Perfect In Any Area Code

May 11

Dallas Braden has done the most for the 209 area code since George Lucas and “American Graffiti.” It’s just a baseball game, but what Braden did Sunday was a shot in the arm for Stockton, which has only taken shots to the ribs in recent years. A true feel-good story.

I can’t help but wonder, though.

What would have happened if Braden threw a one-hitter, and the only baserunner was Evan Longoria by way of a bunt single in the 5th inning Sunday? Would that have violated a “code” in the 209 ? We already know you don’t run over a man’s mound of dirt.

Many in the crowd of 12,000 booed, but I personally don’t think there was anything wrong with Longoria’s bunt attempt. He was trying to get something going and nobody should be worrying about a no-hitter or perfect game in the 5th. Now, if Gabe Kapler tried to bunt with two outs in the top of the 9th, Braden might have done some talking with his knuckles. Warning: pick your battles — Kapler is cut in stone, a big-time body-builder.

I have a feeling he would have had some help. That’s just the way it is in baseball. The Code — and I don’t mean the 209 — is filled with silly protocols, but this one is very clear. You don’t “cheap” your way toward breaking up a no-hitter, at least not in the regular season. If Kapler swung and the ball rolled 32 feet for a single, Braden would have been frustrated out of his skull, but he would not have brained Kapler.

Braden and Kevin Kouzmanoff should be best buddies now. Kouzmanoff made several terrific plays to preserve the perfecto, including a running catch of a pop foul near the A’s dugout on the third base side. It helped that the A’s foul territory is amost as big as the 209.

Braden’s grandma Peggy Lindsey is backing off after saying “stick it, A-rod.” As is often the case, however, the first response is most honest. And let’s face it, it made her even more endearing to fans. I’m pretty sure it played well in Stockton.

Braden isn’t the most unlikely to throw a perfect game, but pretty close. He had never even thrown a complete game in the majors. However, he is not a fringe pitcher.

Braden is not overpowering but if he stays healthy should have a decent career as a middle-of-rotation guy who relies on keeping hitters off balance. Guys who master that craft stick around for a while, especially if they are left-handed. Just look at the guy in Philadelphia.

Some interesting “perfect game” facts :

There have been 17 perfect games in the so-called Modern Era, after the American League was formed. The first in that era was thrown by Cy Young of Boston in 1904. Among his victims were Socks Seybold and Ossee Schreckengost. God, I wish Harry Caray could have broadcast that game. Young outdueled fellow future HOF’er Rube Waddell.

In the 19th Century, Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs was the first to throw one, beating the Cleveland Blues on June 12, 1880. He then donned ruby slippers. Five days later, John Montgomery Ward threw one for the Providence Grays, and then announced a 20 percent sale on 700-thread count bedsheets.

There was a 42-year gap in regular season perfect games between Charlie Robertson and Jim Bunning, and then there were three in the next five seasons. Bunning, Sandy Koufax and Jim Hunter are all Hall of Famers. Hunter was the last Oakland Athletic to accomplish the feat, before a crowd of 62-hundred at an un-tarped Coliseum.

The only person to catch two perfect games is Ron Hassey, in 1981 with Len Barker and in 1991 with Dennis Martinez. Hassey was also a member of the World Series champion 1989 Oakland A’s club. He also had a .323 postseason batting average. That’s not a bad career; catch two perfect games, get a ring, hit over .300 in the postseason. I know a lot of so-called “star players” who would make that trade.

Braden’s next home start will be either Wednesday or Thursday of next week against the Detroit Tigers. What if the A’s served $2 Perfects from Margaritaville that day ? It couldn’t be any worse than nickel beer night … could it ?

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