Fun Facts about the 23 Perfect Games in MLB History

A while back I completed a project of chronicling most of major league baseball’s perfect games. What fun is that if you can’t make out a list of trivia about the games? So yes, the following list (updated to include Braden’s feat, and Halladay’s, and Humber’s, and Cain’s, and Hernandez’s) is trivial—but then, much of life is trivia, and sometimes trivia reveals things about life (and baseball) that bigger, more obvious facts can’t reveal.

And even if it doesn’t, you can still enjoy going through the following facts about the 23 perfect games from 1880 to 2012:

Fourteen have been pitched by A.L. teams and just 9 by N.L. teams, despite the N.L. being 25 years older.

Nine of the 14 pitched after the D.H. rule took effect have been in the A.L.

Seven have had crowds of no more than 10,598 as witnesses.

Six have had crowds of at least 40,000, but Don Larsen’s had easily the most attendees: 64,519.

David Wells’ took the longest, at 2:40; eight took less than two hours, and the quickest was Cy Young’s, which took 83 minutes.

There have been four “complete” perfect games of less than 9 innings, with the latest being a 5-inning job by David Palmer in 1984.

Seven of them were 1-0 affairs.

Six have occurred between May 5 and May 18, four between July 18 and July 28, and four between June 9 and June 17.

They’ve been thrown by pitchers ranging from age 20 (John Ward) to age 40 (Randy Johnson).

The Yankees and White Sox with three and Phillies, Indians, and A’s with two are the five teams with multiple perfect games.

Charlie Robertson is the least successful pitcher (not considering Phil Humber or Dallas Braden, who are still in their 20s) to throw a perfect game: he never had a winning season, pitched over 155 innings in a season just twice, and posted an ERA of 8.36 four years after his perfection.

There are 16 men alive who threw perfect games; for comparison, we now have four living ex-presidents.

Catfish Hunter’s 3-4 (three singles) and three RBI is the best hitting performance by any perfect pitcher; Jim Bunning’s 1-4 with a double and two RBI comes in second.

Catfish wore jersey no. 27 for his perfect game.

The 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks, at 51-111, are easily the worst team to have a perfect game.

Ron Hassey is the one catcher to catch (and call) two perfect games; he nearly caught a third for the 1989 A’s.

The 1988 Dodgers are the only World Series-winning team to never reach first base in a single game in their championship year.

Six perfect games were thrown in the ‘90s and ‘00s, an anomaly for two of the hardest-hitting decades in MLB history.

Six Hall of Famers have thrown perfect games, with Randy Johnson set to become the seventh in six years or so, and Kenny Rogers, David Wells, David Cone, and Dennis Martinez all possible future Hall of Famers (but likely near-misses; there are no Martinezes in the Hall of Fame, by the way).

Seven of these men threw at least one other no-hitter (so far, and Mike Witt as a two-inning reliever for Mark Langston in 1990).

1880 and 2010 and 2012 are the only years to have (at least) two perfect games; 2012 is of course the only one with more than two.

The number of pitches required to retire 27 batters has ranged from 74 (Joss) to 125 (Cain).

Fourteen of the 23 perfect games have happened in the last 30-odd years.

Five of the last seven perfect games have involved three of the four most recent expansion teams in the majors (Arizona, Tampa Bay, and the Marlins.)

These 23 pitchers include a recovering alcoholic (Martinez), an ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease victim (Hunter), a union organizer (John Ward), a construction contractor (Len Barker), two graduates of Point Loma High School (Wells and Larsen), a senator (Bunning), a one-time prisoner (Tom Browning), a man with an arthritic throwing arm who retired within a year (Koufax), a victim of tubercular meningitis who died at age 31, nine months after his final game (Joss), and a Tommy John surgery (Philip Humber).

Here is a nice bit of coincidence; a picture of a Mark Buehrle jersey I saw on a White Sox fan following Humber’s perfect game.

Also, here is a picture of the “King of Perfection” poster the Mariners issued to celebrate Felix Hernandez’s perfect game:

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey Arne, I tweeted this post. It’s a good one. In fact, I like it better than mine!
    Good job, man.

  2. Enjoyed your research, facts Arne. You’re linked at my site, always provide compelling stuff!

  3. What do you mean the 1988 dodgers never reached first base their championship year ? Is that a typo , because that’s impossible.

  4. Paul O’Neal played in 3 perfect games, Tom Browning with the Reds,
    David Wells and Dave Cone with the Yankees. Other than Ron Hassey who caught 2 perfect games, has anybody else played in 3 or more perfect games?

  5. I can’t name anyone, but I’d think another Yankee who was in the Cone and Wells perfect games was also in a third one.

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