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May 26, 2004
Aim For The Head
Hidden Perfect Games MailbagLeave it to Randy Johnson to ruin a perfectly good trivia question. At the end of my previous article on "Hidden Perfect Games," I included a trivia question on the remaining pitcher who tossed two perfect games (hidden or not), having already named Pedro Martinez and Tom Browning. In the meantime, Randy Johnson threw an "official" perfect game on May 18th, to go along with a hidden perfect game in 1998, to add his name to list of those attaining multiple perfection. In response to the original question, many people sent in their guesses:
As you've probably surmised, none of these guesses were correct. Blyleven was the most common guess, although I noted earlier in the article that he had thrown a hidden perfect game, and one of the hints was that the pitcher hadn't been mentioned in the column. Roger Clemens was the second-most common guess, but The Rocket has not had a hidden perfect game in his career.
M.D. also wrote in:
"You have David Wells on your list of "hidden perfect games", but then you say that only one pitcher (Browning) had both a regular perfect game and a hidden perfect game. Wells should also be on that list since he also pitched a regular perfect game."
That was my mistake, M.D. Wells' only perfect game, hidden or otherwise, was his 1998 gem. I should have left him out of the list of pitchers who threw a strictly "hidden" (i.e., not otherwise recognized) perfect game.
The answer to the trivia question that I was looking for was Dennis Eckersley. The first reader to respond with that answer I was looking for was Dave Mitchell. Congrats, Dave!
However, I must confess that a mistake in my own research that eliminates Eckersley as qualifying. The aptly named Wayne Pitcher, brought it to my attention:
"My educated guess as to the identity of the pitcher who pitched two hidden perfect games is Dennis Eckersley, in 1977. I'm not sure if one of his hidden perfect games was truly perfect--he faced the minimum number of batters for a 34-batter stretch over May 30 vs. California (his no-hitter) and June 3 vs. Seattle, but Bobby Bonds reached base on a wild pitch 3rd strike in the 8th of the May 30 game, though Don Baylor subsequently grounded into a double play."
Wayne is exactly right. The computer script I wrote to search for hidden perfect games failed to recognize this case correctly, and thus I wrongly credited Eckersley with two hidden perfect games in 1977. Similarly, Don Robinson was on my original list of hidden perfect game pitchers (albeit not one I mentioned in the article), but he also had a strikeout/wild pitch combo 12 outs into the streak, allowing Alex Trevino to reach first base safely. Trevino then stole a base, perhaps making Robinson's close call somewhat less "perfect" than Eckersley's, where the runner was eliminated on a double play by the next batter.
Sticklers for detail may want to know that Bert Blyleven actually allowed a stolen base during his hidden perfect game. Blyleven's streak started when he struck out Reggie Jackson for the first out in the 2nd inning on June 19th, 1985. But the leadoff batter that inning, Daryl Sconiers, had actually singled, was stole second while Jackson struck out. Sconiers was stranded at second, and Blyleven went on to retire every batter he faced until surrendering a single to Jerry Narron on June 24th.
One of the more interesting responses to the article came in from Bryce Chackerian, who wrote in on April 28th:
"Fun article on hidden perfect games. I noticed that Tim Harrikala is working on his own perfect game. He's retired all 17 hitters that he's faced this year. The interesting thing is that his last appearance in the majors prior to 2004 was on May 26, 1999. He pitched 2 innings for the Red Sox, and after giving up 2 runs on three hits in the eighth inning, he finished strong, retiring the side in the ninth. So, he's retired 21 straight over a span of 5 years! I'm hoping that he retires the next 6, setting a record time elapsed and making him arguably the worst pitcher ever to set down 27 in a row."
Alas, Bryce wrote in on May 3rd with a folloup:
"In case you're interested, Harrikala didn't quite make it (a hidden perfect game). After pitching 1.7 innings in Saturday's first game without yielding a baserunner (making 26 batters straight over a span of 5 years), he walked a Brave. Too bad, it would have been a great story."
Agreed, Bryce. Thanks to you and everyone else who wrote in.