LOS ANGELES – A month ago, Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden was a non-descript big-league lefthander, a finesse pitcher with a nice touch, but undistinguished career.
Then he and Alex Rodriguez had a run-in. Braden found the baseball spotlight shining on him as the sparring continued with Rodriguez, who earlier this weekend proclaimed he wasn't talking about the incident anymore and further extend Braden's "extra 15 minutes of fame."
Not that Braden really cared what Rodriguez said or thought.
Anyone who thought that becoming the target of the arrogance of A-Rod would cower Braden obviously didn't know Braden. This is a street-tough kid. He admits he had a life headed in the wrong direction, but then a bout with skin cancer took his mother from him when Braden was still in high school, and that forced him to get a grip on his life.
Today, Braden's sitting on top of the baseball world, back in the spotlight, and this time for all the right reasons.
Believe in karma?
On Mother's Day, with memories of his late mother running through his mind, and with the grandmother who provided the guidance that got his life back on track in the stands at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Braden pitched the 19th perfect game in big-league history. And he did it against, arguably, the best team in the big leagues today -- Tampa Bay -- which had lost only three previous road games this season .
Twenty-seven Rays came to the plate, 27 walked back to the dugout.
You should be.
Face it, the 26-year-old Braden had never pitched a complete game in his 52 previous big-league starts. Heck, he'd made it into the eighth inning only once -- working 7 1/3 innings against Toronto on April 19, 2009. He'd made his second big-league start -- back on April 24, 2007 -- in Tampa Bay and suffered his first big-league loss, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings in that game.
He'd only won 17 of his previous 40 big-league decisions.
But with a changeup that resembles the screwball that was a staple before he required major shoulder surgery back in 2006, to complement a far-from-overpowering fastball, Braden joined Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter as the only member of the A's to throw a perfect game. Hunter was perfect against Minnesota 42 years and one day earlier.
"I'd like to have a career more than today,'' Braden said in the aftermath.
Thanks to Peggy Lindsey, the grandmother who took over after his single mother died when Braden was in high school, he has that chance to build a career.
"This wouldn't be my life if it didn't have obstacles,'' Braden was quoted as saying during the spring.
At Alonzo Stagg High School in Stockton, California, he was the Tri-County Athletic League Pitcher of the Year and MVP in 2001, and he'd go on to pitch for two years at American River Community College, then a year at Texas Tech before signing with Oakland as a 24th round draft choice in 2004.
But he also was a street kid who came close to short-circuiting his own career. He talks of a life of crime and gangs and poverty and speaks from first-hand experiences.
then he smiles and speaks about grandma, Peggy Lindsey, who ran the Quality Inn in Stockton, where Braden lived his senior year in high school after the death of his mother.
"I came real close to taking it away from myself, then my grandmother stepped in and kind of slapped me back into shape and got me going,'' he said. "I told my grandma that someday she would watch me pitch in the majors.''
Some day came finally on April 24, 2007. The A's called him up after two starts at Double-A to make an emergency start in Baltimore, where he worked six shutout innings to get a win, having flown his grandmother in to be on hand for the debut.
"She said we couldn't afford for her to go,'' Braden remember a few years later. "I told her she was going, even if we had to sell body parts.''
It was a night to remember.
Now, Braden and Peggy Lindsey have another memory to share, one that Lindsey witnessed from her regular perch at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum whenever Braden pitches.
"It's a more important day for my grandmother than anything,'' Braden told reporters on Sunday afternoon. "That's the biggest thing to be able to give her something like this on a day of this magnitude, considering everything we've been through together. It's more about her for me.
"It hasn't been a joyous day for me in a while, but to know that I still get to come out and compete and play a game on that day, that makes it a little better. With my grandma in the stands, that makes it a lot better. To be able to give her this today was perfect.''
And to have it all happen on Mother's Day only added to the perfection.
"I told him, `Your mom would be so proud,''' Lindsey told reporters. "Leave it to Dal to do something different. If you know Dal, then you know that's his way.''
It isn't always the easiest way, but it's Braden's way.