Perfect games usually come from near-perfect pitchers. Of the 18 players in baseball history to retire every batter they face from start to finish, six were Hall of Famers, including household names like Cy Young and Sandy Koufax, and future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson tossed a perfect game in 2004.
Which makes Dallas Braden's story all the more remarkable. The 26-year old journeyman, who was kicked off his high-school baseball team twice and was drafted almost as an afterthought, became perfect pitcher No. 19, retiring 27 of 27 Tampa Bay Rays and earning a place in baseball history.
Sports columnists scrambled to find an angle on Braden, who before Sunday was most famous for his war of words with Alex Rodriguez. Though many noted the symbolism of Braden throwing his gem on Mother's Day (his mother died of melanoma when he was in high school), the sports world settled on extolling Braden's remarkable comeback story.
- From 'Not Regarded' to Perfect "[Braden] was never highly regarded. He was not regarded at all," marvels Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski, who waxes eloquent about the young pitcher's refusal to give up. "Braden did have something else, though," he contends. "He had this bold certainty that he belonged." Posananski returns to the same theme later in the piece, adding a personal take on Braden.
There was this boldness about him, this conviction that overpowered the way other people viewed his talent. These are the players that fascinate me most -- the ones who deeply believe they're going to make it even when all available evidence suggests they probably will not.
- 24th Round-Marvel At the San Francisco Chronicle, Scott Ostler drolly explains how unlikely it is for a 24th-round draft pick to hit it big. "A general manager can safely draft his mailman's nephew in the 24th round in lieu of a holiday tip," he deadpans. Ostler points to Braden's unbridled intensity--which boiled over when Rodriguez ran across the mound on his way to the dugout--as the catalyst to his career. "If you saw Braden's reaction to Rodriguez's faux pas, you got a sense of the intensity of the A's pitcher, the volatile emotion he carries around. Sunday he channeled all that intensity into his craft, with dramatic results."
- Thank 'Grandma Peggy' "Braden claimed it was his grandmother who turned his life around when he was a party-hearty Stockton teenager, steering him away from what might have become a career in the clink as opposed to one on a ball field," reports Carl Steward at The Oakland Tribune. Once his grandmother set him straight, Braden took advantage of his one chance at professional baseball. "Braden has made good on that one shot by becoming a solid major league pitcher at age 26, despite the fact that he was a mere 24th-round draft pick by the A's in 2004," Steward continues, rounding towards Braden's perfect conclusion. "Since debuting with a horrific 2007 season in which he was 1-8 with a 6.72 ERA, the left-hander has steadily gotten better and better, leading up to Sunday's perfect storm of a pitching performance."
- An Unbelievable Day Fox Sports' Tracy Ringolsby puts Braden's feat in perspective with a healthy dose of wonder.
Believe in karma?
On Mother’s Day, with memories of his late mother running through his mind, and with the grandmother who provided the guidance that got his life back on track in the stands at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Braden pitched the 19th perfect game in big-league history. And he did it against, arguably, the best team in the big leagues today — Tampa Bay — which had lost only three previous road games this season .
Twenty-seven Rays came to the plate, 27 walked back to the dugout.
You should be.