Today is the anniversary of the first perfect game in Major League Baseball history. It occurred in 1880 and the pitcher was John Lee Richmond, who played for Worcester against Forest City. They may not sound like Major League teams, but back then they were. In fact, Forest City was in Cleveland and Worcester near Boston. This first perfect game occurred just 11 years after the establishment of league when the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed.
Speaking of the Reds, the only perfect game by a Cincinnati pitcher was Tom Browning in 1988.
A perfect game is defined by Major League Baseball as a game in which a pitcher (or combination of pitchers) pitches a victory that lasts a minimum of nine innings in which no opposing player reaches base. Thus, the pitcher (or pitchers) cannot allow any hits, walks, hit batsmen, or any opposing player to reach base safely for any other reason and the fielders cannot make an error that allows an opposing player to reach a base; in short, "27 up, 27 down”. The first known use in print of the term perfect game occurred in 1908. I. E. Sanborn's report for the Chicago Tribune about Addie Joss's performance against the White Sox calls it "an absolutely perfect game, without run, without hit, and without letting an opponent reach first base by hook or crook, on hit, walk, or error, in nine innings.”
During the course of MLB’s 150 year history of over 210,000 games, there have been just 23 perfect games, a rare event indeed. But it should be 24! On June 2, 2010, during a game I happened to be watching, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game due to a terribly bad call by umpire Jim Joyce with two out in the ninth inning. Above is a photo that shows how far the runner is out and here’s a video of the controversial play. So a perfect game, unfortunately in this case, also demands perfection by the umpires!
Later Joyce admitted his mistake and apologized to Galarraga. Since then the twosome have teamed up to write a book about the game and also share speaking engagements around the country on sportsmanship.
The next day, Chevrolet gave Galarraga a new Corvette for the almost perfect game! And 10 months later, a local newspaper reported that MLB had reversed the call and declared it a perfect game. The date of the article was April 1st, a cruel April Fools joke to us Tiger fans.
The most famous perfect game in major league history was pitched by Yankee Don Larson in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Check out Vin Scully’s historic call of the final out.
Today also happens to be the anniverary of the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and also is the anniversary of Sparky Anderson's hiring by the Tigers in 1979 after the Reds abruptly fired him the previous year. His firing by the Reds really upset me, but his subsequent hiring by the Tigers made my day. Speaking of Sparky, what do Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver and Sparky Anderson have in common? Follow me on Twitter and you’ll get the answer!