It happened again this week, for the 300th time in MLB history: an official no-hitter. A no hitter is rare, indeed. About 210,000 Major League games have been played so far. So that's .007 percent of them with no hits and runs, over nine complete innings, by one or more pitchers. Combined no hitters help make up the 300. There’s another kind of no-hitter, an extra level. Only 23 no-hit games have ever been perfect games. No walks. No errors. No dropped third strikes, safe at first. A perfecto gives the losing team no baserunners. Twenty seven up, twenty seven down.
I’ve had the good luck to see one of those 23. Add a decimal place; the perfectos make up about .0001 percent of every game ever played. Add in the number of tickets available for every one of those games, and each seat is a 6400-1 shot to be there. When you get three seats together at a perfecto, it’s a 19,000-1 shot.
We had three together on that night in July of 1994. Twenty-five seasons ago, Perfect Game Number 14 emerged before my wife Dottie, my son Nick, and me, all of us holding our breath then cheering at the end in The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
This week the Reds took their futile swings for all nine innings in Oakland. That 2-0 result was perfect for awhile, like all games are perfect as they begin. None of the Reds reached first safely until the fourth inning, when the A’s third baseman bobbled a ball and Jesse Winker arrived safe at first. After Mike Fiers and the A’s recorded eleven straight outs to start the game, the perfecto died at the hands of an A’s fielder.
It’s just one pitch (ball four, take your base) or one bobbled ball away from disappearing. The perfecto is the rarest outcome in all of sports. The good fortune that my family found in those 1994 seats is at the heart of my memoir Stealing Home. To beat those 19,000-1 odds, I had to be on the road with Nicky when he was 11 and in Little League, where we saw nine games in eleven days. It was the unscheduled tenth game, though, that was the perfecto. Only nine more have been achieved in the 25 years since our night. But Number 24 could happen today. Perfect is elusive, but it’s out there.