Perfect Pitchers Get All The Glory, While Their Catchers Get None

On the heels of yesterday’s post about Felix Cespedes’s near-perfect game, I got an email from a fellow writer that made me do some thinking about perfect games.  One of the things I found myself wondering: who were the catchers for each of the eighteen perfect games in major league history?

This list is taken from the Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers and fact-checked against Baseball-Reference.com when possible.

1. Lee Richmond (June 12, 1880) – Charlie Bennett
2. Monte Ward (June 17, 1880) – Emil Gross
3. Cy Young (May 5, 1904) – Lou Criger
4. Addie Joss (October 2, 1908) – Nig Clarke
5. Charlie Robertson (April 30, 1922) – Ray Schalk
6. Don Larsen (October 8, 1956) – Yogi Berra
7. Jim Bunning (June 21, 1964) – Gus Triandos
8. Sandy Koufax (September 9, 1965) – Jeff Torborg
9. Catfish Hunter (May 8, 1968) – Jim Pagliaroni
10. Len Barker (May 15, 1981) – Ron Hassey
11. Mike Witt (September 30, 1984) – Bob Boone
12. Tom Browning (September 16, 1988) – Jeff Reed
13. Dennis Martinez (July 28, 1991) – Ron Hassey
14. Kenny Rogers (July 28, 1994) – Ivan Rodriguez
15. David Wells (May 17, 1998) – Jorge Posada
16. David Cone (July 18, 1999) – Joe Girardi
17. Randy Johnson (May 18, 2004) – Robby Hammock
18. Mark Buehrle (July 23, 2009) – Ramon Castro

Look closely and you’ll notice something interesting: seven Hall of Famers (I’m counting Johnson in that group) have pitched perfect games; three Hall of Famers (I’m counting Rodriguez, but not Posada) have caught perfect games. No Hall of Fame catcher, however, has ever caught a perfect game pitched by a Hall of Fame pitcher.

And then there’s Ron Hassey. Catching one perfecto is cool; catching two is off the charts, especially when you realize he was only behind the plate for five more games (plus four appearances as a pinch-hitter) after Martinez’s gem.

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Brian E. Cooper on July 31, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Good point! In researching my upcoming biography of Ray Schalk, who caught Perfect Game No. 5 in the majors, I learned that he appreciated that fact. (He also caught 2 or 3 no-hitters, depending on how and when the records were kept.) Throughout his life, Schalk made it a point to personally congratulate the catcher of every no-hitter or perfect game.

    Reply

  2. Thanks for the comment, Brian! Keep us apprised of how the book is progressing, we do reviews here from time to time, and this one sounds fascinating!

    Reply

  3. As Lou Criger’s granddaughter, it has always been with pride that I, with his other grandchildren, have researched and learned about our grandfather’s catching skills. But it was disappointing that while nominated 5 different times to the Baseball Hall of Fame, his offensive skills were not sufficent to garner enough votes, even though his defensive skills labeled him “the best catcher of his time.” His batterymate, Cy Young commented that he would not have been the pitcher that he was without the skills his catcher lent to the partnership. He said that Lou Criger not only had great skills as a catcher, he had intellectualized the game of catching to a higher level than ever before. Our tribute to our grandfather is the reason for the website devoted to him – http://www.loucriger.com
    Jeanette Criger Done
    Tucson, Arizona

    Reply

    • Hi Jeanette : I’m quite a baseball fan myself and lover of the games history . I grew up and am still a Red Sox fan . I’m delighted to see that you are keeping your grandfathers memory and contributions to the game alive. As a boy I became friends with Joe Wood who came up with the Red Sox in 1908 . It is likely your grandfather caught him in a few games .

      I hope you maintain and keep any artifacts from his playing days in the family for future generations and family members to appreciate .

      As a former pitcher myself, I always recognized the importance of my catchers and their contributions to my efforts. Whether it was their endless confidence in me or their handling of the game or even just ensuring i had a good target to focus on I certainly do understand your comments about your grandfather and indeed they are very true

      Reply

  4. Brian, I love that fact about Schalk. It’s always great when players are willing to reach out and recognize the achievements of others, both past and present. One of the things I always like about Roger Clemens was his appreciation of baseball’s history.

    Jeanette, I’m glad you and your family have taken on the task of memorializing your grandfather’s career. While he may not have been a good offensive player, it still says something about his ability that he was able to hang on for sixteen seasons. Also, while there is no individual honor greater than election to the Hall of Fame, it speaks volumes about a player’s career when he is good enough to even draw a few votes.

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  5. Thanks for your comments – I do have one question and not being a baseball authority, I may have misconstrued what qualifies as a perfect game. On June 30, 1908 Cy Young pitched another no hit-no run game against the New York Highlanders, with grandpa Lou Criger as catcher. You don’t list this game, so clarify why this is not counted as a perfect game. Yes, one runner was given first base on balls, so maybe this is the reason?
    Thanks,
    Jeanette Criger Done

    Reply

    • Jeanette, your reasoning was correct. A perfect game in baseball is one in which no runners reach base. The pitcher faces 27 batters and gets 27 outs. This is incredibly difficult to do, as evidenced by the fact that there have been only 18 such games in baseball history, the first two happening way back in 1880.

      A no-hitter (a game in which a pitcher allows no hits, but allows base runners) is still an impressive feat, but not nearly as rare – there have been 263 official no-hitters since 1876, including two this season (Jonathan Sanchez and Mark Buehrle; Sanchez allowed just one baserunner, Buehrle allowed none for a perfect game). Nolan Ryan holds the major league record for career no-hitters with seven; Cy Young pitched three (the two you mentioned plus one in 1897).

      It’s like the difference between squares and rectangles. Technically, squares are rectangles – the definition of a rectangle is a four-sided figure with four right angles, and squares meet that definition. Rectangles, however, are NOT squares, because they don’t fit the criteria (a four-sided figure, with all of the sides being equal length, and four right angles). All squares are rectangles, but all rectangles are not squares. All perfect games are no-hitters, but not all no-hitters are perfect games.

      Reply

  6. Thanks for your answer – should have done some research on this myself, but appreciate your clarification.
    Jeanette Criger Done

    Reply

  7. Posted by eangevine on August 5, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I was told there would be no geometry?

    Reply

  8. […] put together a list last season of the eighteen men who caught perfect games in the major leagues and intended to update it after Dallas Braden’s gem earlier this month. Apparently I’m […]

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  9. Recevez mes remerciements � propos de ces paragraphes instructifs. Je ne savais pas compl�tement ce sujet ant�rieurement.

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  10. The rather long internet look up has at the conclusion with the evening been reimbursed using pleasurable perception to share with you along with the family and friends.

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