Even the most hardcore Cubs fan there is could be forgiven if they forgot about Ron Hassey. He came to the Cubs in the middle of the 1984 season, part of the Rick Sutcliffe trade that sent Joe Carter and Mel Hall to the Indians, and set the Cubs on their way to the divisional playoffs for the first time in their history.
Hassey backed up Jody Davis at catcher that season, and was then traded away to the Yankees. This 1985 baseball card obviously went to press after the trade, but it survives as proof–if any was ever needed–that Ron Hassey was, in fact, a Cub at one point.
Being traded to the Yankees, and then to the White Sox, and back to the Yankees, and back to the White Sox again (I’m sure that wasn’t much fun at the time), and then spending three seasons in Oakland with the Bash Brothers made Hassey a certified American Leaguer. And this was in the days when that meant something, too.
Back then, interleague play hadn’t started yet. The two leagues used different baseballs, and different umpiring crews as well. And moving from one league to another wasn’t as common as it is today. The wall between the leagues was much higher in Hassey’s time than it is today.
In 1991, at the age of 38, Hassey signed a one year contract with the Montreal Expos. Other than his painfully limited time with the Cubs in 1984 (he appeared in just 19 games for them that year), Hassey and the National League weren’t acquainted with each other, at all.
Few big league catchers get much playing time at 38 years of age. The wear and tear of catching for 13 seasons in the majors had taken their toll, and Hassey was the third catcher on the Expos’ depth chart that season.
And yet, in late July of that year, Hassey was behind the plate when Dennis Martinez pitched just the 13th perfect game in the history of the major leagues. Catching a perfect game is probably just as much of a thrill as pitching one, I would imagine. Doing what only a handful of big league catchers had ever done before was an exclamation point on Hassey’s career in the major leagues.
But Hassey accomplished something even more astounding on that day. He actually became the first, and will almost certainly remain as the only, catcher to be behind the plate for two perfect games. He had also caught a perfect game pitched by Len Barker for the Cleveland Indians back in 1981. What makes this all the more amazing is that he caught a perfect game in both the National and the American Leagues.
When the book was closed on Ron Hassey’s career, at the end of the 1991 season, 94 % of the games he played in were in the American League. 96% of his at-bats, 96% of his hits, and a full 100% of his post-season appearances had come in an American League uniform. It seems hard to imagine that he could ever accomplish anything of significance in both leagues equally. And yet Hassey did this by catching two perfect games, one in each league.
With the recent wave of perfect games, by Phil Humber of the White Sox and three others (and add Armando Galarraga in there, too), we might forget how rare an accomplishment it really is. But I’m sure that Ron Hassey knows it all too well. And if any of the active catchers who already have a perfect game to their credit should ever catch another one, it will have to be in the opposite league in order to match Hassey’s feat. And that just isn’t going to happen.
So congratulations to Ron Hassey, for achieving something that no other catcher is likely to duplicate, and no one will ever be able to surpass.