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05/15/06 10:00 AM ET

Memories of Barker's perfect game

Those who were there recall special night

The official crowd tally for Len Barker's perfect game at Municipal Stadium on May 15, 1981, was 7,290, but about 777,290 people claim to have been there.

MLB.com tracked down eight people who were, definitively, in attendance, if only for the last few outs. These are their stories.

Bob DiBiasio
Then: Indians public relations director
Now: Indians vice president of public relations

"While I was in the press box watching this game, the Detroit Tigers and California Angels game was in a rain delay. So Don Drysdale, who was broadcasting for the California Angels, calls me in the top of the ninth from the Tigers' press box and says, 'Does Lenny really have a perfect game going?' I say, 'Yes, and we're in the top of the ninth.' He asked if I'd stay on the horn, because he was doing some talk show for his rain-delay programming, and he wanted me to stay on and talk him through the perfect game. So there I am doing play-by-play with Don Drysdale in the top of the ninth. It was hilarious!

"The other thing that happened was we became the last team in baseball to allow women in the clubhouse. [Owner] Gabe Paul was an old-timer. He was set in his ways. Allison Gordon [of the Toronto Star] came over to me after the game and said, 'There's no way you can keep me out of that locker room tonight.' I said to her, 'You're absolutely right. You're going to walk in with me.'

"The next day, Bryant Gumbel calls and wants Lenny to come on the 'Today Show' at 6:30 Monday morning. Lenny didn't want anything to do with getting up that early and driving to Channel 3 to be a part of the morning show. This was before cell phones and such, so Gumbel is calling my house and office and screaming, 'How in the world could he say no?' and wondering why I couldn't force him to go on national TV. But Lenny just didn't care. I begged him and begged him and begged him and could not convince him to go on."

Wayne Kapantas
Then: Cleveland Police sergeant, working part-time as stadium security
Now: Retired as a lieutenant after 30 years on the force

"Lenny was mowing them down. About the eighth inning, the stadium operations guy told me we better get our guys on the field, in case the fans charge the field. We got up along the wall on the third-base side. I remember there was one Toronto player rooting for Lenny. I guess he wanted to see a perfect game. The rest of the team was looking at him like he was nuts.

"By the end of the ninth, I told my men, 'Whatever you do, get out of the way if the ball comes near you. If we screw this up, they'll probably fire us all!' The first out of the ninth was a real high popup, and it looked like it was right over our heads. It was the only time in 30 years on the force that I told my men to run. If you're going to retreat, you might as well retire, resign or quit. But that day, I didn't want the Cleveland Police Department to be instrumental in getting in a players' way, because we'd be on ESPN forever!

"It was such a rainy, muddy night that every time a ball was put in play, they'd throw it in the Indians' dugout, into a green duffle bag. After the game, I grabbed a ball and went down to the clubhouse. I asked Lenny if he'd sign the ball. I'm not a big collector, but that's my fondest souvenir."

Mike Hargrove
Then: Indians first baseman
Now: Seattle Mariners manager

"It was a misty, ugly, miserable night. I called my wife, Sharon, and told her, 'Don't bother coming down here.' That was the only game she missed the entire year. I'm still paying for that.

"Barker could be wild, but he had really good stuff. I was at the game when he threw the ball into the press box in Boston. I was on that Rangers team. But he always had great stuff and could be a dominating pitcher.

"Usually, if the other team doesn't have a hit by the fifth inning, you start thinking about it. It's not a scary feeling for a fielder. You understand he's got a no-hitter going on, and it just makes you concentrate all the more. It doubles your desire, when the ball is hit to you, to get the guy out.

"I have never concentrated so hard on one hitter as I did when they pinch-hit Ernie Whitt [with two outs in the ninth inning]. It's late in the ballgame, so you know Barker isn't fresh, and Whitt was a left-handed pull hitter, so I knew the chances of him hitting the ball to me were really good. I'll never forget the feeling of looking in, and it was like someone had taken crepe paper and cut a little hole in it and put it in front of a television set, and Ernie Whitt was right in the middle of that hole. Everything was black around him. It almost scared me. All I could see was Ernie Whitt. But once he hit that ball to Manning, the TV came back on."

Terry Pluto
Then: Indians beat writer for The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer
Now: Sports columnist for The Akron Beacon Journal

"I was at the Cleveland Press Association awards banquet at the Sheraton hotel downtown that night. Somebody came up to me and told me to call the office. I called the office and they said, 'Len Barker has a perfect game in the seventh inning.' They were trying to get somebody over there.

"So I ran over there. My wife's in a nice dress, and I'm wearing a suit. I saw the last three outs standing there, and after the game I did a sidebar about Barker. So I wrote a story about a perfect game I didn't even see. But at least I did see some of it. Some people write about games they haven't seen any part of."

Ron Hassey
Then: Indians catcher who caught Barker's perfect game
Now: Mariners bench coach, who also caught Dennis Martinez's perfect game in 1991.

"Lenny was not a control pitcher. He was a hard-throwing pitcher who had pretty good stuff, but he always lacked the command of his pitches. That's what separated him from being a great pitcher. But when he did get it going, he was one of the toughest pitchers in the league.

"He had everything going that night. He stayed ahead of hitters. His curveball started in the strike zone and ended up in the dirt.

"I never said to myself that we had a perfect game going. It was hard for me to believe that we didn't walk anybody. There was never anything said to Lenny. If there was anything I said, it was, 'Boy, we've really got a good breaking ball going.' What else are you going to say? What do you have to say when you're getting guys out? The game plan was working.

"I didn't feel any pressure, because I wasn't the one who had to throw the ball. All I had to do was make sure I catch it. Lenny Barker threw the perfect game. All I can say is I was very fortunate that I was in the lineup that night.

"It's a great feeling to accomplish what you set out to do. The sad part is it was 25 years ago and it doesn't seem that long ago. I'm feeling pretty old having to do interviews about 25 years ago. It would be nice if we could say this was 10 years ago!"

Cy Buynak
Then: Indians' home clubhouse manager
Now: Visiting clubhouse manager at Jacobs Field

"At the old stadium, we had a restaurant upstairs. I went up there in the eighth inning and got three or four bottles of champagne. Then we put white towels to make a nice path from just outside the clubhouse to Lenny's locker. It was kind of like a red-carpet treatment, but it was white.

"The best part for me was to see how everybody was so excited about the perfect game. With everybody coming in, you would have thought we had won the World Series. Everybody was excited for Lenny.

"Fortunately there was that restaurant that had a liquor license, and I knew they'd have the champagne. We've had a few no-hitters thrown and usually we have champagne around, but it was early in the year, and I hadn't thought about a no-hitter or a perfect game. Luckily, I knew the people who ran the restaurant up there. Lenny was surprised by it."

Ernie Whitt
Then: Blue Jays pinch-hitter who made the final out
Now: Blue Jays bench coach

"I was in the bullpen, and we got a phone call with one out in the ninth inning and they told me to come down. Bobby Mattick said I was going to pinch-hit for Buck [Martinez]. It was a cold and damp evening, so I didn't have a lot of time to [get ready]. Barker had everything going that night. He had a good fastball, good curveball -- he just dominated.

"I was upset that I wasn't starting that game, to be quite honest. Barker was a right-handed pitcher and Buck and I were platooning, but Bobby had one of his brainstorms, thinking that he would have Buck catch. I was disappointed I wasn't catching, but in situations like that you give credit to the guy. He threw a great game. You don't see too many of those."

Rick Manning
Then: Indians center fielder who caught the final out
Now: SportsTime Ohio broadcaster for Indians games

"It started out like a normal day. You don't expect anything going on. Lenny showed up to the ballpark a little later than usual. His brother was coming into town and he had to pick him up at the airport. But he started out just like a normal ballgame. He didn't have a strikeout the first three innings.

"After the fourth inning, that breaking ball just kept getting better and better. I was watching in center field, which was like watching on TV. It was a great view, and it just kept getting better.

"Going out for the ninth, everyone was down at the other end of the dugout, staying away from him, but I said something to him. I said, 'Let's go, Big Donkey, you can do it.' But no one wanted to say anything to anybody.

"We had one going a week before that, in Toronto. Bert Blyleven had a no-hitter going into the ninth inning. [Manager] Dave Garcia took out Joe Charboneau in left field and inserted Larry Littleton, who was a defensive guy. A ball went up into the lights to Littleton, and it hit off his glove and fell. They gave him a base hit, and Bert lost a no-hitter. So Garcia was going to take Charboneau out again, and Barker told him, 'If you take him out, you gotta take me out.'

"I've been riding Lenny's coattails for years because I caught the last out. It would have been nice to strike the guy out to end the game, you know? But when the ball was hit to me, I thought, 'Game over.'

"We never went to the playoffs or anything, so that was probably the best game I've ever been a part of."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.