The 10 Most Unlikely Perfect Games in MLB History
Former Mets’ prospect Philip Humber impressed his critics on Saturday when he tossed the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history, blanking the Seattle Mariners, 4-0. Now a member of the Chicago White Sox, Humber had bounced around the league a bit over recent years looking for a permanent home.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Humber said. “I don’t know what Philip Humber is doing in this list. No idea what my name is doing there, but I’m thankful it’s there.”
Here’s a look at how unlikely Humber was to reach perfection, and nine others who surprised people when they tossed their perfect games:
This was only Humber’s 12th win of his entire career, having endured Tommy John surgery during his first year in the league. He’s a former number three pick of the MLB Draft, and was shipped to Minnesota in the deal that brought the Mets star pitcher Johan Santana in 2008. He’s long had the potential for success, and at last there are some flashes of greatness that will have people paying attention to him for a long time coming.
What a Mother’s Day tribute it was when Braden pitched a perfect game in 2010, a day in which he had to be thinking about his deceased mother. It was just Braden’s 53rd start of his career and his grandmother was on hand for the emotional moment. “It’s a more important day for my grandmother than anything,” Braden said. “That’s the biggest thing to be able to give her something like this on a day of this magnitude, considering everything we’ve been through together. It’s more about her for me.”
Wells was a known pitcher when he played, mostly for his moodiness. In 1998, he entered the record books when he pitched his perfect game as a member of the Yankees. But controversy about the game erupted give years later as Wells was promoting his autobiography, ‘Perfect I’m Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball.’ In it, Wells claimed that he was half-drunk that day. A few days later, Wells clarified that he had misspoken in the book and that he was simply hung over when he tossed his perfect game.
In 1994,Rangers’ veteran Kenny Rogers got his perfect game with a little help from outfielder Rusty Greer, who salvaged it with a diving catch in the 9th inning. “I never thought he was going to get it,” Rogers said. “I thought that ball was going to drop, no matter what. Then, I thought the ball was going to pop out.” Rogers entered that game with a 4.32 ERA and was not exactly a feared pitcher.
Just days after his teammate Mark Gardner flirted with a no-hitter, Dennis Martinez recorded a perfect game in 1991 at the age of 36. “I don’t know what was special,” he said. “I just think every game I pitch my best effort. It just happened. It may never happen again in my lifetime.” Martinez wound up winning an impressive 245 games in his career, but never 20 in one season. His perfect game is what makes him a household name today.
Browning was one of the Reds’ best pitchers of the 1980s, so it’s not a shock that he had some good outings. But what’s remarkable is how good some of them were. In 1988, he threw a perfect game after flirting with a no-hitter earlier in the season. And he almost did it again a year later when he came within three outs of becoming the first major leaguer to pitch two perfect games.
The Angels’ hurler allowed just four balls to escape the infield in his dominant performance when he earned a perfect game in 1984. “I was awe struck,” said the 24-year-old. “Getting 27 outs is incredible. All you’re trying to do is get outs. All I know is it’s hard as heck to get.” Witt had gone 7-14 the previous season, and the California fans were not exactly enthusiastic about the ball club — only 8,375 fans were at Arlington Stadium that day. Still, Witt gave them something to see that day.
He had a much forgettable and uneven career in the ’70s and ’80s, but Len Barker did achieve something lasting in 1981 when he tallied a perfect game for the Indians. “I know I pitched a perfect game but it really hasn’t set in yet,” Barker said. “I pitched no-hitters in American Legion ball, but I always walked nine of ten batters.” What’s most amazing about Barker’s accomplishment is that he was known as a wild pitcher, and it’s hard to imagine him having the control and discipline to retire every batter he faced.
The most famous perfect game of all-time came during the 1956 World Series when the Yankees’ Don Larsen took care of 27 Dodgers players in order. Larsen said in a 1996 interview with Sports Illustrated that he didn’t know what a perfect game was until after he’d thrown one. He thought he’d thrown a no-hitter. Overnight, he became a celebrity. However, he couldn’t keep up, finishing with a lifetime record of 81-91. “People said I didn’t do enough in my career,” Larsen said, “and maybe they’re right. But I had one great day.”
Robertson was the first White Sox pitcher to go perfect in 1922 — so long ago there isn’t even a picture we can offer you. He accomplished the feat in just his fourth start. Robertson is not a known player, finishing 49-80 in his pro career. “Charlie Robertson was the worst major league pitcher ever to throw a perfect game,” said a Sports Illustrated writer. After the game, the Tigers, who Robertson had shut down, wanted the league to check the balls for any funny business, but the league refused the request. Robertson must have been happy with his performance. It earned him a $15 raise.