Throwing a no-hitter in baseball is exciting for fans and players. What’s even rarer than a no-hitter by a pitcher is the perfect game. So what exactly is a perfect game, what are famous perfect games, and more? Keep reading to learn more.
What is a Perfect Game in Baseball?
A perfect game in baseball is when one or more pitchers pitches a complete game without giving up any hits and not allowing anyone to reach base. The perfect game means no hits or walks, no hit batsmen, no fielding errors that allow a player on base, no uncaught third strikes, and no interference. That means a perfect game is as much as a pitcher’s accomplishment as it is the defense to make every play hit to them.
If a game goes into extra innings, it is still a perfect game if the baserunners do not get onto the first base until the extra innings.
Early History of the Perfect Game
The term “perfect game” was first used in 1908. It comes from a quote from I.E. Sanborn, describing the first perfect game played by Addie Joss against the Chicago White Sox. The term “perfect game” first appeared in Ernest J. Lanigan’s Baseball Encyclopedia, referring to Charlie Robertson, who threw a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox in 1922.
But the history of the perfect game goes back decades earlier. The first-ever perfect game in Major League Baseball history belongs to Lee Richmond in 1880. The game was the Worcester Rugy Legs against the Cleveland Blues, where he retired all 27 batters.
What is the Difference Between a No-Hitter and a Perfect Game in Baseball?
The primary difference between a no-hitter and a perfect game comes down to letting people on base. For example, a pitcher can throw a no-hitter and walk three batters during nine innings. However, a perfect game means that the pitcher, or pitchers, saw 27 batters and retired each of the 27 without successfully reaching base.
Notable pitcher Cy Young pitched three no-hitters over his professional baseball career, only one of which was a perfect game. He pitched his perfect game for the Boston Americans in 1904.
How Rare is a Perfect Game?
Perfect games are rare in baseball. There have only been 23 perfect games ever played in Major League Baseball history, and only 21 since the modern era of baseball started in 1901 as of August 2021. A combination of several pitchers can throw a perfect game, but to date, every perfect match in the MLB is by a single pitcher.
There has not been a perfect game in the MLB for several years. The most recent MLB perfect game came from Félix Hernández of the Seattle Mariners against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 15, 2012.
Has Anyone Thrown a Perfect Game in a World Series Game?
There has only ever been one perfect game in the World Series. It was thrown by Don Larsen for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
Has There Ever Been a 27 Strikeout Baseball Game?
Another impressive feat, a 27 strikeout game, has also only happened once in professional baseball history. In 1952, Ron Necciai struck out 27 batters and gave up no hits in a regulation nine-inning game. Necciai was only 19 years old when he made history as a minor league player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was even struggling with stomach pain during the game!
Other Notable Perfect Games
- In 1959, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates put up a valiant effort against the Milwaukee Braves, pitching a 12-inning near-perfect game. The perfect game was broken in the 13th inning by a throwing error by the third baseman, Don Hoak.
- Jim Bunning, the father of seven children, pitched a perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies on Father’s Day in 1964.
- Sandy Koufax was the first major league pitcher to pitch four no-hitters.
- In 1968, Jim “Catfish” Hunter of the Oakland Athletics became the youngest pitcher to pitch a modern-era perfect game at 22 years and 30 days.
- Len Barker of the Cleveland Indians pitched the 10th perfect game in baseball history in 1981
- In 1988, Tom Browning of the Cincinnati Reds pitched the 12th perfect game. This perfect match was the first to take place on artificial turf.
- In 1991, Dennis Martinez pitched the 13th perfect game in MLB history. He became the first pitcher born outside of the United States to throw a perfect match in the MLB.
- In 1998, David Wells became the 15th pitcher to pitch a perfect game in the MLB. He claims to have had a bad hangover during this game but pitched a perfect match despite his condition.
- Fourteen months later, in 1999, David Cone pitched the 16th perfect game while on the New York Yankees. He threw the game against the Montreal Expos of the National League at Yankee Stadium.
- In 2004, Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks became the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game at the age of 40, beating Cy Young’s previous record at 37.
- In May of 2010, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history.
- Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners, retiring all 27 batters in 2012
In summary, a perfect game in baseball is a rare feat. Not only does the pitcher need to record an out on each batter they face, but the defense can’t make any errors on the field. The pressure that the pitcher and the defense feel during a perfect game is intense, so a perfect game is such a rare accomplishment for a pitcher and team to achieve.