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All The Weight Of A Perfect Game

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 28: Domingo German #0 of the New York Yankees celebrates his no-hit perfect game against the Oakland Athletics, defeating them 11-0 at RingCentral Coliseum on June 28, 2023 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Perfect games, because they're so sparse that you can mentally encompass all of them at once, have a knack for flattening history. It often does so in ways that are utterly useless but extremely cool. It says nothing about Wednesday night's A's lineup to know that the Athletics had MLB's longest active streak of games without being no-hit, and had not had a perfecto thrown against them since 1904, but it is rad to learn that that one was thrown by Cy Young himself. It's neat but trivial that this 11-0 final score was the biggest blowout in any of the perfect games thrown over the last 143 years. It says nothing about the Yankees that their four perfect games are the most of any team, because, storied as the franchise is, three of those four have come at the hands of pitchers ranging from "pretty good" to "serviceable."

Domingo German, at age 30, is still trying to write his own context for what he did Wednesday night, now seven years into a career that has at various times appeared to be on the verge of stardom and on the brink of washing out, with no one to blame but himself. But another thing about perfect games is that they by definition require no context on either side of the first and 27th batters, nothing but a clean scorebook and immaculate basepaths. Only after that 27th batter—the speedy Esteury Ruiz grounding out sharply to third—does everything else come flooding in.

German's curveball was dancing, and was responsible for seven of his nine strikeouts. His changeup kept A's hitters off-balance. There never really was a moment when he came close to losing perfection, unless you'd like to count a mostly routine fourth-inning flyout by Tony Kemp that would have been a home run in only one of the 30 major-league ballparks: Yankee Stadium. All perfect games are dominant, but some them are simply never in question.

It was hard to reconcile this German with the one who gave up 10 runs, including four home runs, in his last start, and who has been fighting a losing battle to stay a starter when the Yankees rotation gets healthy next month. The German who, seemingly out of ideas, globbed on the sticky stuff a month ago and got a 10-game suspension for his efforts.

It is even harder to reconcile this German, hoisted by his cheering teammates and honored by breathless coverage, with the one who slapped his girlfriend and mother of his children at a team event in 2019, then physically abused her at home to the point where she hid in a closet and called one of his teammates for help. German missed the end of 2019 season, and all of 2020 as he served a suspension and sought treatment for alcoholism. It is very, very hard, for me as a Yankees fan, to cheer for him in any sense beyond rooting for him to stay sober and rooting for his now-wife to be happy and safe. It is impossible for me to know what it feels like for any survivor of domestic violence to see him celebrated today.

It is each of those Domingo Germans who were on the mound Wednesday: the abuser, the cheater, the clubhouse pariah and the toast of the town, the man attempting to put his life and career back together, the man who's likely headed to the bullpen in a week, the thrower of one of just 24 perfect games ever. The flattening of history means it's all there, raw and sore and anything but perfect.

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