44 years since the Kirby-Gomez incident

Just a day after Odrisamer Despaigne nearly allowed the San Diego Padres to finally shed the label of being the only major league team never to throw a no-hitter, nonohitters.com celebrates the anniversary of another significant event in that story.

San Diego could have exited the no-no club 44 years ago today, early in the franchise’s history. On July 21, 1970, the New York Mets were beating the Padres 1-0, but Padres starter Clay Kirby still had a no-hitter going through eight innings. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, San Diego skipper Preston Gomez decided to pull Kirby for a pinch hitter, Cito Gaston.

“He was coming out, because I play to win,” Gomez told The AP after the game. “I knew he had a no-hitter going but we got to score some runs.”

Gaston struck out, reliever Jack Baldschun gave up a ninth-inning lead-off single to Bud Harrelson and the Mets rallied to pad their lead to 3-0, which would be the final score.

What if Gomez had allowed Kirby to bat? Would Kirby have reached base and started a rally that would have given them a 2-1 lead and an eventual no-no win? Would Kirby have struck out, yet kept the no-hitter alive through the top of the ninth to set up a ninth-inning Padres walk-off victory?

We’ll never know, and the club still doesn’t have no no-no.

Kirby acknowledged after the game that he was a little mad and a little surprised but said Gomez is the manager and it’s his call.

Gomez made the same move on Sept. 5, 1974, while managing the Houston Astros. Don Wilson was three outs from a no-hitter but the Astros trailed the Cincinnati Reds 3-0 and Gomez sent in pinch-hitter Tommy Helms in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Helms grounded out, Tony Perez killed the no-no with a ninth-inning single off Mike Cosgrove and the Reds wound up winning 2-1.

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