Expos' Hassey specializes in catching the perfect game

July 30, 1991|By Matt McHale | Matt McHale,Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES ( — LOS ANGELES -- Ron Hassey used to be known as a specialist.

During his three seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Hassey was pitcher Bob Welch's personal catcher.

Now as a member of the Montreal Expos, Hassey has become a specialist in catching perfect games. Sunday, he became the first player to catch them in both leagues.

Hassey was behind the plate for Dennis Martinez's 2-0 victory, watching all 27 Los Angeles Dodgers batters return to the dugout without reaching base.

He also was the Cleveland Indians' catcher on May 15, 1981, when right-hander Len Barker threw a perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Although both games are listed among the rarest of baseball achievements, Hassey said Sunday's game was the best he has seen.

"Len had a great fastball and curve, and that night he was fantastic," Hassey said. "But this game was about a truly great pitcher who had great command of all four of his pitches. What makes me so glad for Dennis is I'm not so sure people know he's out there."

Hassey, a 14-year veteran, does not catch Martinez exclusively the way he did Welch with the A's from 1988-90, but it's close. Hassey, a member of the Oakland club that lost the 1988 World Series to the Dodgers, has caught 20 of Martinez's 22 starts.

He signed with the Expos as a free agent last winter with no guarantee of a job. Montreal already had Mike Fitzgerald and Nelson Santovenia and was pleased with the progress of former Dodger Gilberto Reyes.

But Santovenia was placed on the disqualified list for refusing to report to the minors and the Expos went with three catchers.

Hassey, who has 29 starts this season, caught Martinez on opening day and they've been together ever since. Last season, Hassey was 41-17 as a starting catcher with the A's and had the best winning percentage of any catcher with more than 50 starts. Lifetime he is 240-136 (.638).

Until Sunday, Barker's perfect game was the best he had caught.

He was drafted by the Indians from the University of Arizona and stayed with Cleveland until mid-1984.

Hassey, 38, is a classic journeyman. Before the 1986 season, he was traded from the New York Yankees to the Chicago White Sox, was sent back to the Yankees two months later, then was sent back to the White Sox five months later.

So he shudders when he hears trade rumors, especially speculation about Martinez leaving Montreal before tomorrow's trading deadline.

"I think that is more of a media creation than reality," Hassey said. "This team cannot afford to get rid of this guy. There is no one in the organization to replace him. You saw what he was all about today. I was just glad to be a part."

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