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What is a Perfect Game in Baseball?

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  • Originally Written By: D Frank
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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A perfect game in baseball is a game in which none of the batters on one of the teams gets on base. It is one of the rarest feats that can be accomplished in baseball. Not only must one team's pitcher or pitchers not allow any hits or walks or hit a batter with a pitch, that team's fielders must not commit any errors while also turning every ball hit into fair territory into an out. Typically, this feat is discussed in terms of a pitcher's performance; that is, the pitcher is credited with throwing a perfect game, even though other players must play flawlessly as well.

Length Requirements

In some baseball leagues, games must last for a certain number of innings to qualify as perfect games. For example, in Major League Baseball, the premier professional league in the world, perfect games must last for a minimum of nine innings, the standard length of a game. Games that are called before nine innings are finished, such as those that are shortened by rain, do not qualify. Those that last more than nine innings can be perfect games only if they end without any batters on one team reaching base. Youth leagues or other leagues that play shorter games, such as five innings or seven innings, might not have a minimum innings requirement.

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No-Hitters

By definition, a perfect game is also a no-hitter — a game in which one team does not get a hit. No-hitters, however, are not always perfect games, because in no-hitters, batters may still get on base in other ways, such as walks or errors. It also is possible for a team to throw a no-hitter and lose the game, which cannot happen in a perfect game — the opponent cannot score a run if none of its batters get a hit or even get on base.

Common Components

To throw a perfect game, a pitcher must have good control of his or her pitches to avoid walking or hitting any batters. The pitcher's defense also must play very well. In addition to the fielders playing error-free baseball, many perfect games feature one or more defensive plays in which a fielder turns a near-hit into an out with a diving catch, long throw or similarly impressive play. Many people consider luck to play a role as well, because poorly hit balls often land or roll where fielders cannot reach them in time to record an out, and such a hit would prevent a perfect game.

Major League History

As of 2012, there had been 23 perfect games thrown in Major League Baseball. Among them are three that were thrown during the 2012 season, setting a record for the most in one season. Each of these perfect games was thrown by a single pitcher rather than having another pitcher replace the starter during the game for some reason. The only time this has been accomplished in a postseason game was on 8 October 1956 by Don Larsen of the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. No major league pitcher has thrown more than one perfect game.

Frequency

Although perfect games remain one of the rarest feats in Major League Baseball, they have occurred more frequently since the 1980s. Larsen's perfect game was the first in 34 years and just the sixth since 1880 — a span of 76 years. Only three more were thrown in the next 24 years, for a total of nine in 101 seasons. In the 32 seasons from 1981 to 2012, however, there were 14 perfect games — three during the 1980s, four in the 1990s, one in 2004, one in 2009, two in 2010 and three in 2012.

Major League Perfect Games (1880-2012)

Pitcher

Date

Team

Pitches

Opponent

John Lee Richmond 12 June 1880 Worcester Worcesters n/a Cleveland Blues
Monte Ward 17 June 1880 Providence Grays n/a Buffalo Bisons
Cy Young 5 May 1904 Boston Pilgrims n/a Philadelphia A's
Addie Joss 2 October 1908 Cleveland Naps 74 Chicago White Sox
Charlie Robertson 30 April 1922 Chicago White Sox 90 Detroit Tigers
Don Larsen 8 October 1956 New York Yankees 97 Brooklyn Dodgers
Jim Bunning 21 June 1964 Philadelphia Phillies 90 New York Mets
Sandy Koufax 9 September 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers 113 Chicago Cubs
Catfish Hunter 8 May 1968 Oakland A's 107 Minnesota Twins
Len Barker 15 May 1981 Cleveland Indians 103 Toronto Blue Jays
Mike Witt 30 September 1984 California Angels 94 Texas Rangers
Tom Browning 16 September 1988 Cincinnati Reds 102 Los Angeles Dodgers
Dennis Martinez 28 July 1991 Montreal Expos 95 Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenny Rogers 28 July 1994 Texas Rangers 98 California Angels
David Wells 17 May 1998 New York Yankees 120 Minnesota Twins
David Cone 18 July 1999 New York Yankees 88 Montreal Expos
Randy Johnson 18 May 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks 117 Atlanta Braves
Mark Buehrle 23 July 2009 Chicago White Sox 116 Tampa Bay Rays
Dallas Braden 9 May 2010 Oakland Athletics 109 Tampa Bay Rays
Roy Halladay 29 May 2010 Philadelphia Phillies 115 Florida Marlins
Philip Humber 21 April 2012 Chicago White Sox 96 Seattle Mariners
Matt Cain 13 June 2012 San Francisco Giants 125 Houston Astros
Felix Hernandez 15 August 2012 Seattle Mariners 113 Tampa Bay Rays
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Discuss this Article

anon91537
Post 16

If a pitcher walks a batter but then that batter is thrown out stealing second base and therefore the pitcher only faces the minimum 27 batters in nine innings, is that a perfect game?

anon88103
Post 15

People, a perfect game is 27 batters strike out looking or swinging. it has not happened. kerry wood is the only one who has come close, with one hit batter and 20 strikeouts.

Moderator's reply: According to the official rules of Major League Baseball, an official perfect game only involves a pitcher or pitchers "retiring" every batter on the opposing team during the course of at least nine innings without any of those batters reaching base. How the pitcher retires the batters is not specified, just that they do not reach base.

anon83385
Post 12

What is the difference between a perfect game and a no hitter? If I'm right, a perfect game is where there are no walks and such, and a no hitter is just no hits but there can be walks.

Moderator's reply: We've added a little more information in the second paragraph to answer your question, but yes, your understanding is correct. In a perfect game, no batters reach base; in a no-hitter, a batter can still reach base through a walk, being hit by a pitch, an error, or several other ways. In fact, there have been several times in which a team has pitched a no-hitter and actually lost the game!

anon40522
Post 6

Is a game that goes more than 9 innings a perfect game?

anon38334
Post 5

In 2007, Mark Buehrle threw a no-hitter, not a "perfect game"

anon38192
Post 4

Actually, it is 19 games because Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game in 2007 also.

anon38115
Post 3

Better make this 18 Perfect Games. Congratulations to Chicago White Sox and pitcher Mark Buehrle. (July 23,2009)

Moderator's reply: Thanks for the update! We've added this to our list, along with several others.

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