In his first start of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen could not complete two innings. He faced only 10 batters, and six reached base. By the time the game was over, the Brooklyn Dodgers had pelted the Yankees for 13 runs.
In his next start, of course, Larsen authored a perfect game. Joe Trimble of The Daily News started his article on the performance this way: “The imperfect man pitched a perfect game.”
Domingo Germán, the right-hander who joined Larsen, David Wells and David Cone on Wednesday by throwing the fourth perfect game in Yankees history, is imperfect, too. The setting for his gem — the crumbling Oakland Coliseum, home to the moribund Athletics — was hardly baseball paradise. The 11-0 victory ended after midnight in New York.
But that’s the magic of the perfect game: It can happen to any pitcher at any time. Wells and Cone had 20-win seasons and made multiple All-Star teams; not so for Larsen or Germán. Two A’s have been perfect: One is a Hall of Famer, Catfish Hunter, and the other is a current Oakland broadcaster, Dallas Braden, who had a losing record for his career.
The threadbare A’s are baseball’s worst team, already 40 games under .500, consumed by their vision of a new home in Las Vegas. Yet they have endured many dreadful seasons, and this was the first perfect game against the franchise since 1904, when Boston’s Cy Young did it to the Philadelphia Athletics. Their manager, Connie Mack — then only 42 years old — had more than half a lifetime left in the dugout, and he never saw another.
When Larsen did it, the feat had not been accomplished since 1922, by a nondescript Chicago White Sox rookie named Charlie Robertson. The drought before Germán’s was not nearly as long, but it was significant: No pitcher had been perfect since Seattle’s Félix Hernández in August 2012.
The 10 regular seasons in between (2013 through 2022) featured 22,765 imperfect games. Yu Darvish, Yusmeiro Petit and Max Scherzer each lost a bid when the 27th batter reached base. The Yankees’ Carlos Rodón — as a member of the White Sox in 2021 — lost his attempt when a slider nicked the top of a batter’s shoe in the ninth inning.
“It really has to be your day,” Rodón said, reflecting on that game last summer. “You have to be on, they have to catch every ball, and you can’t hit anybody. There’s a luck element. It’s kind of like a lottery thing.”
Like Larsen, Germán gave no warning he was about to hit the jackpot. He was booed off the mound in the Bronx last Thursday, pounded for 10 runs in three and a third innings against Seattle. The start before that, in Boston, Germán allowed seven runs in two innings.
He spent part of May serving a suspension after umpires in Toronto found a sticky substance on his pitching hand. He served a much more serious suspension, for domestic violence, from mid-September 2019 through the shortened 2020 season that followed.
Since then, the Yankees have never known quite what to do with Germán. He hinted at retirement in a cryptic social media post in 2020. Shoulder trouble cost him parts of the last two seasons. He was a depth piece before spring training, the sixth man in a five-man rotation, and chose a new uniform number: 0.
Then injuries struck, and the Yankees had no choice but to sign up for Germán’s inconsistency every fifth game. One start he was giving up six runs to Minnesota, the next he was shutting out Cleveland into the ninth inning.
He took the mound in Oakland on Wednesday with a 5.10 earned run average. He left it in triumph with the 24th perfect game in the history of Major League Baseball.
Germán, 30, had never pitched a shutout in his 13 professional seasons. He had only one complete game, in the minors in 2017. But there he was, before a pro-Yankees crowd of 12,479 fans, flipping curve after curve — 51 times out of 99 pitches — for eight groundouts, nine strikeouts and 10 outs through the air.
As usual for a perfect game, there was a defensive highlight. In the fifth inning, first baseman Anthony Rizzo dived for a backhanded grab of a smash down the line by Seth Brown, then flipped from his knees to Germán covering the bag. Nothing else would come close to a hit for the A’s.
The biggest threat was a three-ball, one-strike count to Jonah Bride with two outs in the eighth. But Germán dropped in his curveball for a called strike, then another for a foul and another for an inning-ending groundout. That’s how it finished, too, when Esteury Ruiz tapped a curve to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who fired to Rizzo to certify the masterpiece.
The Yankees’ four perfect games are the most by any franchise, breaking their tie with the White Sox. Seven teams have never been involved in one, including two — the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals — with histories that stretch to the 1800s. The Toronto Blue Jays have none, but their longtime ace, Roy Halladay, got one in his second month with a new team, the Philadelphia Phillies, in 2010.
Germán is the first native of the Dominican Republic to throw a perfect game, a feat that painfully eluded Pedro Martinez in 1995. Martinez twirled nine perfect innings for Montreal in San Diego, but gave up a leadoff hit in the 10th inning. The Pirates’ Harvey Haddix, in Milwaukee in 1959, stayed perfect through 12 innings, only to lose his effort (and the game) in the 13th.
And let’s not dwell on poor Armando Galarraga, who lost his perfect game in 2010 — ancient times, before replay — when the umpire Jim Joyce missed a call at first base on what should have been the final out.
A night like Germán’s is an outlier to cherish forever, a reminder that perfection might actually be out there, waiting to surprise us — whoever we are.
“We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another,” Halladay’s widow, Brandy, said in her speech at his Hall of Fame ceremony in 2019. “We all struggle. But with hard work, humility and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments.”