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Published: Sunday, 5/14/2006

Barker remembers 'perfect' night in 1981

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - The dominance Len Barker displayed 25 years ago tomorrow shows in looking at two statistics from the game.

When Barker pitched a perfect game for the Indians on May 15, 1981, he didn't get to a three-ball count on any Toronto Blue Jays batter. Eleven of the Blue Jays' final 17 batters struck out.

"I didn't pay attention to the perfect game until the later innings," Barker said yesterday. "I knew I had retired everybody, but I didn't think about doing it. It was like you were totally in sync with what you're doing. You're not thinking about anything outside, it's just the hitter and you.

"I never had that same curve ball after that."

Barker, now a partner in a Geauga County construction company, was honored before the Indians-Tigers game at Jacobs Field last night. He threw out the first pitch to Rick Manning, who caught the final out in center field for Cleveland that night.

"I always enjoyed my years here. I stayed here in the off-season," Barker said. "It was something great that I did, but the whole city was involved in it."

Fans attending the game last night got a Barker and Manning figurine. The game will be replayed several times this week on SportsTime Ohio starting tonight.

Just three of the 17 perfect games in history have been pitched in the past 12 years. The most recent was pitched by Randy Johnson for Arizona on May 18, 2004.

"The pitching is watered down, and guys are just hitting the ball," Barker said. "When we were playing, there were 22 teams, now there's 32 teams."

THINKIN' PINK: Several Tigers and Indians will use pink bats and wear pink wristbands on Mother's Day today to promote breast cancer awareness. The items will be auctioned off at a later date to benefit the Susan Komen Foundation.

"I'm glad to help out the cause," Tigers designated hitter Marcus Thames said.

SPEAKING OF BATS: Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez goes on the road with approximately 50 bats.

"I don't want to leave them in Detroit," Rodriguez said. "If I need three, four bats and I don't have them and have to wait three days, then I have to use somebody else's bats? No."

He said teammates often borrow from his supply. Rodriguez will give his pink bat to his mother.

BUNTS: With his victory Friday, Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers became the fastest Detroit pitcher in 16 years to get six wins. Indians outfielder Casey Blake came into the game with a 10-game hitting streak. Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge had the night off last night. He is a career 3-for-31 with 11 strikeouts against Indians starter C.C. Sabathia.



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