7 Lights-Out Facts About Baseball's First Perfect Game

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On this day in 1880, Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs twirled baseball's first-ever perfect game—allowing no hits, walks or hit batsmen to give the Ruby Legs a 1-0 win over the Cleveland Blues. Let's look back at some of this now-legendary game.

1. The Worcester Evening Gazette described the game as "a wonderful shut out" and "the best baseball game on record" but the first use of the term "perfect game" didn't appear until a 1909 Washington Post article.

2. Richmond was a star baseball and football player at Brown University. In fact, he started his pro career while still captaining Brown's team. In his first ever pro start—an exhibition game for which he was paid $10 on June 2, 1879—Richmond threw a no-hitter. He would throw a second no-hitter that same season for Worcester, all while still competing on the collegiate level.

3. The perfect game came in the midst of a 42-inning scoreless streak pitched by Richmond. That's almost 5 complete games.

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4. The circumstances surrounding the historic June 12 game were not exactly conducive to proper preparation. The sequence went a little something like this: Two days before the Saturday game, Richmond pitched a shutout in Worcester. From there, he traveled back to Brown where his senior year was winding to a close. Because of the absurdity that generally surrounds that time in one's life, the Brown baseball team played a game at 4:50 am Saturday morning after staying up all night. Following what must have been a speedy contest, Richmond went to sleep at 6:30 but awoke in time for his 11:30 train back to Worcester. The train ended up getting delayed, forcing Richmond to head right to the park from the station, bypassing dinner. And then, without food in his system and having been awake for nearly 24 hours, he proceeded to pitch baseball's first perfect game.

5. Just four days later, on June 16, Richmond graduated from Brown University. His Ruby Legs manager, Frank Bancroft, was so desperate to get his star hurler back that very same day that he hired a special train to rush Richmond from Providence to Worcester.

6. Five days after Richmond made baseball history, John Ward tossed the second perfect game ever. But this hardly became the trend. Although the first two came within a week of one another, the third perfect game in the National League—then the sole Major League—wouldn't occur for another 84 years.

7. In the midst of his outstanding but ultimately short-lived baseball career, the Brown graduate headed back to school, attending medical school at what is now Columbia University, and began practicing medicine. Following his early retirement from baseball, Richmond moved to Toledo, Ohio for another career change. There, Dr. Richmond became one of the first science teachers at Scott High School before going on to teach at the University of Toledo.