Until Sunday, Dallas Braden was best known for a rather silly spat he had last month with Alex Rodriguez and a follow-up challenge to fight the New York Yankees third baseman. Now, history will remember him for far different reasons. Braden threw the 19th perfect game in modern baseball history on Sunday, retiring all 27 Tampa Bay Rays he faced as the Oakland A's beat the Rays 4-0. That the feat came on Mother's Day in America was bittersweet for Braden, who lost his mother to skin cancer when he was a high school senior. His grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, was at the game.
"It hasn't been a joyous day for me in a while," said Braden. The perfect game was the second in two years in Major League Baseball. Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox threw one last year - also against the Rays. It was the first perfect game for the A's since Jim "Catfish" Hunter, the Hall of Famer, pitched one in 1968. Braden made a name for himself earlier this season, not for his pitching, but for his squabble with Rodriguez. In a game in Oakland on April 22, Braden became incensed that Rodriguez cut across the pitcher's mound after returning to first on a foul ball.
That represented a breach of baseball etiquette, but Braden's reaction seemed oversized. As recently as last week, Braden brought up the incident again in the media and essentially challenged Rodriguez to a fight. Rodriguez dismissed his bravado and suggested the young pitcher was merely seeking attention. But on Sunday, Braden did not need any histrionics; his pitching told the story. The Rays never really threatened Braden's feat; the closest they came to a base hit came in the first at-bat of the game when Jason Bartlett, the Tampa Bay shortstop, hit a hard liner to third. Braden was mobbed by teammates after the final out and was somewhat lost for words. "Pretty cool," Braden told reporters. "I don't know what to think about it just yet. There's definitely a select group. I'd like to have a career more than today."
Some 3,000 miles away in Boston readying for a game against the Red Sox, even Rodriguez was impressed and struck a conciliatory tone. "I've learned in my career that it's always better to be remembered for some of the good things you do on the field," said Rodriguez, "and good for him." firstname.lastname@example.org