Len Barker Cleveland Indians pitcher, pitched perfect game May 15, 1981 1979-1983
Municipal Stadium was largely empty the night Indians pitcher Len Barker blanked the Toronto Blue Jays. Still, the night made him a legend here. That’s why some of his clients are startled when they find him swinging a hammer in their home.
Barker, 54, now lives in Chardon and has operated a construction and remodeling business here for the past decade. He learned the business from friends while living in Georgia, both during his playing days with the Atlanta Braves and after his retirement from baseball. He later met his wife, Eva, at an Indians fantasy camp and eventually moved back to Cleveland.
“You get in the door a little faster that way sometimes,” Barker says, when asked about the effect his status as one of only 18 Major League pitchers to ever throw a perfect game has had on business.
He was the second Tribe player to retire all 27 batters in a game without allowing a runner to reach base (center fielder Rick Manning snagged the game’s last out). Barker arrived late to the ballpark that frigid Friday in May — less than an hour before the game — because he had to pick up his brother at the airport. He had to hustle through his pre-game routine, but it didn’t affect his performance. Barker threw 113 pitches — 84 for strikes — and struck out 11 batters.
Now fans stop to tell him where they were that night. One couple had just gotten married but hid away during the reception to watch the game rather than mingle with guests. Another woman told him she was in labor but wouldn’t deliver the baby until after the game.
“That was a big thing for us, not just me but the whole city of Cleveland,” Barker says. “That was back when people were calling Cleveland ‘the mistake by the lake.’ That gave everyone a lift. It was a night for everyone to enjoy.”