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Perfect in every way
Bruce Newman
May 25, 1981
Cleveland's Len Barker promised only a no-hitter, but he delivered a lot more
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May 25, 1981

Perfect In Every Way

Cleveland's Len Barker promised only a no-hitter, but he delivered a lot more

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Bosetti, the first Toronto batter in the ninth, fouled out to Harrah after failing to capitalize on one of Barker's few mistakes. "He hung me one right down the middle," said Bosetti. But he hit that one foul, too. Al Woods, batting for Danny Ainge, fanned on three pitches. Then up stepped Ernie Whitt, a pinch hitter with a .188 average, as the 27th batter. "I was thinking of pointing to centerfield to show where I was going to hit the ball," said Whitt. "I thought it might upset Barker's concentration." Instead, Whitt lofted a fly ball to center that Manning caught for the final out. Perfection.

The Indians had given Barker all the support he needed with a pair of unearned runs in the first inning and Jorge Orta's solo home run in the eighth.

The last no-hitter in the league was thrown by Blyleven on Sept. 22, 1977, when he and the Texas Rangers beat California 6-0. Sitting out in the Rangers' bullpen that night, perhaps contemplating his control problems, was one Leonard Harold Barker II.

Barker was wild in those days in more ways than one. The Rangers' third-round pick in the 1973 draft, Barker sometimes let his attention wander from baseball. During a stint in the minors, he once did a reported $7,000 worth of damage to a bar in Pompano Beach, Fla. Got a little upset and picked up the bar. "I didn't take care of myself," says Barker. "I used to go out four or five nights a week, sometimes the night before I pitched. My wife changed all that. And so did the Indians."

When Barker was traded to Cleveland in 1978, the Indians persuaded him to lay off beer, which brought his weight down from 230 to 220 pounds. They also helped him improve his level of concentration. Last year Indians President Gabe Paul said Barker had his mind fully on the game only about 50% of the time when he arrived in Cleveland, but was up to 80% then. "When I see Barker watching a plane going overhead when he's on the mound," said Paul, "I know he's through."

Barker wasn't watching any airplanes on Friday night. His heart did the soaring as he plucked champagne bottles for his teammates from an ice-filled garbage can in the Indians' clubhouse. Later he learned he had won a bonus of $5,000 from the club. When he got home he found that neighbors had covered his garage with congratulatory posters. He and Bonnie stayed up all night talking about the game. "I can't believe I really did it," Barker said. "It feels like I'm in an airplane 45,000 feet off the ground. I still haven't come down. The feeling I had out there is something I can't explain." It felt, well, you know, perfect. But it wasn't enough to satisfy his 92-year-old grandmother, Mrs. Tokie Lockhart, near Ona, W. Va. "I'm very proud of him," she said. "I hope he does better the next time."

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