Baseball is a game of odds. We drool over 1-in-3 chances of getting hits, or getting on base 4-out-of-10 times. The game of baseball is built on percentages and odds, which is why we hold the amazing and imporbable to a different standard than most.
The odds of throwing a perfect game are 1 in 46,800, that’s a 0.00021% chance of getting 27 outs without a runner reaching base. Each out amps up the crowd and multiplies the tension. We’ve all seen pitchers lose their perfect games in the later innings, and it’s just as gut-wrenching each time it happens.
Editor’s Note: Just give Armando Galarraga his perfect game. I know he got the out at first. You know he got the out at first. Jim Joyce knows he missed the call and Galarraga got the bag first. Just do it. Is it really that important to not fix this stain on the game?
Anyway, as of publication, only 23 perfect games have been thrown, and on May 17th, 1998, David Wells threw one of them. And while the odds of throwing a perfect game are tiny, there are a lot more things that make the Wells Game even more special.
David Wells’s bid for perfection was the longest of the Modern Era, finishing up at two hours and forty minutes. At the time of Wells’s perfect game, the previous drawn-out pitching performance was from Catfish Hunter in 1968, when he also shut down the Minnesota Twins. The two most recent perfect games thrown by Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez in 2012, both came in above 2 hours and 2 minutes.
It took David Wells 120 pitches to get all 27 outs against the Twins on May 17th, 1998, the most ever needed by a pitcher to throw a perfect game. Wells pitch count would remain the highest for 14 years until Matt Cain tossed 5 more pitches to stifle the Astros in 2012.
Just under 50,000 Yankee faithful packed Yankee Stadium to see their Bronx Bombers face off against the Twins. The 49,820 fans in attendance rank second-most behind Don Larsen‘s 1956 World Series performance.
David Wells became the first pitcher in MLB history to pitch a perfect game with the top two buttons of his uniform undone. In 2012, Felix Hernandez would also accomplish this unique feat.
The Yankees have seen 3 perfect games, all pitched at home, all pitched by men whose first names begin with D. Two of them are named David.
When Wells got Pat Meares to pop out for the 27th out of his perfect game, he became the only pitcher to accomplish the feat having played on 4 different teams prior to doing so. Before landing in the Bronx, Wells pitched for the Blue Jays, Reds, Orioles, and Tigers. Wells would hold that distinction for a year, until David Cone threw his perfect afternoon while pitching for his fifth team.
The Morning After
The night before pitching the 15th Perfect game in MLB History, David Wells went out drinking with Jimmy Fallon and Seth Myers following the SNL Season Wrap Party. On HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Wells described his hangover as “raging, skull-rattling.”
Just over one year after Wells’s perfect game, David Cone threw one of his own. Giving the Yankees the distinction of being the only team to throw two consecutive perfect games.
The New York Yankees have never lost the World Series in a season where they’ve also thrown a Perfect game. That’s a scientific and historic fact.
Historic Home Plate
Home Plate Umpire Tim McClelland called David Wells perfect game. If that name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the umpire who would later discover Sammy Sosa‘s corked bat. Even earlier than that, in McClelland’s rookie season as an umpire, he was behind the plate for George Brett‘s “Pine Tar Game. “
The eleven strikeouts rung up by Wells are the most ever by a Yankee pitcher in a perfect game. At the time, that tied Wells for second-most with Catfish Hunter and Len Barker behind Koufax who tossed 14. Since 1998, others have posted higher totals. Roy Halladay tied Wells with 11, King Felix sat down 12, Randy Johnson K’d 13, and Matt Cain tied Koufax with 14.
Second Perfect Game at Yankee Stadium
After the dust cleared from the celebrations on the diamond, fans refused to leave Yankee Stadium. The Bronx ballpark was now tied with Dodger Stadium for hosting the most perfect games in MLB history. After Cone’s perfecto a year later, Yankee Stadium would take sole ownership of the top spot, with three.
The Minnesota Twins, thanks to Wells, became the only franchise in MLB history to be on the receiving end of two perfect games. The first perfect game thrown against the Twins came from Catfish Hunter. The Twins would hold that record until 2012 when the Tampa Bay Rays notched their 3rd Perfect Game against them, at the hands of Felix Hernandez.
Since David Wells blanked the Twins, the world has seen eight perfect games, and hopefully in the next 22 years, we’ll see eight more. But until then, we can always return to May 17th, 1998, and watch the big man get all 27 outs.
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