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Dallas Braden always made for a good story, and it went beyond that magical Mother’s Day afternoon when he threw the Major Leagues’ 19th perfect game.
His personal background was compelling. His quotes were usually off the wall and hilarious. Anytime Braden was around, you wanted your notebook open and your tape recorder on.
The former A’s left-hander made news once again Tuesday, announcing that he is retiring after battling left shoulder problems since 2011.
“I’m definitely at peace with things,” Braden said by phone Tuesday night. “Every athlete faces their mortality in the mirror, and I was facing mine the last two years. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity I was given.”
His 26-36 career record and 4.16 ERA over five seasons hardly stands out, and that’s what made May 9, 2010, such an incredible day in A’s lore. Braden retired 27 consecutive Tampa Bay Rays to author just the second perfect game in franchise history.
Who could forget the image after the game of Braden celebrating with his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who raised him after his mother, Jodie Atwood, passed away from cancer when he was a teenager?
Former A’s reliever Jerry Blevins, who was in the Coliseum bullpen that afternoon, recalls the entire scene unfolding.
“I remember (Cliff) Pennington making that last ground ball throw to (Daric) Barton. Eric Patterson in left, making a pretty good catch, and (catcher) Landon (Powell) running out to the mound,” Blevins said. “But mostly I remember the interaction with him and his grandma. It was just touching to see. It’s Dallas -- just honesty and pure emotion when he’s out there.”
The perfecto etched Braden into history. But there was more to his story.
He was an unheralded 24th round draft pick of the A’s who had attended Texas Tech by way of American River College. He made his Major League debut in 2007 only after he had recovered from a humoral defect in his left shoulder, which limited him to 10 minor league appearances in 2006.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, he was not physically intimidating nor did he blow up the radar gun with his fastball. He relied on location, a terrific changeup and a nasty competitive streak. In 2009, despite having just 39 career appearances under his belt to that point, he drew the Opening Night start as the leader of a young Oakland rotation.
“Everybody talks about him overachieving,” Blevins said. “It was not overachieving. He was a guy that did as much as he could with everything he had, and that shows heart.”
Before throwing his perfect game, Braden made headlines earlier in the 2010 season for getting into a shouting match with Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez when Rodriguez trotted over the mound on his way back to the visitor’s dugout, which Braden took exception to.
Braden literally wore his passion for his hometown of Stockton. He has a large “209” tattoo across his stomach, representing Stockton’s area code. Sometimes that passion drew bizarre attention. He waved a bat at an anti-violence rally in Stockton in 2012, protesting that the city’s police wasn’t doing enough to keep citizens safe.
But he also made headlines in other ways in Stockton. On more than one occasion, he helped serve Thanksgiving dinner at a local church. In 2010, he hosted hundreds of kids from Stockton-based Hoover Tyler Little League during an A’s home game, and he sponsored two kids from that league who were being raised by a single parent.
But naturally, people will forever associate Braden with his perfect game, and that’s fine with him. He said it never gets old talking with fans about that day.
“It’s almost like I’ve got a built-in time machine in my pocket.”
It isn’t often you see a player standing outside of his dugout looking into a camera and reciting the Top 10 list for the “Late Show with David Letterman.”
But that was the scene at Rangers Ballpark a couple days after Braden threw his historic gem.
One way or another, the guy was always worth writing about.