The rich, poignant tales of major league baseball's most hard-luck fraternity--the pitchers of its Almost-Perfect Games From 1908 to 2015, there have been thirteen pitchers who have begun Major League Baseball games by retiring the first twenty-six opposing batters, but then, one out from completing a perfect game, somehow faltering (or having perfection stolen from them). Three other pitchers did successfully retire twenty-seven batters in a row, but are still not credited with perfect games.
While stories of pitching the perfect game have been told and retold, Almost Perfect looks at how baseball, at its core, is about heartbreak, and these sixteen men are closer to what baseball really is, and why we remain invested in the sport. Author Joe Cox visits this notion through a century of baseball and through these sixteen pitchers--recounting their games in thrilling fashion, telling the personal stories of the fascinating (and very human) baseball figures involved, and exploring the historical American and baseball backdrops of each flawed gem.
From George "Hooks" Wiltse's nearly perfect game in 1908 to "Hard Luck" Harvey Haddix's 12-inning, 36-consecutive-outs performance on May 26, 1959 (the most astounding single-game pitching performance in baseball history) to Max Scherzer's near miss in 2015, Joe Cox's book captures the action, the humanity, and the history of the national pastime's greatest "almosts."
Buy The Book Here:
My Review - 4.5 Stars
"Because perfection can happen at any time, at any place, to any pitcher. Isn't that part of why we keep coming back to the ballpark? And moreover, isn't it why we keep getting up in the morning? Even in the midst of the most humdrum existence, there exists that possibility that maybe the day comes when all of the breaks come our way, when the road bends under our feet, the sun shines at the right angle, and we do something truly memorable." p. 227
I’m a huge Chicago White Sox fan. That should go without saying. However, I still have a lot to learn about baseball. My immediate family never watched the sport and I didn’t take my fandom seriously until college. But I think I’d still have a lot to learn even if it had played a more dominant role in my childhood because so many unexpected things can happen during a game, not to mention the rarely used rules that come out of nowhere. (I’m looking at you, AJ Perzynski running to 1st base after the ball hit the dirt during ALCS Game 2, may you be forever thanked and praised for knowing such a rule existed.)
One of the more interesting baseball phenomenons is the perfect game. A perfect game consists of 27 consecutive outs, no hits, no errors, no walks, no hit batters, and no catcher's interference. Just thinking about Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009 makes me happy all over again. As of Opening Day 2017, there have been only 21 perfect games.
Before this book, I didn’t know much about the pitchers who came *thisclose* to a perfect game and missed it. My heart went out to the 16 pitchers profiled in Almost Perfect.
While we all look forward to the glory days, most of us are more used to the almosts and the what ifs. I’ve never pitched an inning of baseball but I’ve made mistakes and I’ve been let down by others. Joe Cox does a marvelous job of not only taking us through these games but telling us about the players themselves, from their childhoods to their personal lives to their careers. Even though Major League ballplayers are akin to celebrities (at least to me), they’re also a lot like you and me. They have great days at work and they have bad days at work.
Cox seamlessly wove history into the narrative. Whether it was the rise of TV coverage or integration or simply teams changing cities (did you know the Baltimore Orioles were originally the St. Louis Browns?), Cox showed how the sport was changing and changing us as a result.
I also loved going deeper into these almost perfect games, not an easy feat for such an audiovisual game. Cox keeps the details moving and the chapters center more on the players themselves. One of the most unusual games involved Babe Ruth being ejected from a game in the start of the first inning and Ernie Shore taking over as pitcher. Shore got his 27 outs but because Ruth walked a player, it was ruled a no-hitter. Kind of crazy, right?
I was moved by the chapters on Armando Galarraga and Max Scherzer. Galarraga technically did pitch a perfect game. However, the umpire Jim Joyce called Jason Donald safe at first base but he messed up the call. At that time, there was no replay for umps and Bud Selig refused to overturn the call. Joyce and Galarraga were a great example of sportsmanship and in 2014, replay was expanded. Scherzer’s brother Alex committed suicide in 2012; 3 years later Scherzer became the 5th pitcher in MLB history to throw 2 no-hitters in a single season. An amazing accomplishment but bittersweet without his brother there to cheer him on and give him pointers.
This book is perfect for baseball fans and those who want to learn more about the game. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the players, as well as the parallels Cox makes between baseball and us.
Disclosure: I was provided an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.