Len Barker, getting the sign from Ron Hassey. Ernie Whitt stands in. Wind up, here it comes. Fly ball, center field. Manning coming on, he’s there…he catches it! Len Barker has pitched a no-hitter! A perfect game for Len Barker! The stands erupt, the players go out, Len Barker being surrounded on the field. He has made baseball history here tonight. Len Barker has pitched a perfect ball game. Faces 27 men, retires them all, eleven strikeouts. Len Barker being mobbed on the field, the Cleveland Indians win it, 3-0. – Herb Score’s call of Barker’s perfect game
It has now been 37 years since Len Barker lifted his leg high and tight on a 1-2 pitch to Toronto Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt, inducing a fly ball to center field. Rick Manning raced in, arms extended straight out as though he were flying. He raised both arms above his head and he secured the catch before beginning his ascent to the mound with several high hops in celebration of the 27th and final out of Barker’s perfect game.
Addie Joss throws the first perfect game in franchise history as the second place Cleveland Naps defeat the third place Chicago White Sox, 1-0, in what some (The Plain Dealer; October 3, 1908) deemed at the time as the “Greatest Game in History of Big League Baseball”.
About a decade ago, Indians broadcaster Matt Underwood read a story in the Toledo Blade about the benefit game staged at League Park in 1911 for the family of pitcher Addie Joss, struck down before the season’s start with a case of bacterial meningitis.
The story stuck with him. “It’s really great story, and it hasn’t really been told,” he said.
***editor’s note: this story was originally published on 9/23/15.
The 1908 season – like so many since – ended in disappointment for Cleveland baseball fans.
But it was a wild ride for the last two weeks of the season.
Going into the series with the Boston Red Sox on September 17, the Naps were in second place in the American League, tied with the Detroit Tigers in the win column with 78, but with four more losses, putting them two back with 16 to play.
The Naps – still named for player-manager Napolean Lajoie – took the first game, a 1-0 shutout, but gained no ground. The following day, pitcher Bob Rhoads was in less than top form, loading the bases on a couple occasions and letting in an unearned run in the second inning. He walked Doc Gessler, who advanced to second on a sacrifice by Jack Thoney. Heinie Wagner’s grounder was fumbled by Lajoie, putting Gessler on third, and a wild pitch scored him for the Red Sox to take the lead.
Addie Joss throws the first perfect game in franchise history as the second place Cleveland Naps defeat the third place Chicago White Sox, 1-0, in what some deemed at the time as the “Greatest Game in History of Big League Baseball” (The Plain Dealer, October 3, 1908).