By Frank James
Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden is the 26-year old southpaw who on Sunday joined the select group of Major League Baseball pitchers who've pitched perfect games.
And not just that, he's the first to ever do it against a team with MLB's best record at the time of the game, in this case, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Before Sunday, Braden was perhaps best known to baseball fans as the pitcher who upbraided Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez after A-Rod as a base-runner took the shortcut across the pitcher's mound to return to first base from third after a foul ball.
All Things Considered host Robert Siegel talked with Braden Monday. Robert asked Braden if he thought about the possibility of a perfect game as the outing progressed
BRADEN: You never think that you can't get all 27 guys out but you never think you're going to do it all in a row, that's for sure. And, you know, I had a 12-pitch at bat with Mr. Gabe Kapler and when I was able to induce his out, I kind of took notice of what was going on. So that's kind of when it hit me.
("Induce his out?" You never really think of baseball players talking this way. Sounds like a surgeon. Then again, surgeons and major league pitchers probably have a lot in common, nerves of steel for one.)
ROBERT: You threw your perfect game against a pretty good lineup yesterday.
BRADEN: Yeah, that's a pretty strong line up yesterday, there aren't many holes if there are any. They have speed and power in all the right places and we were able to eke one out.
ROBERT: In the dugout, did your teammates on the A's observe the old tradition of never mentioning a no-hitter, no less a perfect game or were they talking to you about it.
BRADEN: No. Every five days nobody ever talks to me. Every day that I pitch, they don't talk to me. When I come into the clubhouse, no one talks to me. In that respect, it was not too far of a stretch from what I experience every fifth day. But they were a little father away and they were a lot more quiet towards the end of the game. so, you know, I think everybody got that feeling.
ROBERT: You mean when you're pitching, you're at the end of the bench. You do your thing and they leave you to it. And you leave them to their thing?
BRADEN: Correct. I'm all business on my day. I've got the other four days to run around and be a moron and cheer on my teammates. But my day of work is something I take very seriously. And I like to make sure I'm focused on the task at hand for all nine innings.
ROBERT: What do you... make of this? For A's fans they've been following your whole season very closely. But for a lot of other baseball fans the news yesterday was 'Remember the guy who criticized Alex Rodriguez for stepping on the pitcher's mound on a foul ball? And the one whom A Rod dismissed as how many games has he won? That guy just pitched a perfect game.' The two events seem linked now.
BRADEN: Yeah, you know, there's obviously zero correlation between the first one and the latter. But I guess it's just nice to gain some notoriety for something positive. I still don't consider what happened (with A-Rod) to be negative. It was just an assertion of my respect for the game. Nothing more. And this time around, the name in the paper has got some lights around it. So that's all the better.
Robert asked Braden about his grandmother's comment after the perfect game that Rodriguez could "stick it" in terms of the Yankee slugger's earlier dismissal of Braden following the mound-trespassing incident. Braden was raised by his grandmother after his mother died from cancer when he was a teenager.
BRADEN: That just gives you some insight into her fiery attitude and where I get my competitive nature from as well.
ROBERT: Does it affect your approach now in the next couple of starts that you will take the mound as Dallas "Perfect Game" Braden?
BRADEN: No, not at all. I've always said, and you can go back and find this in quotes for sure, I've always said I think everybody's goal that takes that mound is to be perfect. If not, it's to be unhittable. And if not, it's to throw a shut out. And if not, you just keep going on from there. But the ultimate goal in all of those is to give your team a chance to win. And that's the only thing I've ever tried to do when I'm out there, to give my team a chance to win. And that's the line I'll continue to toe through the remainder of my career.
ROBERT: Have you looked at the list of the 18 pitchers who threw perfect games before yours?
BRADEN: No. I still haven't gotten a chance to look at the list. I've obviously have heard the names thrown out at me. Some of the names you would never ever think to have your name mentioned in the same book as those people let alone the same breath. Lo and behold, here I am.
ROBERT: Going back to Cy Young and more recently of course, Randy Johnson. Of course, the famous Don Larsen perfect game in the World Series. Some of the greatest pitchers in the game and a couple of guys who threw one perfect game and that's what we know them for.
(Note: This is the one moment in the interview when there seems to be a perceptible, less-than- confident tone in Braden's voice, a moment when the pitcher appears to be considering which end of the spectrum he'll be on. Way to let the air out of a guy's balloon, Robert.)
ROBERT: Well I hope for you it's the beginning of a great career.
BRADEN: Well that makes two of us, I definitely appreciate that.