This is the first, and probably only, post here that’ll talk about a minor league perfect game. John Halama of the Tacoma Rainiers threw it on July 7, 2001: it was the first nine-inning perfect game in the Pacific Coast League’s 99-year history to that point, so it seems worth telling the story here. The 6-0 win came over Calgary, a former Mariners AAA farm team. The Seattle Times reported:
The perfect game came in Halama’s second start for Tacoma, and his first start at Cheney Stadium.
Halama had nine strikeouts, got seven fly-ball outs, and 11 ground-ball outs while pitching the fifth perfect game of any length in league history. The previous perfect game occurred in 1975.
Coincidentally, Halama’s perfect game came just four nights after Rainiers teammate Brett Tomko, also sent down to Tacoma by the Mariners, pitched a no-hitter in Oklahoma City.
On the final play of the game, Halama made the putout at first base on Ben Candelaria’s grounder to Todd Betts.
Betts, the first baseman, made one of the more memorable plays of the game. In the seventh inning, he leaped off the bag to snag a high throw from the shortstop, then tagged out batter Mike Gulan.
Ramon Vazquez provided the offense for Tacoma, hitting a grand slam in the third inning. Luis Figueroa hit a two-run single in the eighth to cap the Rainiers’ scoring.
Rahula Strohl of the Tacoma News Tribune added:
“I was just trying to stay within myself,” said Halama. “I was sent down here for a specific reason, to get my mechanics back and to get the ball down.” Eleven of Halama’s 27 outs came on groundballs, and he struck out nine on 97 total pitches.
First baseman Todd Betts made a pair of nice plays to preserve the perfect game.
In the fifth inning, he made an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field on a blooper off the bat of Calgary center fielder Jeff Abbott.
Then in the seventh, third baseman Mike Gulan grounded one to shortstop Ramon Vazquez, who threw wide of first to the home-plate side, but Betts collected the throw and applied the tag to Gulan, ending the inning.
Saturday’s start was Halama’s second since being sent down to Tacoma from Seattle on June 29.
He pitched seven innings and gave up one run on four hits in his first start with the Rainiers.
“Two starts don’t mean I’m there,” Halama said. “The call of getting back up (to the majors), that’s going to be Seattle’s decision.”
“That’s the hardest drop for a player to make, from the majors down to the minors,” Rainiers pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “John pitched like a major leaguer, and he got his reward.”
This is Halama’s first stint in the minors since joining the Mariners between the 1998 and 1999 seasons as part of the Randy Johnson trade to the Houston Astros.
The next day, Halama said: “I do feel better now than I did in the big leagues. My mechanics were a little screwed up (in the majors) as opposed to now. He’s [Tacoma pitching coach Chris Bosio] helped me out since day one.”