On Saturday, White Sox righty Phil Humber became the 21st pitcher in the history of professional baseball to ever pitch a perfect game. His name is now enshrined with greats like Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. But in all those years there have been several close calls. Among them are actually a handful of semi-legitimate perfect games that simply failed to meet the standards set forth by Major League Baseball.
These are perfect games with an asterisk, like Barry Bonds being the king of home runs. Major League Baseball won’t honor them in the same light, but we’ll give them their due here.
August 11th, 1907/Ed Karger/St. Louis Cardinals “Hidden Agenda”
In the summer of 1907, a lefty named Ed Karger had a date with destiny. With only one winning season in six years in the Bigs prior to ’07, one might call Karger very “Humber-esque”. However, when he faced the Boston Doves that August, his pitches were missing bats left and right. He retired 21 consecutive batters over seven innings on the way to a 4-0 victory. Unfortunately for Ed, there was a prior agreement to limit the game to seven innings which disqualifies his performance in the eyes of Major League Baseball. Who knows what would have happened those next two innings.
October 5th, 1907/Rube Vickers/Philadelphia Athletics “Into the Darkness”
On the last day of the regular season in 1907, Rube Vickers was a regular marathon man. The Athletics (before they were in Oakland) squared off in a double header that afternoon with the Washington Senators. The Athletics sent out Charlie Fritz to start the game, but he lasted on 2 2/3 innings. A reliever came in and got them into the fourth inning where Vickers took over. Vickers threw not one, not two, but 12 innings of shutout baseball until the offense finally scored in the 15th inning. Skipper Connie Mack was so impressed with the performance he threw Vickers out to start the second game (times were different back then). Vickers came out and picked up right where he left off. He pitched five perfect innings when, ironically, the second game was called due to darkness thanks in no small part to the 15 innings the first game took.
FUN FACT: As it turned out, the 2 2/3 innings Charlie Fritz pitched that day ended up being his entire career.
May 26th, 1959/Harvey Haddix/Pittsburgh Pirates “Unlucky 13″
Before they were in Atlanta, Milwaukee was home to the professional baseball team named the Braves. And in May of 1959, they played perhaps one of the greatest baseball games of all time with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates starting pitcher, Harvey Haddix, threw a nine-inning perfect game and then some. Where the MLB requires a perfect game pitcher to retire 27 consecutive batters, Haddix retired 36. He carried a perfect game into the thirteenth innings where an error, a walk, and a hit gave the Braves the go ahead run in a 1-0 loss for Pittsburgh. Want some salt on the wound? Haddix gave up only one hit which knocked in the winnings run. Braves pitcher Lew Burdette gave up 12 hits over the course of 13 innings but managed to keep a donut in the ‘Runs’ column.
August 6th, 1967/Dean Chance/Minnesota Twins “Chance of Rain”
Dean Chance had a successful career and he was halfway to a perfect game. In August of 1967, Chance was pitching against the Boston Red Sox. The game was scoreless through the first three innings before the Twins’ Harmon Killebrew knocked in a run and then scored one himself. Chance pitched another perfect inning in the top of the fifth but the boys in blue stopped play after that due to the pouring rain. They waited 57 minutes before calling the game. Given how much baseball had already been played, the game was, according to MLB, official and didn’t need to be resumed. Chance had retired 15 consecutive batters before play was stopped. On the 25th of that same month, Chance pitched a no-hitter.
FUN FACT: Dean Chance, age 70, is the oldest living member of the unofficial “Not-Perfect Perfect Games Club”
April 21st, 1984/David Palmer/Montreal Expos “The Calm Before the Storm”
Twenty eight years to the day before Humber’s perfect game, David Palmer flirted with destiny. The Expos and Cardinals were scheduled to play a doubleheader that day and Palmer was slated to be the starting pitcher for the second bout. Montreal took the first one 6-3 and they were leading in the second before the water fell from the sky in St. Louis. The umpires were forced to call the game midway through the sixth inning. Palmer had retired 15 batters. Again, the amount of innings played made the game official and was never resumed.
June 3rd, 1995/Pedro Martinez/Montreal Expos “Darn Near Flawless”
Before he was with the Red Sox or Mets (or Phillies in 2009), P-Mart was an Expo. And in June of 1995, Martinez retired 27 batters in a row. Unfortunately for him, the game didn’t last only nine innings. While he was busy shutting down the Padres, the offense, admittedly including him, also failed to score. The game entered the tenth inning scoreless when second basemen Jeff Treadway knocked in Shane Andrews to give the Expos a 1-0 lead. Martinez took the mound in the bottom of the inning but gave up a double to leadoff man Bip Roberts. Not wanting to lose their narrow lead, manager Felipe Alou pulled Martinez and brought in reliever Mel Rojas who retired the next three batters to earn the Save.
FUN FACT: Pedro Martinez’s 1995 almost-perfect game wasn’t his only encounter with the feat. During a spring training game in 2000, the Red Sox used six pitchers to retire 27 batters in a row. Pedro Martinez was the first of those pitchers. Naturally, since it was an exhibition game, it was unofficial.
June 2nd, 2010/Armando Galarraga/Detroit Tigers “The Blown Call”
Galarraga was the pitcher at the epicenter of one of the most controversial games in the history of baseball. In June of 2010, Galarraga was the starting pitcher slated to go up against the Cleveland Indians. Detroit held a 1-0 lead for most of the game but added cushion to their lead with two more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Galarraga took the mound in the top of the ninth three outs from a perfect game. He retired Mark Grudzielanek and Mike Redmond when everything went south. Shortstop Jason Donald hit a ground ball into the infield and ran for first base. The throw was somewhat close but it appeared Donald had not beaten it. Shockingly, first base umpire Jim Joyce called him “safe” and awarded Donald the base. It officially went on record as a single and cost Galarraga his perfect game. Galarraga retired the next batter and recorded a very bittersweet shutout. Instant replay clearly shows the throw beating Jason Donald to first base. Afterwards, Jim Joyce said, “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”
FUN FACT: Had Galarraga been credited with a perfect game as he should have, it would have been the second in a four-day span (after Roy Halladay got his) and the third in a 25-day span, both of which would have been records. The pitch on the play in question was also Galarraga’s 83rd pitch of the game, which would have made his perfect game the second most efficient perfect game ever.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing for GuysNation, he is on Twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!