Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Perfection, Part I

There's an old joke about the cub reporter who went to cover a baseball game, and told the late-arriving veteran that nothing important had happened, since neither team had gotten a hit.

Of course, there's also the other old joke about baseball being 15 minutes of action crammed into 3 hours of play.

Baseball fans can really appreciate that there's a lot more to baseball than hits and runs.

It's not a fast moving game, which makes it the perfect sport for a summer afternoon. Of course, most games are now played under the lights, which isn't a bad thing. But many who go to baseball games today want action. They want to see home runs.

Not me.

Oh, I like to see my team hit a home run. It's exciting and it's good for my team. But, to me, it doesn't matter if the runs cross the plate because of a homer, or a series of hits, or a hit batsman. I just want my team to have at least one run more than the other team.

But, with all the focus on home runs and high-scoring games, there's an event in baseball that's really special: the no-hitter.

That simply means one team got exactly zero hits. If you check the baseball record books, you'll see that there are usually one or two no-hitters thrown each year in the majors. And, when it happens, it's the lead story on SportsCenter. There's a reason. It's a special event, keeping the other team from getting a hit.

But, there have been pitchers who have pitched no-hitters and still lost.

You see, there are several ways for a runner to reach first base without getting a hit:

  • Reach on an error (Examples: ball hit to the third baseman, who bobbles it; Or, fielder tries to throw the runner out at first, but throws wild)

  • Walk (Four balls)

  • Hit by a pitch

  • Catcher's interference (Example: Batter swings bat and hits catcher's glove before missing/hitting the ball)

  • Dropped third strike (Batter is allowed to try to reach first base if it's open, or if there are two outs; he must be put out as if he hit the ball safely)

There's one other way a batter can reach without getting a hit, but it does involve hitting the ball:

  • Fielder's choice (Can only happen if someone is already on base; Example: Runner on first, batter hits ball to third baseman, who throws it to second baseman to attempt to force the runner, and that allows the batter to safely reach first base)

In none of those instances does the batter get credited with a hit. So, a batter can reach base without a hit, and events can transpire to allow a team to score without getting a hit.

And, that's happened. And when it happens to a pitcher (throwing a no-hitter but allowing a run anyway), and when the pitcher's team doesn't score, a pitcher can lose a game — yet have thrown a no-hitter! In the majors, it's happened several times.

Regardless, a no-hitter is a close to perfect as most pitchers get. But, there's one event even more special, that usurps a plain old no-hitter: the perfect game.

To pitch a perfect game, it's more than just the pitcher. Not only does the pitcher not allow a hit, he doesn't allow anyone to reach base. No walks. No errors. No catcher's interference. No reaching on a dropped third strike. No one reaches base. So, it's usually a team effort. But, of course, the credit goes to the pitcher, since it's harder to pitch a no-hitter than not commit an error.

Perfect games are rare. You can go your entire life without seeing one in person. I almost did. But, I saw one — in person — 364 days ago. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.


  1. Ah, you must mean Randy Johnson's perfect game. I wasn't there, but I did watch it live on TV. Only one I've seen live (i.e. not on sportscenter).

    Good stuff, good stuff.

  2. By now, you know I was talking about the OTHER perfect game that was thrown in Georgia that week.

  3. ah...silly me.


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