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Perfect Mark

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

There is a saying that you can’t mess with perfection and I’m sure that’s why the artifacts from Mark Buehrle’s perfect game arrived late last week instead of two weeks ago.

8-11-09-Hayes_Buehrle.jpgYou see, when Buehrle hurled his second career no-hitter on July 23rd against the Tampa Bay Rays – the first perfect game in the majors since Randy Johnson’s on May 18, 2004 – history wasn’t over. Buehrle went on to retire the first 17 Minnesota Twins he faced during his next start on July 28th.

Mark Buehrle not only threw the 18th perfect game in major league history (17th during the regular season), but he set the major league record for scoreless innings during his next start. Counting the final out he recorded on July 18 versus Baltimore, Buehrle retired 45 consecutive batters. That broke the record of 41 set by Jim Barr in 1972 and Buehrle’s Sox teammate Bobby Jenks, a reliever, in 2007.

From the historic event, the Hall of Fame has received Buehrle’s jersey and a ball used during the perfect game.

8-11-09-Hayes_BuehrlePitch.jpgCoupled with his 2007 no-no, Buehrle is the sixth pitcher to collect both a perfect game and a no-hitter during his career, joining Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax, Cy Young and current Giants pitcher Randy Johnson. Coincidentally, both of Buehrle’s no-no’s have come at home at U.S. Cellular Field with umpire Eric Cooper behind the plate – a first for a pitcher-umpire combo.

Buehrle’s gem set a lot of other firsts too. It was the first against a current league or division champ, aside from Don Larsen’s perfecto against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series. According to the Elias Sport Bureau, because the Rays were third in the majors in runs scored, Buehrle joins Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter (versus the Twins in 1968) as the only pitchers throw a perfect game against teams ranked in the top-five in the majors in runs scored.

There’s more: Josh Fields became the first player to hit a grand slam while his teammate threw a perfect game. Ramon Castro teamed with Buehrle to become the first battery to never start a game together before recording a perfect game. The final out was Jason Bartlett, who made the All-Star team this season and was hitting .342 coming into the game. No other pitcher completed a perfect game by retiring a batter hitting at least .300 or who had the All-Star team in the same season.

8-11-09-Hayes_Wise.jpgThe story of Buehrle’s perfect game can’t be told without teammate DeWayne Wise. He was inserted into the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. The first batter, Gabe Kapler drilled a 2-2 pitch to center. Wise bolted for the wall and brought Kapler’s drive back, robbing the Rays outfielder of a homer. In one last first: surely that catch is the most spectacular ever made to save a perfect game and almost certainly by a defensive replacement. Though it’s not an official stat, Wise was still kind enough to send his glove along with Buehrle’s jersey and the game ball to commemorate the special day.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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