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D.C. Baseball History: Washington Senators' Walter Johnson - Almost Perfect

No pitcher in D.C. baseball history has ever thrown a perfect game, though Washington Senators' Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, of course, came close. An error by the player who would one day manage "The Big Train" on the way to the one and only World Series actually cost Johnson his best shot at perfection.

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There are no perfect games in D.C. Baseball History. Walter Johnson came close once. As a result of the game in question, the Washington Senators' Hall of Famer is on the list of pitchers who threw "no-hit, no-walk, no-HBP" games but fell short of perfection as the result of an error. It was the one and only complete game no-hitter of Johnson's 21-year MLB career. A then-32-year-old "Big Train" or "Barney" as he was known, retired the first 18 Red Sox' batters he faced that day, on July 1, 1920 in Boston's Fenway Park.

In the top of the seventh, however, Harry Bartholomew "Hoop" Hooper hit a grounder toward second that then-23-year-old Senators' infielder Bucky Harris botched. Johnson retired the next nine Red Sox in order for the no-hitter but came up one error short of perfection. Johnson's 1920 campaign would end two starts later when he was shut down for the year. The legendary right-hander came close to a second complete-game no-hitter four years later, only to have the weather limit him to a seven-inning no-no against the St. Louis Browns.

Johnson walked two batters on August 25, 1924 in Washington, D.C.'s Griffith Stadium, but held the Browns hitless through seven. As the Washington Post's Frank H. Young wrote in 1924, on that afternoon, the then-27-year-old player/manager Bucky Harris, who had cost Johnson his perfect game in 1920, "... finally discover[ed] the antidote to counteract the poisonous effect St. Louis teams have had on Washington entries almost ever since the Capital has been represented in the Ban Johnson circuit."

The "antidote," was an unhittable Walter "Big Train" Johnson. "So effective was Barney," the WaPost's Mr. Young wrote, "... that none of the visitors even came close to getting bingles, the disappointing feature, however, being the fact that rain came up before the full game was played and robbed him of the chance of hurling the second no-hit, no-run game of his long service in the majors, his only other performance of this kind dating back to July 1, 1920, when he did the stunt in Boston at the expense of the Red Sox."

The Washington Post's beat reporter admitted that there was no way of knowing if Johnson could have gotten through the eighth and ninth innings, "... without having his slants tickled for hits by the alien batters," and he also noted that wondering about such things was, "... one of those questions which cannot be answered, like 'How long is a piece of string?'" Johnson had, "... the Brownies in a 'you can't hit what you can't see' situation," Mr. Young wrote, "but fickle 'Dame Fortune' would also have had to be reckoned with and one of the aliens might have been fortunate enough to have dropped one in safe territory."

Johnson would win six more games that season, leading the 1924 Senators to a 92-62 1st Place finish in the American League and a Game 7 win over the New York Giants for the one and only World Series in the history of baseball in the nation's capital.

• And now for something completely different. Washington Nationals' left-hander Gio Gonzalez was on the cover of MLB2K13 and he's done some fun spots for the promotional videos which accompanied the release of this year's version of the game:

• "Who has two perfect thumbs and wins your perfect games?":

• "Kicked out of the game once again, just like his senior prom." - Gio Gonzalez