Growing up as a kid, I always respected the art of pitching. While most kids my age were enamoured by the long ball, I was fascinated by the true ace. I could sit down and watch a southpaw hurl a gem any day of the week. A pitcher painting the corner was orgasmic to me (Even though I didn’t know what an orgasm even was at the time.) I would dissect a start as if I was a mad scientist. Every pitch was more important than the next.
This takes us to May, 9th, 2010. It’s mother day and lucky enough for me, my family was selected to host MD’s dinner. Now, I don’t have a problem with hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but you gotta understand that Mothers Day falls smack in the middle of baseball season. The Phils were scheduled to play at 1, and there was a full slate of MLB games that 11 years old me, could not miss.
After the Phils won, I begged my mom to allow me to keep the TV on so I could watch an electric young Southpaw take the hill. This southpaws name was Dallas Braden. Braden, who is a native of Stockton, California was playing in his 4th year at the Major Leauge level.
In 2007, Braden finished his rookie season with the Oakland Athletics with a 1-8 record to go along with 6.72 ERA. In 2008, Braden finished the year with a 4.14 ERA, which was then followed by a 3.89 ERA in 2009. By no means was Braden a “Dominate” pitcher, but there was something about him I liked. He was gritty as hell and gave it his absolute all every time he toed the rubber.
On May 9th, 2010, the Oakland Athletics played host to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, who had made the World Series just two years prior, were a loaded offensive squad who were led by third basemen, Even Longoria. Dallas Braden was called upon to make the start.
As Braden Made his way out of the dugout, I distinctly remember looking over to my dad and saying “Dad, the tough lefty from Oakland is on the hill.” My dad knew baseball but wasn’t an aficionado when it came to learning players names that weren’t on his favorite team.
It was clear out of the gates that Braden had his stuff working. His fastball was alive and his breaking stuff was dancing all over the outer parts of the plate. 3 innings went by and not a single Ray managed to get on base. Then 6 innings had passed and still, no baserunners. 18 up, 18 down.
It is important to remember that I was only 11 at the time and little memory of witnessing a perfect game. The only perfect games that transpired when I was alive were the Mark Buehrle perfect game of 2009, the Randy Johnson perfect game of 2004 and the David Cone perfect game of 1999. This was a SPECIAL moment.
As the 8th inning approached, Braden showed little to no signs of slowing down. “He’s gonna do it,” I said to my dad. I was on the edge of my seat for every single pitch. Braden retired Rays CF, Melvin Upton Jr. by virtue of the strikeout to end the top of the 8th. He was mowing down hitters left and right and had no regard for human life. Braden was now 3 outs away from completing the 19th perfect game in the history of Major Leauge Baseball.
As the top of the 9th inning began, I remember standing up as if I was at the Oakland Coliseum. This was history for me too. Leading off the inning for the Rays was DH, Willy Aybar. Braden managed to jam Aybar in on the hands, which resulted in a weak lineout to the first basemen. 25 up and 25 down. Rays Catcher, Dioner Navarro then dug into the Box in attempts to break up perfection. Navarro was able to square up an 0-1 fastball that caught too much of the plate, only to find its way into the LF’s glove. That’s when you kind of knew; perfection was imminent.
On a 3-1 pitch, Ray’s right fielder, Gabe Kapler grounded out to SS, Cliff Pennington to seal perfection. Braden did it. He had become just the 19th man in the history of Major Leauge Baseball to toss a perfect game. On mothers day never the less. I hugged my dad in excitement. “HISTORY.” I yelled, “HISTORY.”
Happy anniversary DB, thank you for giving me a memory I will never forget.