The 1st Problem of Perfection is Its Measurability

Don Larsen, New York Yankees World Series Perfect Game Pitcher October 3, 1956

Don Larsen, New York Yankees
World Series Perfect Game Pitcher
October 3, 1956

While looking over the linked list of all the perfect games in MLB history this morning, I stumbled totally into a lifelong question about that truly unattainable state. All I know for sure at this time in my life, the afternoon of the late and long shadows, is that whatever it may be, it sure isn’t me. And, truth to tell, it probably isn’t you either. Neither of us are capable of attaining true perfection – nor should we be shackled to the ruinous pressure of trying to pursue it. And the first problem of perfection, in life or baseball, is the always present challenge of finding a way to measure the unmeasurable because – whatever you come up with – and vice versa, you to me, the other person will always have some solid reason for finding another’s definition of perfection as either lacking some key element – or incomplete in its’ conceptual design.

In the end, as we have done with the so-called “perfect game” in baseball, we have to come up with working definitions of perfection that are realistically achievable on a rarity basis, but achievable, nonetheless.

The names on that referenced list of perfect game pitchers in regular season MLB history makes the point. By our everyday, easy-to-see, perfect game standard, one only occurs to the credit of a pitcher when he faces the minimum 27 batters in nine innings – without giving up a hit or allowing a batter to reach base in any other way, even if it is by a teammate’s error – and the nine innings conclude with the pitcher’s team having more runs than the “0” runs posted by the opposition.

Clear, Very difficult to achieve, but doable on a rare basis. Just look at the list again relative to the total number of games played in MLB history for an easy confirmation of the point. So, how could we have come up with a “closer” definition of “perfect game” that would have made it truer of a condition that would confirm our original premise –  that none of us are really even close to perfect?

Easy. I can think of two further stipulations that would surely elevate the perfect game to the status of perfection, but at the cost of making it virtually certain of never happening in the future because, with either of these additions, it never has – so far – happened at all. Simply add either or both of these stipulations to the ones that already define “perfect game”:

A “perfect game” will only occur when either (1) the pitcher retires every batter he faces on one pitch; or else (2) the pitcher strikes out all 27 betters he faces on three pitches, without ever throwing a called “ball pitch” – or allowing even a single foul ball.

Nobody's Perfect. Don Larsen and I were both still smoking when I interviewed him in St. Louis years ago. I quit smoking in 2006, but it wasn't easy. Now I wouldn't touch one for anything.

Nobody’s Perfect.
Don Larsen and I were both still smoking when I interviewed him in St. Louis years ago. I quit smoking on March 24, 2006, but it wasn’t easy. Now I wouldn’t touch one for anything.

Conclusion: Our current definition of “perfect game” is close enough for us flawed mortals, even for those of us who actually possess the ability to “once in a very blue moon” pitch a major league game and retire all 27 batters we face without a man reaching base while playing for a team that possesses the ability to score a single run for us on a day in which our curves and sliders are “breaking bad”.


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