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Perfect game
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Perfect game

Since 1991, a perfect game has been defined by Major League Baseball as a game in which a pitcher pitches a complete game victory that lasts a minimum of nine innings and in which no opposition player reaches first base. In short, the pitcher cannot allow any hits, walks, hit batters, or any other baserunners for any reason. And, of course, no runs are allowed either. Since the pitcher cannot control whether or not his teammates commit any errors, the pitcher must be backed up by a solid defense to pitch a perfect game. However, an error which does not allow a baserunner, such as a misplayed foul ball, may occur in a perfect game. Several games have, heart breakingly, not qualified under this definition.

A perfect game is widely regarded as the pinnacle of pitching performance, and is one of the most difficult achievements in baseball or indeed any sport. It is the masterpiece of a pitcher's career and, in Major League Baseball, places that pitcher in exceptionally elite company. In fact, it is so rare (and difficult) that luck, as much as skill, plays an enormous role; there have been many great pitchers who have never pitched a perfect game and a few otherwise forgettable pitchers who have. Over the past 120 years of Major League Baseball history, there have only been 17 perfect games, and two from the 19th century probably shouldn't be included.

Table of contents
1 Major League Baseball perfect games
2 Near-misses or "hidden" perfect games
3 See also

Major League Baseball perfect games

19th century

Pitcher, Age Date Game
John Lee Richmond (Wor), 37 June 12, 1880
Monte Ward (Prov), 37 June 17, 1880

Modern era

Pitcher, Age Date Game
Cy Young (Bos), 37 May 5, 1904
Addie Joss (Cle), 28,
  74 pitches
October 2, 1908
Charlie Robertson (Chi), 26,
  90 pitches
April 30, 1922
Don Larsen (NY), 27,
  97 pitches
October 8, 1956
Jim Bunning (Phi), 32,
  90 pitches
June 21, 1964
Sandy Koufax (LA), 29,
  113 pitches
September 9, 1965
Catfish Hunter (Oak), 22,
  107 pitches
May 8, 1968
Len Barker (Cle), 25,
  103 pitches
May 15, 1981
Mike Witt (Cal), 24,
  94 pitches
September 30, 1984
Tom Browning (Cin), 28,
  102 pitches
September 16, 1988
Dennis Martinez (Mon), 36,
  95 pitches
July 28, 1991
Kenny Rogers (Tex), 29,
  98 pitches
July 28, 1994
David Wells (NY), 34,
  120 pitches
May 17, 1998
David Cone (NY), 36,
  88 pitches
July 18, 1999
Randy Johnson (Ari), 40,
  117 pitches
May 18, 2004


  1. Larsen pitched the first and only post-season no-hitter (and perfect game, too) in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
  2. The first two perfect games occurred when pitching was underhanded (the hand could not rise above the belt), from 45 feet away from home plate, 8 balls were required for a walk, hitters could direct a high or low ball, and so on. They were fundamentally different than the rest of those listed and only arguably belong in this list; changes in the rules since Cy Young's perfect game have been of much less significance.
  3. Cy Young's perfect game was part of a hitless innings streak (24 straight and still(!) a record) and a scoreless innings streak (45 straight, no longer a record).
  4. The Boston Pilgrims became the Red Sox; the Huntington Avenue Grounds became the home of the Boston Braves and the Red Sox moved to Fenway Park when it was finished in 1911. The Cleveland Naps (so-called after they acquired Napoleon Lajoie) finally settled on 'Indians' for a name.

Near-misses or "hidden" perfect games

The official definition of a perfect game requires that a pitcher allow no baserunners over the course of entire nine inning (or more) game, and that the pitcher pitch a complete game victory. However, there have been a few instances in which a pitcher retired every batter over nine innings (that is, 27 consecutive batters), but did not earn a perfect game, either because the game went into extra innings, or because he did not pitch a complete game victory.

On June 23, 1917, Babe Ruth (Boston Red Sox) walked the first batter in a game against the Washington Senators. Ruth was so enraged with the calls made by umpire Brick Owens that he punched Owens in the face, and was ejected. Ernie Shore came in to replace Ruth. The runner on first was caught stealing, and Shore proceeded to retire the next 26 batters. All 27 outs were made while Shore was on the mound. This was once recognized as a perfect game by Shore.

On May 26, 1959, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates carried a perfect game through an amazing twelve innings against the Milwaukee Braves and Warren Spahn, only to have it ruined by an error in the 13th inning. Haddix, and the Pirates, lost the game!

On June 3, 1995, Pedro Martinez of the Montreal Expos had a perfect game through nine innings against the San Diego Padres. In the 10th inning, he gave up a leadoff double to Bip Roberts.

Four other "perfect games" are unofficial because the games ended before nine innings were completed. Dean Chance (1967) and David Palmer (Expos, 1984) pitched perfect games through 5 innings and won rainouts, but neither gets credit for a perfect game as they didn't go nine innings. The weather has to cooperate too!

See also