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Almost perfect? Hey, Yu, join the club

An open letter to Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers' right-hander whose bid for a perfect game on Tuesday night was spoiled when Houston's Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-out single in the ninth inning ...

Dear Mr. Darvish:

Although truly heartfelt condolences are certainly deserved for coming oh-so-close to joining the 23 in major-league history (including postseason) on whom fame and fate bestowed a perfect smile, please be cheered by knowing that you've nonetheless joined an even more exclusive group — pitchers on whom fame and fate bestowed a last-moment frown.

Mr. Darvish, you are only the 11th pitcher whose bid for a perfect game was spoiled with two out in the ninth. Among the previous 10, seven gave up clean, legitimate, bona fide hits to the 27th batter, as you did, Yu. The perfection-denied narratives of those other three pitchers should help give you perspective, soften your disappointment, humble your urge to cry out "Why me!?"

On July 4, 1908, Hooks Wiltse of the New York Giants, one strike away from getting all 27 batters out, hit opposing pitcher George McQuillan of the Phillies on a 2-2 pitch. Don't ask why Philadelphia manager Billy Murray didn't use a pinch hitter for McQuillan. His reasons have been lost in the fog of early 20th-century baseball history. McQuillan, who batted .151 that year, wasn't exactly a threat at the plate. Perhaps Murray wasn't what one would call a thinking man's manager. Perhaps the Phillies' bench was as thin as the padding in big-league gloves, circa 1908. What makes this game stand out from your garden-variety perfect-game disappointments is home-plate umpire Cy Rigler later saying he should have called Wiltse's 1-2 pitch a strike. Wiltse went on to pitch a no-hitter in the Giants' 1-0 win, with the hit batsman the only blemish.

On Sept. 2, 1972, Milt Pappas of the Chicago Cubs walked the 27th batter, San Diego pinch-hitter Larry Stahl, on a 3-2 pitch. The next batter made out and Pappas settled for a no-hitter, although "settled" might be giving him too much credit, or too little. For years, Pappas ranted at the perceived injustice of it all, insisting that second-year umpire Bruce Froemming had squeezed the strike zone on that 3-2 pitch. Froemming, who went on to a 37-year career in which he was the plate umpire on 10 more no-hitters, just as adamantly insisted he made the right call on Pappas' full-count pitch.

On June 2, 2010, Detroit's Armando Galarraga yielded an infield single to Cleveland's 27th batter, pinch hitter Jason Donald. In an age of ubiquitous slow-motion instant replay, it instantly became clear that first-base umpire Jim Joyce mistakenly called Donald safe. Not only was there no Pappas-Froemming-like ongoing acrimony, Joyce immediately after the game apologized for the blown call, Galarraga graciously accepted it, and both later collaborated on a book called, naturally, "Nobody's Perfect."

If those examples of near-perfection fail to console you, Mr. Darvish, perhaps these will:

On June 23, 1917, Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth walked Washington leadoff batter Ray Morgan on four pitches. It seems Babe was particularly prickly on this early summer day at Fenway Park, because after just that one batter, he proceeded to get himself ejected by plate umpire Brick Owens for arguing. Ernie Shore replaced Ruth, then picked off Morgan and retired the remaining 26 batters in Boston's 4-0 win. Even though Shore was responsible for getting all 27 outs, and allowed neither a hit nor a walk nor did he plunk a batter with a pitch, his effort doesn't count as an official, complete perfect game.


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