26 years ago tonight, Len Barker pitched a perfect game for the Cleveland Indians at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Because of a steady but light rain all day, there was much speculation that the game would not be played. However, at 7 pm, the familiar voices of Joe Tait and Bruce Drennan came on the air to deliver the pre-game show. Len Barker was masterful in not allowing any batter to reach base and not pitching more that 2 pitches outside of the strike zone to any batter!
20 years later, I had the pleasure of meeting Len Barker at the annual Cleveland Indians Fantasy Camp in Winter Haven, Florida. Len loves to talk about the perfect game, as well as his major league career. His first question to anyone discussing the May 15th, 1981 event is, “Were you at the stadium for my perfect game? There were only seven thousand people there that night but since then, over one hundred thousand people have told me they were there!”
No, I was not there, but I did not miss a pitch on TV. I was watching my children that night and had put them to bed before the game was over (the games started at 7:30 pm in those days). Before the commercials were over prior to the start of the ninth inning, I raced upstairs to bring my 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter down to witness Baseball history. They were just happy to be back out of bed after 10 pm at night. We (probably just me) held our breath with every pitch until the last fly ball of the night, off the bat of pinch hitter Ernie Whitt, went sailing to medium left-center field. Sure-handed center fielder Rick Manning snatched the fly ball for the last out and the celebration began!