly enough, David Cone threw a perfect game for the Yankees in the regular season 43 years later, and Larsen was actually in attendance for that game. He and Yogi Berra, the catcher for Larsen’s perfect game, had been invited to throw out the first pitch that day.
Who holds the record for most career no-hitters?
Nolan Ryan holds the Major League record for no-hitters thrown with seven. Sandy Koufax, who also has a perfect game to his record, is second on the list with four career no-hitters.
Who threw the fewest pitches in a perfect game?
In 1908, Addie Joss needed only 74 pitches to throw a perfect game against the Chicago White Sox. He averaged only 8.22 pitches per inning in this contest.
Who threw the quickest perfect game in MLB history?
In 1904, Cy Young threw a perfect game against the Philadelphia Athletics that lasted only 1 hour 25 minutes. His team, the Boston Americans, won that game 3-0 in front of just over 10,000 fans. It was only the third perfect game ever thrown and was the first in the World Series era.
How many perfect games have been thrown in college baseball?
30 perfect games have been thrown in Division 1 College Baseball with the first coming in 1959 by Maryland’s Dick Reitz against Johns Hopkins and the most recent in 2019 by East Carolina’s Jake Kuchmaner against – coincidentally – Maryland. 13 of these games came in 7-inning games and one happened in a 5-inning game.
Who holds the record for most consecutive perfect innings?
Mark Buehrle owns the Major League record for most consecutive innings pitched with 15. After his perfect game in 2009, he threw six perfect innings in a game against the Minnesota Twins that the White Sox eventually lost. He retired 45 consecutive batters in that span.
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