I like low-scoring pitching duels. Give me a 1-0 shutout effort from a pitcher any day over an 11-9 extra-inning affair.
Baseball has changed so much that the individual pitching shutout raises eyebrows more today than it did 20 years ago. You’d think that it would make no-hitters more rare. Yes and no. There was only one no-hitter in 2022 pitched by a single person (Nokomis native Reid Detmers for the Angels), a whopping seven by single pitchers in 2021, two each in 2020, 2019 and 2018, and one each in 2017 and 2016.
Baseball is the only game where the ball is always in the hands of the defense when the play begins, so success and failure begin with the defense. Sure, home runs are cool, but when pitchers work their magic through physics, it, to me, is more cool to see.
No-hitters (and on top of that, perfect games) thus are interesting to me, and I’ve put together some of the most interesting feats involving these feats. Obviously, Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters ranks as the most impressive no-hitter feat.
As for Harvey Haddix, sorry, that’s not a no-hitter. The game wasn’t over yet.
• Ron Hassey is the only catcher to be behind the plate in two perfect games. He called pitches during Len Barker’s perfecto in 1981 for the Indians, and in 1991 for Denny Martinez’s perfect for the Expos.
• Jason Varitek is the only catcher to be behind the plate for four no-hitters (Hideo Nomo in 2001, Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Buchholz in 2007 and Jon Lester in 2008).
• Twins great Joe Mauer and Horace Clarke of the pre-Steinbrenner Yankees are the only two players to break up no-hitters three times in the ninth inning. Clarke’s feats are particularly impressive as all of his three occasions came within a 28-day span in the summer of 1970.
• Bill Stoneman put the Montreal Expos on the map just 9 games into its history with a 1969 no-hitter. Stoneman would throw two in his career.
• Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Justin Verlander are the only players to have at least three no-hitters. However, prior to the 1991 rule change regarding no-hitters, Jim Maloney was once credited for three. His 1970 Topps card even states information with him having three. The third was a “no-hitter” carried into extra innings in 1965.
• Dock Ellis’ 1970 no-hitter while on LSD. Look it up.
• Jeff Torborg is the only catcher to be behind the plate for no-hitters by Koufax and Ryan.
• The Aug. 14, 1971 no-hitter pitched by Bob Gibson and caught by Ted Simmons remains the only no-hitter Hall of Fame battery. Verlander and Ivan Rodriguez, who caught Verlander’s first, likely will be the second battery.
• To be no-hit and to respond by throwing a no-hitter, that’s what the Cardinals and pitcher Ray Washburn did on Sept. 18, 1968 agains the Giants. Gaylord Perry threw the first no-hitter the day before.
• Managers and no-hitters: Walt Alston managed in seven no-hitters, four of them coming from Koufax. The others were Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie – both in 1956 – and Bill Singer in 1970. Alston’s successor, Tommy Lasorda, managed four more.
Leo Durocher managed in five no-hitters (Ken Holtzman in 1969 and 1971, and Burt Hooton in 1972 all with the Cubs; and Tex Carleton in 1940 and Ed Head in 1946 with the Brooklyn Dodgers). Durocher left his teams just before two more no-hitters were thrown by his ex-teams: Rex Barney late in the 1948 season after Durocher moved to the Giants, and Milt Pappas in 1972 after Durocher was fired.
Connie Mack, the longest tenured manager in MLB history, also managed five no-hitters.
• Dale Mitchell was a great hitter during his playing days in the 1940s and 1950s, and finished with a career .312 average. Despite that awesomeness, he is best known for being Don Larsen’s final victim in his famous perfect game in 1956.
(The next slew of near-ho-hitter facts comes from milkeespress.com)
• Nolan Ryan had five potential no-hitters broken up in the ninth inning. The hitters, in order: Dick Allen 1974, Reggie Jackson 1979, Mike Schmidt 1988, Nelson Liriano and Dave Bergman both in 1989.
• The Red Sox’ Billy Rohr was perfect in his MLB debut after 8 2/3rds before future teammate Elston Howard broke it up on April 14, 1968.
• Four seems to be the big number when it comes to no-hitters and near-no-hitters. Nolan Ryan leads in this combined category with 12, with Koufax maybe having a couple of more before 1960 (research hadn’t gotten that far yet). Dave Stieb has four near misses (1985, two in 1988 and one in 1989) and one no-hitter (1989).
Ken Holtzman has two no-hitters (1969 and 1971) and two more into the ninth (rookie year of 1966 and 1975). Tom Seaver has three near-misses (1969, 1972, 1975) and a no-hitter (1978).
Justin Verlander has three no-hitters, two near misses on individual efforts, and a near-miss as part of a combined effort with three other pitchers in a 2022 game.
• Liriano broke up two potential no-hitters in the ninth winning in 5 days: Ryan’s 1989 try was the first on April 23, and he broke up Angel starter Kirk McCaskill’s 5 days later. This is the shortest span between no-hit denials in recent memory. Wally Joyner also broke up two potential no-hitters in the ninth inning in 1986.
• The Twins’ Cesar Tovar prevented two Orioles no-hitters in 1969 with ninth-inning hits, the first on May 15 off of Dave McNally, and the second on Aug. 10 off of Mike Cuellar.
• Before Don Larsen, there could have been Floyd Bevens. The Yankee hurler threw 8 2/3rd of no-hit ball in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series before surrendering a double to Cookie Lavagetto.
• The Brewers’ George Scott is believed to be the only player to break up a no-hitter with two out in the ninth with a home run, with his “tater” off Red Sox pitcher Rick Wise on July 2, 1975.
(Rick Wise will lead off my best “interesting baseball statistics” blog post soon.)