How does a perfect game in baseball work?

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson was the last major leaguer to throw a perfect game.
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson was the last major leaguer to throw a perfect game.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The right person to ask about perfect games is a pitcher. Here is the pitcher's view of perfection: A perfect game occurs when a pitcher faces 27 batters and none of them get on base. They all strike out, fly out or are tagged out while getting to first base.

Sixteen major league perfect games have been pitched in the entire history of baseball:

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  • Lee Richmond, Worchester vs. Cleveland, 1880
  • Monte Ward, Providence vs. Boston, 1880
  • Cy Young, Boston vs. Philadelphia, 1904
  • Addie Joss, Cleveland vs. Chicago, 1908
  • Charlie Robertson, Chicago vs. Detroit, 1922
  • Don Larsen, New York vs. Brooklyn, 1956
  • Jim Bunning, Philadelphia vs. New York, 1964
  • Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles vs. Chicago, 1965
  • Catfish Hunter, Oakland vs. Minnesota, 1968
  • Len Barker, Cleveland vs. Toronto, 1981
  • Mike Witt, California vs. Texas, 1984
  • Tom Browning, Cinncinati. vs Los Angeles,1988
  • Dennis Martinez, Montreal vs. Los Angeles, 1991
  • Kenny Rogers, Texas vs. California, 1994
  • David Wells, New York vs. Minnesota, 1998
  • David Cone, New York vs. Montreal, 1999
  • Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Braves, 2004

This makes a perfect game one of the rarest events in sports!

The pitcher I spoke to also mentioned these other forms of perfection:

  • A minimal "perfect game" would be a game in which the pitcher threw 27 pitches and each batter was out on that first pitch. So each batter would swing on the first pitch and fly out or get tagged out while running to first base. This would be the least amount of work for the pitcher. This sort of "perfect game" has never occurred.
  • A strike-out "perfect game" would be a game in which no batter ever made contact with the ball. The pitcher would strike out 27 batters in a row. This sort of perfect game has never occurred, either.
  • A "no-hitter" is a game where no batter gets to base by hitting, but may get there because the pitcher walks a batter or accidentally hits the batter with a pitch.

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