It was a hot one at the Worcester Agricultural Fairgrounds in Massachusetts. A perfect square sided by Highland Street on the north, Sever Street on the east, Williams Street on the south, and Russell on the west, the Fairgrounds were also the perfect setting for the driving park, and later, for Becker College. But today, June 12, 1880, Elm Park glimmered to the east through the hazy sunshine. The heat rising from the stands was made more intense by the baseball game being played by the Worcester Ruby Legs against the Cleveland Blues. John Lee Richmond, the lefty on the mound, was playing the best game of his life. He'd had a gift for throwing the ball learned while playing stick on the streets of Sheffield, Ohio as a child. Now, he was in the big leagues. The broad-shouldered 23-year old was trying to prove something to Cleveland that day. The year before he'd pitched two no-hitters for his team at Brown, securing the championship against Yale. Known for his "curve," Richmond caught the eye of big leaguers in 1880. He was studying to be a doctor. Baseball wasn't supposed to be a permanent part of Richmond's life though Richmond would become a permanent part of baseball history on that hot Saturday afternoon in June.
Charlie Bennett would catch the final pitch of the first perfect game. The barely twenty-year old right-hander came from the Milwaukee Wolverines. He'd never seen anything like Richmond before or ever would again. It was a great day in baseball history, but even more, a great day in American history.
Five days later, John Montegomery "Monte" Ward would pitch the second perfect game in Major League Baseball history as one of the Providence Grays against the Buffalo Bisons. Interestingly, thirteen years after Richmond made baseball history, he would also play for the Providence Grays. Later, Richmond went to what is now NYU to complete his medical degree. He would practice medicine for the next ten years before becoming a high school teacher, then, a professor.
Roy Halladay just joined men like Richmond and Ward--though 190 years apart, all three men are joined by the bonds that only a true passion for baseball can bring. Baseball transcends time. The game itself has a unique place in American history. Baseball changed the world for boys like Richmond, Bennett and Ward. And it's still doing that today for Colorado-born Halladay.
I had an opportunity to see Halladay play while he was with the Toronto Blue Jays. I remember seeing that right arm throw like a rocket. His name alone told me he would make history...afterall, the last Doc Holliday did.
Until next time, dearest readers...p-l-a-y BALL!!!