Affectionately known as “Large Lenny” throughout his 11-year career, the six-foot-five Len Barker is best remembered for pitching the tenth perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Barker, a hard thrower with a devastating curve ball, set down 27 consecutive Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, May 15, 1981 for the first perfect game in MLB since Oakland Athletics pitcher Catfish Hunter had accomplished the feat 13 years prior.
No Indians pitcher since has thrown a no-hitter or perfect game. Barker began his professional career as a 20-year-old with the Texas Rangers in 1976 after they drafted him out of Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, PA in the third round of the 1973 amateur draft. Inconsistent control hampered Barker’s development early on, but after he was traded to the Indians in 1979 he blossomed as a pitcher.
His best statistical season came in 1980 when he led the American League with 187 strikeouts and also won a career-best 19 games. Along with his perfect game in 1981, Barker once again led the A.L. in strikeouts and also made the All-Star Team – which was held in Cleveland – affording him the opportunity to pitch in front of his home crowd. Midway through the 1983 season Barker was traded to the Atlanta Braves in their pursuit of a National League West Division title. Barker went on to pitch four more seasons before retiring after the 1987 season with 74 career wins, two strikeout titles and one unforgettable perfect game to his name.
Since retiring Barker has founded Perfect Pitch Construction in the Cleveland area, where he worked in the construction field for 16 years. Barker currently serves as an assistant baseball coach at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, OH, and he is also a goodwill ambassador for the Indians. He and his wife, Eva, reside in the Cleveland area.
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