It was minus 42 degrees Fahrenheit, in Casper, Wyoming, Thursday, December 22, 2022. Casper was the birthplace of ex-LHP Tom Browning, who passed away, three days earlier, at 62. He is one of 23 big-league hurlers with a nine-inning perfect game, excluding a seven-inning “perfecto” by Raymond Brown, Homestead Grays; Harvey Haddix’s 12 perfect innings for Pittsburgh; and Pedro Martínez’s 27 straight outs for Montreal. Cy Young authored the first 20th century perfecto on May 4, 1904, for Boston Pilgrims against the Philadelphia A’s Rube Waddell. Young’s 3-0 win lasted one hour and 25 minutes! This blog focuses on nine-inning perfect games by nine big-league pitchers with a connection to winter ball—plus three “excluded” hurlers cited above. Here are the pitchers, perfect games, and winter ball links:
- Raymond Brown (seven-innings), Homestead Grays at Chicago American Giants, August 12, 1945 (Game 2). Brown pitched in Cuba, Puerto Rico (PR), Venezuela, and Mexico (summer independent league).
- Harvey Haddix (12-inning masterpiece), Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee, May 26, 1959. He pitched for the 1952-53 San Juan (SJ) Senators, Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL).
- Jim Bunning, Philadelphia Phillies at NY Mets, June 21, 1964. Bunning pitched for the 1956-57 Marianao Tigers, in Cuba, leading them to a Caribbean Series crown. He later managed Caguas, in PR, and Escogido, Dominican League (LIDOM).
- Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers versus Chicago Cubs, September 9, 1965. Koufax hurled for 1956-57 Caguas-Rio Piedras Criollos, PRWL.
- Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Oakland A’s versus Minnesota Twins, May 8, 1968. Hunter got additional experience with the 1965-66 Caracas Lions, in Venezuela.
- Len Barker, Cleveland Indians versus Toronto Blue Bays, May 15, 1981. Barker pitched for Caracas (1976-78) and Frank Robinson’s 1979-80 Santurce Crabbers, PRWL.
- Browning baffled the LA Dodgers at Riverfront Stadium, on September 16, 1988, to earn his “Mr. Perfect” nickname. He joined the 1994-95 SJ Senators, for their post-season—round-robin, Finals, and February 1995 Caribbean Series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
- Dennis Martínez, Montreal Expos, shut down the Dodgers, on July 28, 1991. He starred for Caguas (1976-79, 1980-81); Santurce (1984-85), and Mayagüez (1997-98), PRWL.
- Pedro Martínez—for Montreal—retired 27 straight San Diego Padres batters, on June 3, 1995, before allowing a leadoff double in the home 10th, and being removed by skipper Felipe Alou. His perfect nine frames do not count as a perfecto but won the game, 1-0. Martínez hurled for Licey, LIDOM, early-to-mid 1990s, and reinforced the Toros del Este, February 1995 Caribbean Series.
- David Cone’s gem for the NY Yankees, versus Montreal, on July 18, 1999, the first MLB Inter-League perfect game. Cone honed his skills in PR, with the 1985-86 Arecibo Wolves and 1986-87 Ponce Lions. He reinforced Caguas, February 1987 Caribbean Series.
- Dallas Braden, Oakland A’s, versus NY Yankees, May 9, 2010. Braden was 3-1 for the 2006-07 Mayagüez Indians.
- Félix Hernández, Seattle Mariners, versus Tampa Bay, August 15, 2012. He threw 113 pitches.
Brown pitched a November 7, 1936 no-hitter for the Santa Clara Leopards versus Havana Lions in Cuba’s Winter League. He was 21-4 for 36-30 Santa Clara, 1936-37, plus 1-1 in a best-of-three playoff series with Marianao. Eighteen months after his seven-inning perfect game for Homestead, he defeated the NY Yankees, in a February 24, 1947 spring training game. In the PRWL, he was 7-0 in 1939-40, and 7-0 in 1940-41, with SJ; 12-4 for 1941-42 Ponce. For more data on Brown’s Caribbean pitching, including his win versus the 1947 NY Yankees, see:
Brown was inducted in Cooperstown, in 2006, a decade after his 1996 induction into the PR Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, per Table I.
Table I: Perfect Game Authors with Winter Ball Connection in Cooperstown, 1972-2015
|Player: Year Inducted||Teams and Seasons||Winter League Highlights|
|Sandy Koufax: 1972||Caguas-Rio Piedras, 1956-57.||Blanked Santurce, 2-0, his final start. Pitched a one-hitter versus. Mayagüez. 3-6, 4.35 ERA, 64.2 IP, 76 K, 54 BB.|
|Catfish Hunter: 1987||Caracas, 1965-66.||2-3, 2.90 ERA, 31 IP, 26 K 5 BB.|
|Jim Bunning: 1996||Marianao, 1956-57; Caguas, 1974-76; Escogido, 1976-77.||11-5, 2.10 ERA for Marianao; 2-0, Feb. 1957 Caribbean Series. 78-52 (.600) as Caguas Mgr. 31-29 as Escogido Mgr.|
|Raymond Brown: 2006||Santa Clara, 1936-39; Almendares, 1945-46, Santiago, 1947-48. SJ, 1938-40; Santurce, 1940-41, 1946-47); Ponce, 1941-42 (coach 1946-47). Tampico, 1946-48; Veracruz, 1948, Mexico City, 1949. Sabios de Vargas, VZA, 1949-50.||Cuba: 49-21, .700. Was 21-4, 1936-37; 12-5, 1937-38, and 11-7, 1938-49. PRWL: 2x ERA champ, 1938-39 (2.00), 1941-42 (1.80). 40-20, .667. Was 17-4 for SJ, 12-4 for Ponce, 11-12 for Santurce. Mexico: 51-36, .586. VZA: 2-5.|
|Pedro Martínez: 2015||Licey (1991-92, 1995-96)||2015 LIDOM HOF. 1-1, 2.02 ERA, 26.2 IP, 24 K, 9 BB, 1.05 WHIP. Post-Season: 1-3, 2.48 ERA, 29 IP, 22 K, 10 BB, 1.17 WHIP.|
Sources: https://beisbol101.com/jugador/raymond-brown/ https://beisbol101.com/jugador/sandy-koufax/ winterballdata.com; subscription pelota binaria; Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878-1961, by Jorge S. Figueredo, McFarland, 2003. Enciclopedia del Béisbol Mexicano. Edited by Pedro Treto Cisneros, 2011.
A two-year U.S. Army hitch, 1950-to-1952 was why SL Cardinals wanted Haddix to work out his rust in PR. Johnny Riddle, SL coach, received instructions that Haddix must return to the States by December 1, 1952. Setting up this timetable for pitchers became more prevalent in the 1980s. Haddix was 6-2. 1.09 ERA. 52 K and 17 BB. This propelled him to his only  20-win season in the majors. “I lost five years, including three in World War II and two in Korea,” said Haddix. “Puerto Rico helped me get the feeling back for pro ball.” I remember a hitter named [Willard] Brown.” Haddix’s PRWL nickname was “El Conejo” (The Rabbit), for the way he hopped to-and-from the mound. He enjoyed moments with Pittsburgh teammate Roberto Clemente, after joining the Pirates. His May 26, 1959, 12-inning gem was ruined in the home 13th when Félix Mantilla reached first on an error and scored on a Joe Adcock walk-off hit.
Bunning pitched for Marianao, in Havana; managed Caguas for two seasons, and Escogido (LIDOM), one winter. Table I summarizes his winter pitching and managing stats. “Winter ball was fun,” said Bunning. “I thoroughly enjoyed playing in Cuba, and my later managing experience in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The  Caribbean Series was exciting.” Herb Plews, an IF with the Washington Senators, then, was one of Mickey Owen’s top hitters with 1956-57 Mayagüez. “I don’t remember that  series, but I can still see the action in Havana,” recalled Plews. “Castro was in the mountains at the time, and they told us to stay in our hotel as much as possible. There were soldiers around the stadium [El Cerro].”
Koufax, the only big-leaguer with three seasons of 25+ wins and 300+ K’s (1963, 1965, 1966) Six MLB Pitchers with 25+ wins and 300+ strikeouts in the same season (1900-2021) | Beisbol 101, never pitched in the minors but spent two months with the 1956-57 Caguas-Rio Piedras Criollos. In Koufax’s final PRWL start, Clemente got Santurce’s only two hits off the lefty, on December 16, 1956. Koufax’s PRWL stats are in Table I. He left the Island when a rule went into effect on December 20, 1956, limiting each PRWL team to three experienced major leaguers on active rosters. J.W. Porter recalled hitting against Koufax in a 10 a.m. game on a Sunday. Team owners were concerned about the effect Sunday afternoon horse races were having on baseball attendance. One strategy was to schedule Sunday morning games. “The sun came up in CF. Not only were you facing Sandy, but you had the big, bright ball of the sun right behind you,” noted Porter. “You had no chance whatsoever.”
The 1968 Oakland A’s were four years ahead of winning the 1972 Fall Classic over Cincinnati when Catfish Hunter retired 27 straight Minnesota Twins, including Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, and Harmon Killebrew. Hunter fanned 11 and went 3-for-4 at the plate, driving in three of Oakland’s four runs. Catfish Hunter Perfect Game Box Score by Baseball Almanac (baseball-almanac.com) His sole winter ball experience (Table I) was with Venezuela’s 1965-66 Caracas Lions.
Thirteen years and one week after Hunter’s perfecto, “Big Lenny” Barker twirled the 10th perfect game in major-league history, including two pre-1900 gems. The 6’5” Barker threw the second perfect game in Cleveland team history, following Addie Joss’ October 2, 1908 effort versus the White Sox. “I knew that I had good stuff, maybe awesome stuff,” said Barker. “But I really didn’t start thinking about it until the last inning. My big pitch was my curveball. I had total command…And (catcher) Ron Hassey called a great game. Everybody was great.” Hassey said, “Every time he goes out there with a good curveball, he’s got the chance for something like this. He was placing it right where I aimed it. I mean the ball was breaking so much Toronto kept asking to see the ball.” https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/may-15-1981-clevelands-len-barker-makes-history-with-perfect-game-against-blue-jays/
Barker’s two winter seasons with Caracas were in 1976-77 and 1977-78. In Puerto Rico, his record was 5-3, with a 3.76 ERA in 83.2 innings, and got more experience with first-place 1979-80 Santurce Crabbers (36-24), managed by Frank Robinson. Santurce owner Reinaldo “Poto” Paniagua secured hard-throwing imported [Stateside] pitchers and position players with speed and power. While scouting Boston’s Gary Alexander in 1979, Paniagua noticed Gary Allenson, Boston’s hustling rookie catcher. “We all got along well,” said Allenson. “I caught Bill Caudill, Larry Andersen, Tim Stoddard, Len Barker, and Wayne Garland…from different organizations.” Tony Pérez, Roy White, and Juan Beníquez were some of Santurce’s best hitters, but Bayamón won the finals.
Browning’s September 16, 1988 gem at Cincinnati was the first NL perfect game in 23 years and one week—back to Koufax’s 1-0 win, September 9, 1965. Coincidentally, Browning bested the 1988 World Series champs, 1-0. Winning runs in 1965 and 1988 were unearned, with Lou Johnson tallying in the former game, and Barry Larkin scoring the game-winner in 1988. Browning threw 102 pitches, en route to an 18-5 season. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/tom-browning/
Browning with 1994-95 SJ Senators
Browning, injured early, 1994 season—final one with Cincinnati—wanted to get in shape and pitch for a new team in 1995. He joined the SJ Senators, mid-January 1995, in their four-team round-robin, after SJ (32-22) finished second to 33-21 Mayagüez. SJ qualified for the finals with a 6-6 record, behind 9-3 Mayagüez, but ahead of 5-7 Arecibo and 4-8 Ponce. Browning’s lone round-robin effort came in relief, on January 21, when he allowed a run in three frames, as SJ routed Arecibo, 14-5, behind Carlos Reyes. Edgar Martínez, Roberto Alomar, and Carmelo Martínez homered for the winners. Bernie Williams drilled two HR for Arecibo.
On January 25, 1995, Browing started Game 1, best-of-nine finals, at Mayagüez, a no-decision. John Cangelosi homered off him in the 1st. Carlos Delgado hammered a two-run HR in the 8th, to give SJ a 5-4 win. Five nights later, Browning had another no-decision in a 17-inning contest won by Mayagüez, 7-6. SJ won the series, five games to three when they took Game 8, 5-4, on a walk-off Chad Kreuter passed ball with closer Roberto Hernández on the mound.
February 4-9, 1995 Caribbean Series
SJ bolstered its Caribbean Series roster with:
- LF Juan González, Caguas
- CF Bernie Williams, Arecibo
- RF Rubén Sierra, Santurce
- RHP Doug Brocail, Mayagüez
- LHP Chris Haney, Mayagüez
- RHP Ricky Bones, Ponce
- RHP José Meléndez, Arecibo
- Reliever José Alberro, Arecibo
- Closer Roberto Hernández, Mayagüez
This “Dream Team” pulverized the opposition—Toros del Este, LIDOM, with manager Art Howe and pitching coach Luis Tiant; Caracas Lions-manager Pompeyo Davalillo; and Mexico’s Hermosillo Orange Growers, managed by Derek Bryant, with coach Héctor Espino. Puerto Rico won two close ones: 6-5 over Hermosillo (February 4), and 3-2 versus Caracas (February 5). On February 6, the Dream Team unleashed a 17-hit attack in knocking out Pedro Martínez after his four innings. Five other Azucareros hurlers followed in Puerto Rico’s 16-0 win. The next three games included a 6-1 triumph over Hermosillo; a 9-4 win against Caracas; and, a 9-3 finale versus the Toros and starter José Rijo, Browning’s ex-Cincinnati teammate in their glory years, including the four-game 1990 World Series sweep over Oakland. Tables II and III reflect the Dream Team’s hitting and pitching stats. Browning and Orlando Lind were the only Puerto Rico players on the 26-man roster who didn’t see action.
Table II: Dream Team’s Hitting Stats, February 4-9, 1995 Caribbean Series
|Elam “Rico” Rossy||3||2||2||1||.500||.500|
|Juan “Igor” González||6||24||3||9||1||2||6||5||2||.375||.667|
Source: Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico, Recuento Temporada 1994-95, El Nuevo Día.
Table III: Dream Team’s Pitching Stats, February 4-9, 1995 Caribbean Series
#Browning and Lind did not pitch.
Dennis and Pedro Martínez
Dennis “El Presidente” Martínez starred for Nicaragua, in the 1972 World Amateur Baseball Tournament in Managua, preceding that city’s devastating earthquake. Dennis, who helped Nicaragua win that tournament, over Cuba (Silver) and the USA (Bronze), admired Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico’s (9-6) manager, in that 16-team event. “Roberto Clemente has served as an inspiration to me since my days as an amateur baseball player in Nicaragua,” mentioned Dennis to the author (spring training 1992). “He is the reason why I devote so much time and energy to charitable work for youth.” On July 28, 1991, Martínez—pitching for Montreal to backstop Ron Hassey—set down 27 LA Dodgers hitters, in his 2-0 perfect game. (Hassey caught Barker’s perfecto a decade earlier!) Both Expos runs off Mike Morgan were unearned, to the sadness of most of the 45,560 fans. Dave Martínez and Larry Walker scored them in the seventh.
Dennis’ stellar PRWL career was mostly with Caguas, 1976-79, and 1980-81; Santurce (1984-85 playoffs), and Mayagüez (late-1997-98 season). He went 22-16 with a 3.13 ERA and 177 K’s, in 328 innings. Dennis was on three Caguas pennant winners: 1976-77, 1978-79, and 1980-81 playing with talented teammates such as José “Cheo” Cruz, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr.
Pedro Martínez—as noted earlier—retired 27 straight SD Padres hitters, on June 3, 1995, before
giving up the 10th-inning double, in Montreal’s 1-0 win. His LIDOM stats are in Table I.
Cone’s July 18, 1999 gem came at Yankee Stadium versus Montreal. Before his success with the New York Yankees, Mets, and KC Royals, his right arm was worked on in Arecibo (1985-86) and Ponce (1986-87) by trainer José Angel “Gamby” González, who learned from Santurce trainer Nick Acosta. “David Cone was one player who liked to have his arm worked on and gave good tips,” said Gamby. “The players called me ‘Magic Fingers’—I’d make them as good as new. I was there to put them in optimum condition and helped them relax.”
Cone was 1-5 with Arecibo, 1985-86; and, 6-2, 2.42 ERA, 45 K’s, and 21 walks for first-place (34-19) Ponce, and 7-7, 2.40 ERA, 91 K’s, 127 IP overall. He faced Caguas twice (0-2) in, the 1986-87 finals, after his 1-1 round-robin. Caguas selected him to reinforce them in, February 3-9, 1987 Caribbean Series in Hermosillo, Mexico, with Candy Maldonado (Arecibo), Bobby Bonilla, Mambo de León (Mayagüez), and Juan Nieves (SJ), who started Game 6 (February 8, 1987) at Héctor Espino Stadium, hurling six innings versus Águilas Cibaeñas (LIDOM). Cone’s three-inning save in the 4-0 win, created a one-game tie-breaker won by Caguas. Cone’s excellent SABR bio is at https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/david-cone/
Braden’s 2006-07 season with Mayagüez preceded a five-year MLB career. His record with the Indios was 3-1, 37 k´s and a 1.34 ERA in 33.2 pitched. His Mother’s Day (May 9, 2010) perfecto came against the Yankees, and his last AL pitch was on April 16, 2011, due to shoulder issues. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/dallas-braden/
- Félix Hernandez’s August 15, 2012, perfecto included 12 strikeouts versus Tampa Bay—the third 2012 MLB perfect game! Hernández pitched for Venezuela’s 2003-04 Lara Cardinals and 2016-17 Magallanes Navigators. He was 1-2, 4.23 ERA, overall.
Two PRWL perfectos were Luis de León’s seven-inning (Game 2) gem for Arecibo, versus
Santurce, November 20, 1966, and SJ’s Balor Moore’s nine innings against Ponce, November 25, 1973. https://beisbol101.com/balor-moore-remembers-his-november-25th-1973-nine-inning-perfect-game-in-puerto-rico/
Thanks to Gary Allenson, Jim Bunning, Gamby, Harvey Haddix, Dennis Martínez, Herb Plews, and J.W. Porter. Jorge Colón Delgado, the Official Historian, of the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League, did the editing-photo placements.