Some Perfect Games May Be Ruled Out


OK, we know. We get it. It’s extraneously clear. ~ The projected probability of an extra inning perfect game already is so off-the-stathead-radar-screen as to be unworthy of much practical discussion, but this is baseball ~ a sport that lives and breathes on its courtship with eternity and its romantic long season attraction to the possibility of the most highly improbable events.

Need a few examples? How about just the ones exposed in fictional form through movies like “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams?” ~ Prefer a hip-hugging clutch upon the game’s history in reality, try that incredible run in 1951, when the deliverance of the strongly improbable played out as serious melodrama over the course of the second half of the National League season and culminated in something we still relish today as “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World.”

Now, one of the new measures to be tested as one of many possible changes that could help the game of baseball pick up its pace of play and shorten games has arisen as a threat to end, once and for all, a possibility that is immeasurably more remote at the MLB level than the 1951 NL season outcome was for the New York Giants.

I’d put it this strongly: We might see another season outcomes like 1951 for another 100 times ~ and still be waiting for the arrival of this possibility ~ the arrival of an extra inning perfect game. One of the trial devises makes it absolutely impossible and here’s obviously why that’s true:

A true perfect game must be pitched by one pitcher for a nine inning win who does not allow a single runner to reach base by any means ~ and whose team does not allow any runner to reach base safely as a result of error or any ruled play of fielder interference upon a batter or runner to first.

The proposed death of that possibility for extra inning games is subtly stated in the Atlantic Independent  League trial plan: – Both clubs will start the 10th inning of the All-Star Game, and each subsequent inning, with a runner on second base (re-entry substitutions allowed for runners). 

While that automatic runner at 2nd base to start the 10th inning doesn’t sound like any big harm as a measure of help to ending a day-at-the-park exhibition game finish earlier, it would change baseball completely, if it ever developed support for becoming the rule in regular season MLB games.

Example: Let’s say the home club pitcher has a perfect game going into the top of the 10th in a scoreless tie. The automatic runner at 2nd base then becomes the first runner of the day for the visitors.

Let’s say the home club pitcher gets the three men he faces out and his club’s first batter leads off the bottom of the 10th with a game winning HR and a 2-0, 10-inning, no-hitter, but no perfecto. ~ Remember: the homies also had an automatic runner at 2nd base from the start of their first extra inning time at bat. ~ The automatic runner from the visitors top side time was only there long enough to provide an LOB (left on base) box score stat, but that was long enough to cancel the word “perfect” out of the no-hitter game equation.

An Eagle Field Illustration
Japonica @ Myrtle Street
Pecan Park, Houston, 1950

So What’s the Big Deal? Go back to what we said earlier. Baseball is “a sport that lives and breathes on its courtship with eternity.” We are not mourning the loss of something improbable. We are hurt by the elimination of an extra inning perfecto as a possibility.

Our hope for eternity hinges upon our faith in possibility. As post World War II sandlot kids, we didn’t care anything about the difference between possibility and probability. ~ We didn’t even know the words. ~ But we did get the message about baseball from the heroes we watched at Buff Stadium in Houston and other minor league club ballparks all across America ~ and from the smiling faces of uniformed big leaguers that we only saw on bubble gum cards ~ and first hand ~ from the sandlots where we played the game too: Baseball is forever. If we love it ~ and if we work at it it and get better at it ~ just maybe ~ we too could play at Buff Stadium someday ~ and maybe too ~ some of us could also even make it onto our own baseball cards in the same way!

We ancient sandlotters didn’t even have to wrap the words “possibility” and “probability” into our minds to find them each working their way into our early dreams about a baseball future ~ and the future, furthermore, was heaven ~ a place that is all about forever.

Take away the possibility of an extra inning perfect game ~ one that most probably isn’t going to happen anyway ~ and you tear a tiny hole in baseball’s dance picture with eternity. Strip away enough of these little hope connections that the game so deeply rests upon as its connection to the future of forever ~ and baseball goes “pop” as an ideal that sets it above and apart from all the other major team sports that are governed by the clock.

Whatever we choose to believe about what happens, if anything, beyond death is up to each of us. Everything we all do collectively, however, is the legacy that all of us leave to the world of tomorrow ~ and, so far ~ the legacy of baseball has been that we care about those long-range hopes for the game as our time era culture’s legacy gift to whatever the world of the future may choose to become.

The runner on 2nd base proposal at the start of extra innings simply goes against the grain of baseball’s legacy of time independence and it acts as a killer of possibility and a nod to saving “time”.

Let’s try not to kill baseball’s independence from the clock and rare possibility as our answer to what now seems like a mere problem with shorter attention spans in the burgeoning new digital age. Maybe SABR needs to put together a new study group on the importance of baseball’s independence from the clock.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher



One Response to “Some Perfect Games May Be Ruled Out”

  1. gregclucas Says:

    The “putting a runner on base” to start extra inning games is an abhorrent idea. They can “experiment” all they want in the Atlantic or even affiliated minor leagues to save players and their bodies. But not in MLB. Never. Also wrong would be to alter the batting order to let the best hitters get more at bats. There is no EARTHLY reason why, if the baseball meddlers want to reduce xtra innings, they can’t just accept ties in games played properly while they put a lid on how many innings extra can be played. No, there wouldn’t be a winner, but if the point system were implemented both teams could get something out of the game better than a loss. And NO post season game would ever be played short of its real conclusion.

    I would be more in favor of having a home run derby determine ties (which I am not) than putting runners on base ostensibly continuing the real game. At least home run derbies would not be included in real statistics.

    Play with your robot umpires….eliminate mound visits or the number of pitchers that can be used. Even do idiotic things like move the mound back two feet mid-season. But absolutely NO “phantom runners” EVER.

    Better yet. Leave the game alone.

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