On this day 50 years ago in Atlanta, Bulldog senior Don Woeltjen was carried off the field by his teammates after pitching a perfect game against Georgia Tech at Rose Bowl Field.
It remains the only nine-inning perfect game between two Southeastern Conference teams as Tech was in the league back then. In fact, there have been only eight nine-inning perfect games in Division I history.
Last month at the annual UGA Baseball Alumni Day in Athens, Bulldogs from the past and present celebrated the golden anniversary of the perfect game, honoring Woeltjen and his teammates. A special program was produced to highlight the historic performance of May 3, 1963, and it included an excerpt from famed Atlanta Journal sports writer Jim Minter’s recap of the contest.
“Don Woeltjen climbed the highest peak known to pitchers of baseballs Friday afternoon, and he says he got there largely because of another afternoon when he got humiliated and stomped in the dirt.”
What Minter was referring to was an outing Woeltjen had against Oglethorpe earlier in the season when Bulldog coach Jim Whatley left his pitcher out on the mound during a tough outing. This particular vignette has been recounted over the years by Bulldogs of that era. The late coach had a way of imparting wisdom that came to be understood over time by his players. To summarize that particular start, Woeltjen surrendered eight earned runs in a single inning in a loss, apparently throwing too many fast balls.
In recounting Woeltjen’s performance in the Oglethorpe game, Whatley was quoted in a 1963 Sports Illustrated article saying, “I wanted him to pitch until he found out what he was doing wrong. I wanted him to grow up.”
That memorable day against Tech, Woeltjen opted not to rely on his fast ball, adjusted his delivery and mixed in enough curve balls to register 11 strikeouts. Also, he had one of Georgia’s seven hits on the day.
Georgia has posted its share of monumental victories over Tech, and today, we pay tribute to one of the greatest in the series that dates back to 1898. Congratulations go out to Don Woeltjen, who is now retired from the clergy and living in Fitzgerald, Ga., and all the members of the 1963 Bulldogs.