(Everett and Mussina. Photo by Lawrence Jackson, AP)
9/02/1972 - Pappas loses perfect game
Milt Pappas of the Chicago Cubs was just one out away from throwing a perfect game, from retiring all 27 batters without allowing a single base-runner. With his Chicago Cubs leading the San Diego Padres 8-0, outfielder Larry Stahl, a lifetime .232 hitter, stepped to the plate as the last obstacle in Pappas' quest for perfection.
As the hometown fans at Wrigley Field stood in anticipation, they soon found themselves booing ferociously. After the count ran to 1-2, home plate umpire Bruce Froemming called the final three pitches of the at-bat balls, and Stahl was put on base with an inopportune walk; it was the first time a perfect game had ever been broken up by a bases on balls. Pappas was livid at the umpire -- the last two pitches had been borderline if anything. He stayed in the game and retired the following batter to preserve the no-hitter, but the greater prize had been lost.
Pappas, otherwise known for being in a trade that sent Frank Robinson to Baltimore, was cordial of Froemming when interviewed after the game. "I wanted that perfect game so badly. But I guess I shouldn't be greedy, " he said. "The pitches were balls. They were borderline but balls. Froemming called a real good game."
But Pappas never forgave him, and in his 2000 autobiography, he explained that his postgame comments were "to keep me from being fined." In the years following his retirement in 1973, Pappas made his objections known. "They were strikes or 'that close' to being strikes that he should've raised his right hand. I had the opportunity to have a perfect game and unfortunately, Bruce Froemming did not help me at all. ... It's a home game in Wrigley Field. I'm pitching for the Chicago Cubs. The score is 8-0 in favor of the Cubs. What does he have to lose by not calling the last pitch a strike to call a perfect game?"
"They were off the plate and I don't care if he gets a perfect game or not," Froemming would say. "I'm an umpire and I have to call a pitch where it is. ... As an umpire, you're not thinking on the pitch, 'geez, this is a perfect game.' You're not into that; you're an official, not a fan. I can't give him something that he doesn't have coming, either. It's either a ball or a strike, and that's the way I've umpired all my life."
9/02/2001 - Mussina loses perfect game
Milt Pappas was not the only player to lose a perfect game on the 27th batter.
Mike Mussina came oh so close to making history. With just one more batter to go, "Moose" was just an out away from securing a perfect game, the first of his career and the fourth ever by a New York Yankee. The previous Yankees to throw a perfect game were Don Larsen, David Wells, and right-hander David Cone, who fittingly enough was the opposing pitcher in this game. Even more significant, Mussina was doing it against the Red Sox, meaning that he had a chance to fully embarrass the Yankees' archrivals in Fenway Park, with all their fans watching.
Mussina had Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett down to his final strike. With everyone watching with bated breath, Mussina's 1-2 pitch was high and outside. Everett wasn't taking any chances and swung at the pitch, connected with it, and lined it to left field for a base hit. Mussina would retire the following batter to win the game, 1-0, and captured the shutout and the complete game win. But he walked off the field in bitter disappointment, having lost a chance to throw just the 17th perfect game in baseball history.
"I'm going to think about that pitch until I retire," Mussina lamented.
It was not the first time Mussina lost out on something special. On three previous occasions, he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning only to have it squandered. In 1997, he was two outs away from throwing a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians when Sandy Alomar got a single, and in 1998, Frank Catalanotto doubled off him after he had retired the first 23 Texas Rangers.
"He shouldn't turn that great game into such a negative," said David Cone, who gave up only one run and six hits in eight-and-a-third innings. "He should look back on that game with a lot of pride. It might be the best game he's ever pitched. ... Ironically, I probably felt better than he did, and I was the loser. I was happy to be out there for the ninth inning again and get that kind of ovation and to be part of a game like that again. It really meant a lot to me."