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By DYLAN MALONE
With all of the ‘roid rage going on in the MLB, there were bound to be guys who got off the juice and had off seasons at the plate. By the same logic, there are plenty of pitchers having fantastic years as evidenced by the third perfect game of the baseball season August 15 by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. It was the first perfect game of the Mariners’ franchise history.
That got me thinkin…
With only 23 perfect games in the 143 years of professional baseball’s storied past, it is amazing to think there have been three this season alone (Matt Cain, Giants; Phillip Humber, White Sox). There were none last season but in 2010 there were two more making the total five in the last three years.
For those of you casual baseball fans who are unfamiliar with what a perfect game is, it’s essentially a no-hitter but on top of not allowing a hit, the pitcher must also not allow a single base-runner the entire game including walks, hit batsmen, and players reaching on an error.
No-hitters are extremely difficult as well but obviously with less criteria riding on it, they are a little bit more common than a perfect game. There have been 276 no-hitters or an average of two per season so…pretty rare.
Nolan Ryan is the all-time leader with the most no-hitters. His grand total? Seven…and he also is the oldest to do so at the ripe old age of 44 (as a side note, possibly the reason Roger Clemens is trying to make a comeback at 50…).
Is a perfect game the hardest thing to accomplish as a baseball player? What could be harder? I have a couple contestants in mind…
1.) Four Homers in a Game— 15 big leaguers have hit four dingers in a single game before. No one has ever hit five in a game and no player has hit four more than once in a career. Most recently, Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton hit four homeruns (and he doesn’t even do steroids…).
2.) 20 K’s in One Game— This one’s for you Cubs fans…while we don’t have a lot to cheer about…ever…we can take solace in Kerry Wood who was one of three pitchers in history to do so. A side note: Tom Seaver is the only pitcher in baseball history to strike out 10 batters…in a row.
3.) The Cycle— Hitting for the cycle is a hard thing for a batter (hitting a single, double, triple, and homerun in the same game). Often times, believe it or not, it’s the triple that eludes the batter more than the homerun. It takes a certain amount of place hitting and speed to trot out a triple. 293 times the cycle has been accomplished in MLB history. More rare than this is the “Natural Cycle” in which a player hits a single, double, triple & homerun…in that order. That’s been done just 13 times.
4.) 56-Game Hitting Streak— Joe DiMaggio was one of the greatest hitters of all-time. During a stretch early in the 1941 season, Joltin’ Joe went on an offensive tear that resulted in a base hit in every one of 56 straight games with a batting average of .408, 15 homeruns, and 55 runs batted in. The next closest to that streak was Willie Keeler of the Baltimore Orioles who had a 45 game in a row streak…in 1897. To find a more recent streak of note, Jimmy Rollins had a streak of 38 games in 2006.
5.) The Unassisted Triple Play— I’m a big fan of defense. The most beautiful defensive play to behold on a baseball field has got to be a one-man triple play. Only occurring 15 times in the history of the game, this is truly a rare accomplishment indeed. While there is a lot of luck that need be involved, it also requires the skill of the fielder to be in exactly the right place at the right time. Most of the time the triple play occurs when a line drive shoots to the shortstop with runners on first and second. The shortstop catches the ball for the first out, steps on second for the second and tags the runner (who is usually stealing second) heading right for him. Eric Bruntlett was the last player to do so in 2009 with the Dodgers.
6.) .400 Season Average— Ted Williams was the last to do it (1941). Ty Cobb did it three times! It hasn't been done since and I'm not sure it ever will with again with the way baseball has evolved. Professional teams now hold up to 13 pitchers in their bullpen, while in the days of the Yankees' "Murderer's Row" and before, pitching looked a lot different. Williams' accomplishment was truly spectacular in that pitching was only getting to be an art form after the 1920s when the game took several changes. He is the only player to hit .400 after what the MLB would consider "significant rule changes." Not to take anything away from Ty Cobb...
I’m sure there are arguments for more rare feats but these are all I have room for! I think a better question will be which we see first in the remainder of the season, a fourth perfect game, or a third player busted for steroids.