The first perfect game in American League history was thrown by a pitcher who ended it with a taunt, defending his teammates against an insult, screaming at the final batter, "How do you like that, you hayseed?"
The year was 1904, and the pitcher was Cy Young.
On Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, imitating that long-ago barb with an inside fastball, a battling Clayton Kershaw proved worthy of winning the award that carries Cy Young’s name.
Although Kershaw will never admit it, his pitch that plunked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Gerardo Parra in the elbow in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ eventual 3-2 victory appeared to be a retaliation for Parra’s crotch-grabbing, home-run posing insult of the Dodgers on Tuesday night.
Kershaw was immediately ejected, and some might think his Cy Young bid was derailed, but I propose that it was cemented. At a moment where he would have been excused the greatest of selfishness, he threw one for the team. By hitting Parra, he had everything to lose but his teammates' respect, yet clearly decided he would rather have that respect.
"I’m not disappointed at all," Kershaw told reporters after the game. "We got a win."
At the time of that inside pitch, Kershaw was throwing a one-hitter with five strikeouts. He had retired the previous seven batters. He might have been headed toward his third shutout. All this was happening while his top Cy Young competitor, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, was completing a six-hitter against the Houston Astros.
Kershaw could have played it safe and finished the game and nobody would have blamed him. But Kershaw obviously couldn’t forget the previous night, when Parra was angered by an inside pitch from Hong-Chih Kuo in the seventh inning, and then taunted the Dodgers with gestures both before and after his ensuing home run.