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27 up, 27 down; The Yankees record the 24th perfect game in MLB history

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It's easy to spot greatness in sports, but what about perfection? In baseball, for a pitcher, it's 27 up to bat and 27 right back down, and it happened last night for only the 24th time in Major League Baseball history. Right-hander Domingo German threw a perfect game for the New York Yankees - that team's fourth. Bryan Hoch joins us now to discuss. He covers the Yankees for mlb.com. Hey there.

BRYAN HOCH: Hey. How are you - great to be on with you.

KELLY: Yeah. You still sound in good spirits (laughter) from last night. So tell me what it was like. At what point are you and the other baseball writers looking around at each other and thinking, could this be a perfect game?

HOCH: Oh, boy. You know what? I think that watching that game - probably around the fifth inning, which is where Domingo German said he started to think about it, because then you're at the halfway point, and you're kind of doing the math on everything that is going on there, and you're thinking ahead. You're saying, all right, he's got to get 12 more outs here to get to the finish line of this. And we've certainly seen plenty of close calls over the years. But every time those alarm bells start going off, and whether it's a no-hitter or a perfect game, you start thinking, I might be seeing something special here tonight. So you definitely inch to the edge of your seat a little bit with every out, and then you're just starting that game where you're counting down. You're saying, all right, now it's 10. Now it's nine. Now it's eight.

And he did have some lengthy delays to deal with. The Yankees decided to put up one of their biggest innings in weeks and score a bunch of runs. So he had to kind of wait there on the bench. And I think that as that wait is going for 20, 25 minutes there and you're waiting for your team to stop hitting...

KELLY: Yeah.

HOCH: ...You're wondering when is he going to get a chance to go back out to the mound? Could this affect him? And just on a night like that, everything came together. And as you mentioned, it's so rare to see. The last one was in 2012, and got to see something really special last night in Major League Baseball.

KELLY: This is also the first perfect game with the new rules, with the new pitch clock. Explain.

HOCH: Yeah. That's a very good point. And Major League Baseball has done a lot here with the pitch clock where baseball throughout history has always been one of the few games without a clock. A lot of the dead time where a guy might step off the mound, take a little walk around, collect himself, maybe take a deep breath - you don't have that opportunity anymore. So for a pitcher, you really are kind of go, go, go, especially in the late innings. For a guy like Domingo German, who's chasing history, I would imagine that you are kind of in fight-or-flight survival mode, knowing how close you are to this and knowing, also, you don't get a chance to take a break there. You have to get right back on the mound and throw the next pitch. And so I think it is definitely special to do it in this new clock era.

KELLY: I mentioned this is the fourth perfect game for the New York Yankees. Do you have a favorite? Like, is there a game that's more perfect than perfect - the perfectest (ph)?

HOCH: The most perfect game, I guess, in Yankees history, just based on the setting or based on the opponent would have to be Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series. The fact that Larsen, who was famously described as the imperfect man - he and Yogi Berra teamed on the greatest day of their careers together. And for Larsen, a guy who, over the course of his career - he was not a great pitcher. He was a good pitcher, but he was not the kind of guy that you're going to talk about and saying he was one of the all-time greats. But for one day, he was, and it happened to be in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. And the Yankees went on to win that World Series.

KELLY: It happened to be a moment when it really counted. Bryan Hoch, thank you.

HOCH: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

KELLY: MLB writer Bryan Hoch. He's also the author of the upcoming book "62: Aaron Judge, The New York Yankees, And The Pursuit Of Greatness." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.