As I watched Brett Anderson mow down one Angel after another yesterday afternoon, a silly thought popped into my head:
Why aren't there more perfect games?
The effort set forth by Anderson seemed so effortless that I started to feel like a perfecto was within reach around the fifth inning. But Bobby Abreu had no interest in history being repeated- Catfish Hunter was perfect in 1968 on the same mound Anderson pitched off of yesterday- and his seventh-inning single ended a string of 20 straight batters retired by the young southpaw.
And it reminded me just how daunting the feat of 27 up, 27 down really is.
There have been several near-misses in Major League history- nine pitchers have come within a single out of a perfect game- but since this is an A's site, we'll revisit only those games where the Green-and-Gold was involved.
It is worth noting, however, that had Anderson completed his quest for baseball immortality without getting any run support from his own team, he would have joined Harvey Haddix and Pedro Martinez as the hardest-luck pitchers of all-time.Here is a rundown of some other close calls:
- September 21, 1970 - Vida Blue pitched the second no-hitter in Oakland A's history, and only a fourth-inning walk kept him from perfection. Said Harmon Killebrew, the only man to reach base against Blue that day: "He probably wasted the walk. I doubt I could have hit the stuff he was throwing."
- July 8, 1974 - Cleveland's Dick Bosman no-hit the World Champion A's, and the only man to reach base against him was Sal Bando, via a throwing error by...Bosman. It is the only no-hit, no-walk game in history that was spoiled by a pitcher's own miscue.
- June 8, 1975 - There are have been other games where an A's starter has allowed only one hit and one walk during a complete-game shutout, but this one makes the list for its heartbreakability. The perfecto had already been lost on a fourth-inning walk, but Ken Holtzman was down to his last batter in his quest to join Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan (Hall-of-Famers, all) as the only men to spin more than two no-hitters. Alas, centerfielder Bill North misplayed Tom Veryzer's pop-up into a double. I recall listening to that game at my aunt's house, and the disappointment that followed.
- October 5, 1986 - Like Anderson, current pitching coach Curt Young retired the first 20 batters before allowing a single to Kevin Seitzer. Unlike Anderson, the A's scored (6) runs for Young, and the left-hander allowed no other baserunners on that last day of the season.
- May 26, 1989 - Rickey Henderson's fourth-inning single (damn you, fourth inning) was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect performance by three A's pitchers: Todd Burns, Rick Honeycutt, and Eric Plunk.
- April 20, 1990 - I was at this game between the A's and Mariners where Brian Holman retired the first 26 batters. I was stuck between rooting for or against history. I chose the former. Pinch-hitter Ken Phelps hit a no-doubt homerun to deep right, spoiling the perfecto, the no-no, and the shutout on one mighty swing.
- June 23, 1994 - Bobby Witt carried a perfect game into the sixth when, with one out, Greg Gagne bunted for a single. No one else reached base against Witt, who also struck out 14 batters that day.
- July 6, 2001 - I remember this one well, only because I held from going to the bathroom for four innings (more on this topic later). Mark Mulder was untouchable for seven innings, before Danny Bautista singled to lead off the eighth.
- July 7, 2006 - John Lackey allowed a double to lead-off hitter Mark Kotsay, and decided that was enough, as he set down the next 27 batters in order.
All told, there have been 15 Perfect Games since 1903, but none between 1922 and 1956 (and that one came in the World Series). The decade with the most was the 1990's (4). The 60's and 80's had three each, while the 70's had none. Randy Johnson has pitched this decade's only Perfect Game.
I have an unusual fascination for no-hitters, and I've seen two in person (one by the A's, and one against them). The no-hitter pitched by the A's was a combo-package; four pitchers had a hand in stifling the Angels in 1975. I hardly remember that one. I did see Nolan Ryan pitch his sixth career no-no, which came at the Coliseum in 1990.
One thing that I find funny is the superstitiousness that surrounds these kinds of games. Not necessarily from those who are extra careful not to mention "no-hitter" as one is being pitched, but by those who find the whole idea ridiculous. Of course we don't really believe that saying it is going to jinx it or not saying it won't, but the reaction to us superstitious types is sometimes even funnier than our own actions.
What side of the fence do you sit on? Do you groan when an announcer mentions a no-hitter, even though clearly it is his job to inform listeners who might be late to check in? Do you think he should cleverly advise his audience of the current situation without mentioning those fateful words? What is an acceptable replacement to "no-hitter"? And lastly, what lengths will you go to as a fan to "preserve" the no-hitter?
The A's and Twins take the field tonight at 7:05.