It’s time for our weekly look back into the annals of baseball history! Perfection in Cleveland and New York, Ted Williams had himself a remarkable doubleheader, and a baseball game actually ends in a tie.
This Week In Baseball History: May 15
Perfection In Cleveland
On May 15, 1981, Cleveland’s Len Barker achieved perfection in Cleveland against the Toronto Blue Jays. Barker was coming off a 1980 season in which he led the American League in strikeouts. However, he wasn’t exactly considered one of the best pitchers in the game. Despite his obscurity, the 25-year-old right-hander was peaking in 1981. He logged two complete games in the first month of the season. Coming off five days rest, Barker retired all 27 Toronto batters he faced and struck out 11. It would be the 10th perfect game in baseball history and the last by a Cleveland pitcher. Barker would ride his perfect stuff to an All-star appearance that season, the first and only of his career. He pitched in his final game in 1987, finishing his career with 1,323.2 innings pitched, and a 4.34 ERA.
Ted Williams Wows In Return
On May 16, 1954, Ted Williams made his return to the Boston lineup after recovering from a broken collarbone he suffered on the first day of spring training. In the two years prior, Williams only suited up for 43 baseball games due to his recall from inactive reserves to serve in the Korean War. This day was seen as a return to normalcy for one of the most feared hitters in the game. The Red Sox faced the Detroit Tigers in a doubleheader, and Williams had an astounding performance. He collected eight. hits in nine at-bats, with two homers and seven RBI. Boston lost both games, 7-6 and 9-8, but Williams made sure to return with authority. Stories like this beg the question: How great would Ted Williams have been if he hadn’t missed games due to military service? Regardless, he remains a hero on and off the diamond.
Ted Williams’ career stats:
Lost ages 24, 25 & 26 years to WWII.
Lost almost all of ages 33 & 34 years to the Korean War.
If you think “Eh, he was 34 anyway”:
Hit .345, .356, .345, .388 his first four years after Korea. pic.twitter.com/NniOo9g2CS
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) May 12, 2023
Boomer’s Perfect Game
On May 13, 1998, Yankees pitcher David Wells hurled the 13th perfect game in baseball history, and the first in Yankee Stadium since Don Larsen’s feat in the 1956 World Series. Before arriving in New York, the 35-year-old veteran had bounced around the major leagues, playing for four clubs and only reaching 30 starts in a season twice. The Yankees had faith in Wells, but couldn’t have predicted what kind of competitor and fan favorite they’d acquired. On his historic day, Wells retired all 27 Minnesota Twins batters, 11 going down on strikes. Like Barker in 1981, Wells carried his perfect game momentum through the rest of the season, leading the league with five shutouts and a 1.04 WHIP. The lefty known as “Boomer” won all four of his postseason starts that season, helping the Yankees win the 1998 World Series.
Buzzer Beater Home Run?
On May 18, 1957, crowds of sports fans flooded downtown Baltimore for the 81st running of the Preakness Stakes. The second installment of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Just down the street was the home of the Baltimore Orioles, who were hosting the Chicago White Sox that night. First pitch had moved to 7 p.m., to ensure the White Sox could catch a train to Boston that night. Both teams agreed to a 10:20 p.m. curfew, meaning the umpire would call the game at exactly that time. Well in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the White Sox leading 4-3, the Orioles’ Dick Williams ran to home plate for his at-bat. With time inching closer and closer to the 10:20 p.m. mark, Dick Williams whacked the third pitch he saw over the left field wall to tie the game, 4-4. White Sox fans and players alike couldn’t believe that pitcher Paul LaPalme delivered a hittable pitch. A simple walk or mound meeting would’ve secured a White Sox win. As soon as Williams touched home plate, the umpire called the game: a tie.
Main photo credits:
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports