Tuesday, December 30, 2008

James Buckley, Jr., Perfect: The Inside Story of Baseball's Seventeen Perfect Games

It is remarkable that throughout baseball's long history, there have only been seventeen "perfect games" thrown. For those unfamiliar with the term, a perfect game is when 27 batters are retired (by the same pitcher) without having gotten safely on base. Not to be confused with a no-hitter, wherein a batter can get walked, a "perfecto" is a rarity that Buckley celebrates with statistics, anecdotes, interviews, and an obvious love for the game of baseball!

Each chapter is devoted to one of the perfect games, moving chronologically from J. Lee Richmond's performance in 1880 (back when the sport was still called "base ball" and the term perfect game hadn't even been invented yet) to Randy Johnson's 2004 outing for the Arizona Diamondbacks (where, at the age of 40, the Big Unit became the oldest pitcher to ever throw a perfecto). The author captures memorable moments, like Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees in 1956 (which initiated the iconic image of the catcher jumping into the arms of the pitcher, thanks to Yogi Berra) and Sandy Koufax's perfect game on September 9, 1965 (a then-record fourth no-hitter for the man). However, Buckley's true passion for the game shines through as he highlights the contributions of each pitcher's teammates toward achieving each perfect game -- the unsung heroes backing up the pitcher. And although the book is filled with those wacky little stats that all lovers of baseball enjoy throwing around over beer and pretzels, it never distracts from the compelling story behind each game.

Written in a conversational, leisurely tone that complements the storytelling nature of the subject, yet filled with tons of stats, research, and interviews to give the reader to good feel for the era of each game, Perfect is an excellent book for you baseball fans out there. Enjoy!

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