Justin Verlander threw his second no-hitter today (the first was against Milwaukee in 2007) on the road in Toronto.  It was a masterful performance; 12 strikeouts, 108 pitches (74 for strikes) and one walk, in the eighth inning. This is a pitcher with the right stuff, and one of the best in baseball.

In the long and mostly storied history of the Detroit Tigers, no one has ever hurled a perfect game.  Verlander is the first to throw two no-hitters since Virgil Trucks threw two in 1952 and finished 5-19. Trucks is still alive—born in 1917, same year as Jack Kennedy.

But I digress. I’ve been a Tigers fan since I was a kid in 1961, and I’ve seen some greats, and some close calls. Lolich and McLain, despite their great years, didn’t throw no-hitters, let alone perfect games. Jim Bunning threw a no-hitter in 1958, and that was the last one until Morris twirled one in Comiskey against the White Sox in the incredible 1984 season. 

Ironic that it came in Comiskey against the White Sox, because a year earlier in the same venue, Milt Wilcox pitched an absolute gem that I will never forget as one of the most mesmerizing games I have ever seen—perfect, in fact, until with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Jerry Hairston lined a clean single. Heartbreaking, but still a great memory.

And then there’s Armando Galarraga. June 2, 2010. Two outs, bottom of the ninth, you remember.  Jim Joyce called the runner safe at first, and he was clearly out. By a mile. Joyce wept tears of regret, but baseball is a game of history.

If Joyce had made the right call, Galarraga would be remembered for the Tigers’ first perfect game, as he deserved. And more than that, it would have been marked down as one of the greatest pitching performances ever, as Galaragga threw just 88 pitches, 67 of them for strikes.

If he had completed the perfect game, it would have been the lowest number of pitches thrown since Addie Joss in 1908(!), and the shortest game since Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965.  Galarraga now toils in relative obscurity in Arizona.

Tears won’t bring that moment back, Joyce.

But congrats to Justin Verlander, and maybe at least a few of these articles on how close he came to the Tigers’ first perfect game could tip a hat to Milt Wilcox and Armando Galarraga. The rest of us can tip a glass to all three. Bless You, Boys.

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