Immortality.

That’s what the announcers used to talk about when a pitcher would lose a no-hitter
late in the game. Or maybe if he was facing the last batter.

“One pitch from immortality,’‘ they would say. Or something like that.

Of course throwing a no-hitter doesn’t really make you an immortal, not even in a
baseball sense. No-hitters are rare, but not that rare.

A no-hitter is a feat that will (usually) garner the opening highlight on “SportsCenter.”
Back in the day it used draw the lede position on sports page. But no-hitters are
hardly unforgettable.

There have been 283, 233 since 1900, in the majors. And you have to be more than
just a baseball fan — you have to be a dedicated baseball historian — to recognize
some of these names who have thrown no-hitters, players such as Verne Bickford,
Weldon Henley, Iron Davis and Hod Eller.

But a perfect game. Well that’s another story. Or at least it used to be.

When I was growing up, there had been seven perfectos in the modern era (there
were two in 1880 when pitchers still threw underhand).

A perfect game was so difficult to achieve that its seemed all the guys who pitched
them were studs. A no name could get lucky a throw and no-hitter but not a perfect
game.

The guys who had thrown perfect games were all name players, Catfish Hunter, Don Larsen,
Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, Cy Young — except for one, Charlie Robertson.
(Although Larsen was a name player because of his perfect game — which came in the
1956 World Series.) Robertson was a mediocre pitcher who threw a perfect game for
the White Sox against the Tigers in 1922.

Between 1968, when I was 10, and 1981, when I was 23, there were no perfect
games. There have been 13 since Len Barker found perfection for Cleveland on that
May day.

There have been six since the start of the 2009 season.

There should have been seven.

On June 2, 2010 Armando Galarraga, needing just one out for a perfect game, ran over
to first to cover the base on a grounder to Miguel Cabrera. The exchange between
Cabrera and Galarraga was a bit awkward, but the play was made in time to get Jason
Donald and end the game.

Umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe. Joyce blew the call, which he admitted after he
seeing a postgame replay.

Galarraga got the next batter to ground out and, in most people’s mind, complete a
28-out perfect game.

Both men handled it with great class. Joyce apologized tearfully at home plate before
the game the next day when Galarraga presented the Tigers’ lineup.

The blown call did two things:
It created more pressure for baseball to expand it replay system.

And in an odd way, it assured Galarraga of baseball immortality.

You see, as perfect games have become more common, they are thus less memorable.

Dallas Braden and Phil Humber threw prefect games, but a generation or two from
now their names will be as meaningless to fans as someone like Noodles Hahn is to us.

Yet, the story of Galarraga’s imperfect perfect game will be told and retold. On Monday,
they were celebrating the fourth anniversary of the event on SportsCenter.

Four!? Heck, that isn’t even a round number.

Galarraga’s story is beyond perfection.

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