The search for perfection is a funny thing graphic.

Can’t call my blog “Toeing the Rubber” and not write about a pitcher throwing a perfect game, right?

I keep watching the highlights from the game and the thing that strikes me is how different yesterday could have gone for Mark Buehrle if not for DeWayne Wise (who had JUST come into the game in the ninth!) . Instead of a perfect game he would have probably ended up with a one-hit game and a 5-1 score. In discussing the game with friends, I asked if a no-hitter coupled with a separate perfect game automatically gets Buehrle into the Hall of Fame someday. Most seemed to agree that between the “inherent flukiness” of no-hitters/perfect games and the fact that most of them relied on someone else making some kind of amazing play to preserve said no-hitter/perfect game that it wasn’t the slam-dunk I thought it might be.

Which got me to wondering how many perfect games were saved by an amazing play like Wise’s. Let’s just cover the last four prior to Buehrle’s:

On May 18, 2004, Randy Johnson threw his second no-hitter and his first perfect game at the age of 40. According to ESPN:

…the closest thing to a hit was a slow roller by Johnson’s Atlanta counterpart, Mike Hampton, in the sixth. Alex Cintron scooped up the ball and threw out Hampton by a half-step.

Johnson lingered near the third-base line, giving Cintron a pat with the glove as he ran off the field.

Even grumpy old men have to acknowledge a good play now and then.

On July 18, 1999, David Cone was cruising through his perfect game which included a 33-minute rain delay in the third inning. In the ninth, Rickey Ledee had trouble with a shallow fly ball. He didn’t see it until seconds before he made the basket catch for the second out.

When Cone recorded the last out — Cabrera hit a foul pop to third baseman Scott Brosius, prompting Cone to put his hands to his head in disbelief and fall to his knees — Girardi rushed the mound and enveloped him with a bear hug.

“Completely unrehearsed,” Cone said of the display. “It’s not something you think about doing. I just remember collapsing from exhaustion.”

Only David Cone would worry that people would think dropping to the ground after throwing a perfect game was rehearsed.

On May 17, 1998, David Wells got to throw his own perfect game. Making a play much like he did in Cone’s perfect game, Chuck Knoblauch stole a hit away in the 8th on a hard hit ball to throw out potential base runner Ron Coomer. Of course, the most memorable part of Boomer’s perfect game was his own description of it:

[I was] half-drunk, with bloodshot eyes, monster breath and a raging, skull-rattling hangover.

Man’s a poet, isn’t he?

On July 28, 1994, Rusty Greer made a diving catch (complete with sliding on his face through centerfield) to preserve the perfect game being pitched by Kenny Rogers. Prior to yesterday, it was generally considered to be the best saving catch ever in a perfect game. DeWayne Wise has taken over that spot today.

So congratulations to Mark Buehrle. He did an amazing thing. There are now only 18 pitchers in Major League baseball history to have thrown a perfect game (someday we’ll get Harvey Haddix’ name added to that list)…that’s an achievement to be proud of. But let’s remember that behind every amazing pitching display there are usually some pretty amazing defensive plays as well.

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