2006 non-fiction book by Phillip Hoose
A perfect game is defined by Major League Baseball as a game in which a pitcher (or combination of pitchers) pitches a victory that lasts a minimum of nine innings and in which no opposing player reaches base. Thus, the pitcher (or pitchers) cannot allow any hits, walks, hit batsmen, or any opposing player to reach base safely for any other reason—in short, "27 up, 27 down". The feat has been achieved only 17 times in major league history.
By definition, a perfect game must be both a no-hitter and a shutout. Since the pitcher cannot control whether or not his teammates commit any errors, the pitcher must be backed up by solid fielding to pitch a perfect game. An error that does not allow a baserunner, such as a misplayed foul ball, does not spoil a perfect game. Weather-shortened contests in which a team has no baserunners and games in which a team reaches first base only in extra innings do not qualify as official under the present definition. The first confirmed use of the term "perfect game" was in 1908; the current official definition of the term was formalized in 1991. Although it is possible for multiple pitchers to combine for a perfect game (as has happened nine times at the major league level for a no-hitter), to date every major league perfect game has been a complete game by just a single pitcher.
Over the past 132 years of Major League Baseball history, there have been only 17 official perfect games by the current definition (approximately one every eight years). In sum, a perfect game occurs once in about every 11,000 major league contests. For comparison, more people have orbited the moon than have pitched a Major League Baseball perfect game. No pitcher has ever thrown more than one.
The first two major league perfect games, and the only two of the premodern era, were thrown in 1880, five days apart. The first to accomplish the feat was John Lee Richmond, a left-handed pitcher for the Worcester Worcesters. Richmond would finish his career with a losing record. The second perfect game was thrown by John Montgomery Ward for the Providence Grays. Ward went on to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but more for his accomplishments as a position player than as a pitcher.
The sole postseason perfect game is also the only no-hitter ever thrown in the postseason: New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen achieved the unique feat against the Brooklyn Dodgers in game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
Most of the 15 modern-era players to have thrown perfect games were accomplished major league pitchers. Five are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Cy Young, Addie Joss, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, and Catfish Hunter. A sixth, Randy Johnson, is a five-time Cy Young Award winner considered certain to be voted into the Hall of Fame when eligible. David Cone also has a Cy Young Award to his name and three other perfect-game throwers, Dennis Martínez, Kenny Rogers, and David Wells, each won over 200 major league games.
For several, the perfect game was the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable career. Mike Witt and Tom Browning were solid major league pitchers; each finished in the top ten in Cy Young voting once. Larsen, Charlie Robertson, and Len Barker were journeyman pitchers; each finished his major-league career with a losing record.