It was 40 years ago exactly today at the Old Municipal Stadium. The Indians were facing the Toronto Blue Jays and Len Barker was on the hill for the Tribe. The Indians would win the game by a score of 3-0, but the contest had much more value than that score itself.
Barker threw a perfect game and had 11 strikeouts in the process. It was the first of its kind since 1968. The attendance watching that Friday night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium was just 7,290.
11 strikeouts swinging, 103 pitches with a remarkable 84 of them strikes, no three-ball counts and only five outs made in the outfield. It was the 10th perfect game in MLB history at the time and the first one with a designated hitter.
Having a DH in the lineup does give the offense a huge advantage as opposed to having to trot a pitcher out there to bat. Thus, it makes throwing a perfect game just that much harder. There is a player in the dugout that, when not batting, is studying the pitcher and his tendencies.
Now, Barker is the only Indian to throw a perfect game in the history of the team. However, taking into account the Cleveland aspect of everything and there is a bit of nuance if one is to go way back.
October 2, 1908.
Addie Joss threw a perfect game at League Park for the Cleveland Naps. It was a 1-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. That game actually had more fans in attendance with 10,598 than the Barker gem.
Frankly, there is such a difference between a perfect game and a no-hitter. The former requires perfection from everyone in the field, too. No errors can be made or anything of that nature. Literally, everyone has to be on their best for the entire game.
27 outs. Perfection.
Hopefully, the Tribe will do something in the future to celebrate this incredible event. Looking back and it is amazing to see how great Barker was on that May evening. There are only 23 perfect games thrown in the history of a league with over 200,000 games played. No pitcher has ever thrown more than one perfect game.
That gives a 0.0001% chance for each pitcher in each outing. Amazing just to think about...