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The perfect game

Don Larsen hugs Yogi Berra upon completion of his perfect game in the 1956 World Series

The passing of Don Larsen, who as all baseball fans know threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, led me down a few statistical rabbit holes here in the devil’s workshop:

Q: What is the ratio of perfect games to major league games over major league baseball history?

A: One out of every 9,544 games features a perfect game. (23 perfect games out of 219,511 total games.)

Q: What is the ratio of perfect games to other no-hitters?

A: One in every 13 no-hitters is a perfect game. (304 total no-hitters).

Q: What is the probability that at least one World Series game would have been a perfect game?

A: Somebody figure this one out. There have been 651 World Series games. You can assume the odds of a perfect game in a World Series game are the same as those in any other major league game.

Here’s an odd statistical fact which is probably just random: When Larsen threw his perfect game, it was just the sixth perfect game in the 87 years of major league baseball played up to that point. Six perfect games were thrown between 2009 and 2012.

Given how rare complete games by starting pitchers had become by the 21st century, the recent plethora — I sort of miss Howard Cosell — of perfect games seems especially incongruous. (Although as a technical matter perfect games don’t have to be complete games, as a practical matter they do, as no manager is going to take out a starting pitcher who is throwing a perfect game). But I suppose this is just random clustering of extremely rare events.

The afternoon David Cone threw his perfect game at Yankee Stadium in 1999, Don Larsen threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra, who had caught Larsen’s perfect game 43 years earlier (It was Yogi Berra Day).

In 2010, Larsen sold the uniform he wore during his perfect game, to help pay for his grandchildren’s college tuition. (Thanks, Jean Calvin).


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