By now you have undoubtedly read many articles about Dallas Braden pitching a perfect game on Mother’s Day.
He is to be congratulated for his outstanding effort Sunday, to become only the 19th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish that feat, and the 2nd A’s pitcher to do so. Catfish Hunter pitched the other on May 8, 1968, 44 years and 1 day before Dallas’ perfecto.
Dallas Braden is such an unlikely hero. He was never a “prospect” (the top echelon of players in a team’s minor league system). In fact, he was drafted by the A’s out of Texas Tech in the 24th round of the 2004 June Draft, and was the 1383rd player taken overall. Definitely not on most people’s radar.
Even in 2005 when he was the A’s Organizational Player of the Year, having won 15 games that year, he was ranked only the 19th best player in the A’s minor league system by Baseball America. In 2006, he didn’t crack the top 30. In 2007, he was called up when Rich Harden went on the DL, and won his first decision but lost the next 8. Hitters had a .303 batting against him, and his ERA was 6.72. Nothing to write home about.
“Braden did have something else,” writes Joe Posnanski, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated. “He had a bold certainty that he belonged. … There was this boldness about him, this conviction that overpowered the way other people viewed his talent. These are the players that fascinate me most–the ones who deeply believe that they’re going to make it even when all available evidence suggests that they probably will not.”
Billy Owens, the A’s Director of Player Personel, summed up Braden well. “Just to see him out there being able to get by with the guts, the guile, the confidence, the no-fear attitude, the athleticism, it’s refreshing to see all that combined with an ordinary fastball to make him an outstanding Major League pitcher.”
The drama on Mother’s Day played out with the much-talked-about feud with A-Rod in the background. You’ll remember that A-Rod dissed Braden by walking across the pitcher’s mound on his way back to the dugout, while Dallas stood nearby. Dallas told him to “Get the F**K off my mound,” or something similar. The verbal jabs flew back and forth across the country for the next few weeks, culminating with A-Rod’s statement a few days ago that he wasn’t “going to prolong his (Braden’s) 15 minutes of fame.”
A-Rod has never been one of my favorite players, though his stats speak volumes about his abilities on the field. His ego is regularly on display and he can be downright rude. He appears all too often in the media, and much of it is not flattering. So when he belittled Dallas after the latter complained about his walking across the mound, I was and still am firmly on Dallas’ side in this.
Well, Dallas made a big statement to A-Rod with his pitching arm on Sunday. Word has it that the Yankees were in the clubhouse that day and had the game on TV, probably because the A’s were playing the Rays who were at the top of the Eastern Division with the Yankees nipping at their heels. Anyway, A-Rod disappeared to some other part of the clubhouse, refusing to watch Dallas pitch. When the no-no got into the 5th inning, someone found A-rod and told him he’d better get in to watch the game, but he still refused. After the 8th inning, some members of the Yankees found A-Rod and dragged him in and made him watch the top of the 9th. What a jerk!
Yes, Dallas’ 17 career wins in three years in the Majors may not impress A-Rod, but you might be surprised to know that one of the 18 other pitchers to accomplish the feat had even fewer wins. Charley Robertson of the 1922 Chicago White Sox only had 1 win before pitching his perfecto, in his 4th career start.
Thanks to David Feldman, the A’s Historian and an MLB Official Scorer, I can share some other interesting facts about Dallas’ accomplishment. Did you know that given that only 19 perfect games have been pitched, that’s approximately 1 perfecto for every 11,000 games played? And Dallas’ is the 2nd perfect game in a row pitched against the Tampa Bay Rays? Mark Buehrle did it on my birthday (July 23rd) last year.
Sunday’s game was also the first perfect game ever pitched on Mother’s Day, and the 2nd A’s perfecto using one pitcher (the aforementioned Catfish Hunter) and one catcher. Both Ray Fosse and David Feldman mentioned one other perfect game pitched by the A’s but it involved 4 pitchers and 2 catchers, so it isn’t considered one of the 19.
It is also interesting to note that in the first 100 years of Major League baseball, 11 perfect games were pitched. 8 have been thrown in the last 22 years. Either pitchers are getting better, or hitters are not as good as they used to be. I’ll place my bet on the former.
Unfortunately, I was not present to watch Dallas work his magic on Sunday. I had to be content with seeing on our HD TV, and I’m not complaining. I especially enjoyed watching Dallas and his Grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, hugging after the game for a long time. Dallas was clearly emotional, holding on the the woman whom he believes saved his life after his mother died when he was just starting his senior year in high school.
We got a much better view of the moment on TV.
I was, however, seated in the first row behind the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium on July 28, 1991, when Dennis Martinez of the Montreal Expos threw a perfect game beating the Dodgers by a score of 2-0. Former A’s catcher, Ron Hassey was behind the plate that day. He was a little surprised that someone would flag him down at a Dodger game and call him over to talk. That would be me. He was very gracious with his time. By the way, he is the only catcher to catch 2 perfect games!
Los Angeleans are an interesting crowd. They straggle in around the 2nd or 3rd inning and start leaving in the 7th inning “to beat the traffic,” as I was told. No one left that day and we all stood up during the entire 9th inning, and applauded every pitch that Martinez threw, even though he was pitching for the visiting team. It was truly exciting to witness the 13th perfect game ever thrown.
I wish Dallas Braden all the success in the world after what he accomplished on Sunday. I’m not sure he’s quite prepared for what will happen to him from now on. He began doing national interviews from his Stockton, CA home early the following morning. They continued later that day, after the A’s charter flight landed in Texas, where the team begins a 3-game series with the Rangers tonight (May 11th). Apparently, he delivered the Top 10 list from the Ranger’s clubhouse on David Letterman last night. He also taped an ESPN Sports Center interview, and appeared on “All Things Considered” on NPR.
15 minutes of fame, my foot! I agree with Braden’s Grandma Peggy: “Stick it, A-Rod!”