Today would be the 111th birthday of pitching great Satchel Paige.
Paige, born July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama, estimated he threw 55 no-hitters over his long, storied career that included stints with numerous teams. When Paige wasn’t pitching in league games, he was barnstorming across the country competing against anyone who would take the ball field against his All-Stars.
But just two of Paige’s no-nos against professional-level teams are documented in
the most well-researched list, put together by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Negro League Committee and Noir Tech Research:
Friday, July 8, 1932 (second game of doubleheader)
Pittsburgh Crawfords 6, New York Black Yankees 0
Wednesday, July 4, 1934
Pittsburgh Crawfords 4, Homestead Grays 0 (Paige struck out 17 batters)
Paige was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 as the first player voted in by the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues.
The San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum no-hit the San Diego Padres for the second time in less than a year, two years ago today.
Lincecum allowed just one baserunner, walking Chase Headley in the second. He retired the next 23 batters to complete the task at AT&T Park with a 4-0 victory. The only other major league pitcher to throw no-hitters against the same team is the Cleveland Naps’ Addie Joss, who tossed no-nos against the Chicago White Sox on Oct. 2, 1908 and April 20, 1910.
On July 13, 2013, Lincecum struck out 13 Padres hitters at Petco Park but needed a 148th pitch to get Yonder Alonso to fly out to left and complete the 9-0 no-hitter. His no-no pitch count is just one shy of the record since Major League Baseball began tracking such things in 1988. Third-baseman Pablo Sandoval contributed to the effort with a seventh-inning backhand grab on a sharp grounder and Hunter Pence helped with a diving eighth-inning catch.
Lincecum’s 2013 no-hitter was Petco Park’s first.
Meanwhile, the Padres remain the only major league team with no no-no, 7,727 games and counting.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ Marco Estrada lost an eighth-inning no-hitter in his second consecutive start, two years ago today.
Estrada reached the eighth with a no-no intact against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 24, 2015, at Tropicana Field before Logan Forsythe tagged him for a one-out infield single. Five days earlier, Estrada lost a no-no against the Orioles at Rogers Centre with no out in the eighth.
Here are those two starts:
Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
Friday, June 19, 2015
Spoiler: Jimmy Paredes broken-bat bloop single to left with no out in the eight inning
Toronto Blue Jays 5, Baltimore Orioles 4
Rogers Centre (Toronto)
Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Spoiler: Logan Forsythe, infield single with one out in the eight inning
Toronto Blue Jays 1, Tampa Bay Rays 4
Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg)
As if that hard luck wasn’t enough, Estrada also lost another eighth-inning no-no in 2016:
Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Spoiler: Chris Young, homer to left with one out in the 8th inning
Toronto Blue Jays 5, Boston Red Sox 4
Fenway Park (Boston)
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of baseball’s first combined no-hitter (Babe Ruth/Ernie Shore), here is the first chapter of my book Baseball’s No-Hit Wonders.
Four balls and a bop on the beezer
When baseball fans reminisce about the legend of Babe Ruth, what comes to mind first are his 60 home runs in 1927 or his gesture toward the Wrigley Field bleachers in Game 3 of the ’32 World Series before crushing a ball over the center-field fence. Not to mention his legendary drinking and noteworthy girth. But before the Babe hit his eighth homer ever in his long march toward 714, he secured himself a spot in no-hitter lore by taking a swing of a different sort—with his fist.
George Herman Ruth Jr. began his professional career in 1914 as a Boston Red Sox pitcher, and he hadn’t yet thought about becoming a slugger despite his love of the batter’s box. “There isn’t a man in the world who isn’t happiest when he’s up there at the plate with a stick in his hand, but it was pitching which took my time in Boston,” Ruth said in Babe Ruth’s Own Book of Baseball.7
The Babe had amassed an impressive 12-4 record for the Red Sox by June 23, 1917, when the lefty took the Fenway Park mound for the opening game of a Saturday doubleheader against the Washington Senators. Leadoff batter Ray Morgan stepped to the plate, and Ruth tossed his first pitch.
“Ball,” yelled umpire Brick Owens, earning a glare from Ruth.
Three more pitches drew the same call, the Babe’s temper rising with each. Morgan took his free pass to first base as Ruth continued jawing with Owens, according to Boston Globe sportswriter Edward F. Martin.
“Get in there and pitch,” the umpire ordered.
“Open your eyes and keep them open,” Ruth yelled.
“Get in and pitch or I will run you out of there,” Owens warned.8
The Bambino threatened to punch Owens in the nose, and Owens had heard enough. The ump gave Ruth the heave-ho.
Ruth’s exact words while charging the plate were likely “I’m gonna bop you on the beezer,” said his granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti.9
Ruth’s right hook actually missed Owens’s beezer, glancing off the ump’s mask and landing behind the left ear.
Recalling the game in a newspaper column nearly 25 years later, the umpire had a far tamer memory of the day’s events. “Babe got hot under the collar and complained so vigorously that he was ordered off the field,” Owens wrote in the Milwaukee Journal.10 The scrum prompted several police officers, players from both benches, and Red Sox player-manager Jack Barry to drag Ruth off the field. Catcher Pinch Thomas, who tried to block Ruth from getting to Owens, also got ejected.
“Baltimore Babe with his temper beyond control went to the dugout under a cloud. His suspension will cripple the Red Sox badly as they need the big portsider very much,” the Globe’s Martin wrote, dreading Ruth’s inevitable punishment to come.11
The Sox manager, needing someone to take the mound in a hurry, turned to Ernest Grady “Ernie” Shore, a dependable right-hander who had posted a 19-8 record with a 1.64 ERA two years previously. Shore had just thrown five innings two days earlier, but he grabbed the ball in attempt to bring some calm to Fenway.
Ray Morgan, the only Washington Senators player to reach first base, walked on four pitches before being thrown out attempting to steal. Third baseman Eddie Foster stepped into the box, and Morgan took off to steal second on Shore’s first pitch. Replacement catcher Sam Agnew fired down to the bag to notch the game’s first putout.
Shore retired Foster and proceeded to send Senator after Senator back to the dugout as he filibustered his way down the Washington lineup. “Shore fanned only two and it did not seem as if he was working hard,” according to the Globe. “He made a number of nifty plays himself.”12
The only hard chance, according to the Washington Post, came in the ninth inning on a ball hit by Washington catcher John Henry, but Boston left fielder Duffy Lewis saved the no-no.
“Henry drove out what looked to be a sure hit, but Lewis came racing in and smothered the ball,” the newspaper said. “Several great infield plays aided Shore in keeping a clean slate.”13
Shore closed the game by snagging a swinging bunt off the bat of pinch hitter Mike Menosky, and the crowd of more than 16,000 fans rose to give Shore an ovation.
“Relieving Ruth after ‘Babe’s’ scrap with Umpire Owens in the first inning of this afternoon’s double-header, Ernie Shore hurled a perfect game,” declared one wire report. “Not a Senator reached first.”14 Owens called the contest one of the most exciting games he officiated. “Look through your records and you won’t find another instance of a hurler credited with a perfect performance, although facing only 26 men,” Owens said.15
The day after the game, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wondered how American League President Ban Johnson would react to the young Ruth’s assault on Owens, who was considered an esteemed, competent arbitrator of the game. “Ban will probably announce, as he does in all cases, an indefinite suspension, but how long will Ban make it stick?” the newspaper asked.16
Johnson suspended Ruth for one week and fined him $100.17 As for Shore’s accomplishment, the official scorers of the day had a hard time classifying exactly what had occurred on June 23, 1917, according to Owens. “As I said many arguments arose at the end of the contest over this unusual situation,” the umpire said, “and finally it was decided that Ernie deserved the highest goal that any pitcher can attain—the perfect game.”18
Finally, that is, until Major League Baseball’s committee for statistical accuracy stepped into the fray in 1991. The committee chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent established an official definition of a no-hitter, saying, “A no-hitter is a game in which a pitcher or pitchers complete a game of nine innings or more without allowing a hit.” A perfect game adds the extra requirements of no walks and no errors over nine innings or more.
The committee’s rule-tightening effort not only wiped 50 rain-shortened, darkness-shortened, and eight-inning no-hitters off the record books, it also rebranded Shore’s accomplishment—the game could not be perfect, as Ray Morgan had reached first base.
So a game that had for 74 years been considered Shore’s perfect game was suddenly classified as professional baseball’s first combined no-hitter, credited to Ruth (0 innings) and Shore (9 innings). The Babe, whose contribution to that game was only four pitched balls and a bop in the beezer, secured his spot on the no-hitters list for perpetuity.
Perhaps fortunately, Ernie Shore, who left baseball in 1920 to return to North Carolina and serve as Forsyth County’s longtime sheriff, never knew his perfect game was renamed. He died 11 years before the committee’s decision.
The Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer threw baseball’s 289th no-hitter two years ago yesterday, becoming just the second pitcher to plunk the 27th batter during a perfecto yet recover for the no-no.
Scherzer retired the first 26 Pittsburgh Pirates he faced on June 20, 2015, before grazing pinch-hitter Jose Tabata with a pitch in the ninth inning, losing the perfect game. He then got Josh Harrison to fly out to left to complete the no-hitter. Scherzer struck out 10 batters and walked no one.
Only one other pitcher lost a perfect game by hitting the 27th batter yet recovered to save the no-no, and it was in 1908.
The New York Giants’ George “Hooks” Wiltse retired the first 26 Philadelphia Quakers he faced during the first game of a July 4 doubleheader that year before hitting opposing pitcher George McQuillan on the arm. The game at the time was a 0-0 tie. The Giants scored in the top of the 10th and Wiltse got his three outs in the bottom half to complete the no-no for a 1-0 win.
Scherzer threw a second no-hitter less than four months later, no-hitting the New York Mets at Citi Field for a 2-0 victory. He came close to throwing a third on Tuesday night, zapping the Miami Marlins into the eighth before losing his no-no bid on an A.J. Ellis come-backer.
John Montgomery Ward who threw the majors’ second perfect game, 137 years ago today.
Ward tossed his perfecto for the National League’s Providence Grays on June 17, 1880, shutting out the Buffalo Bisons 5-0 at the Messer Street Grounds in Providence. Beating him to the punch five days earlier was Lee Richmond of the Worcester Ruby Legs, who threw a June 12 perfect game against the Cleveland Blues at Worcester Driving Park Grounds.
Ward’s was the second of 23 perfect games, with the most recent being thrown by Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012.
The Texas Rangers’ Colby Lewis took a perfect game into the eighth inning and a no-hitter into the ninth, one year ago today.
On Thursday, July 15, 2016, Lewis lost his perfecto by issuing a two-out walk to the Oakland Athletics’ Yonder Alonso. He escaped the eighth with the no-no intact but lost it in the ninth on a leadoff double by Max Muncy. Lewis had to settle for a 5-1 complete-game victory.
The New York Giants’ Christy Mathewson threw the second of his two no-hitters, 112 years ago today.
Mathewson, nicknamed “The Christian Gentleman,” no-hit the Chicago Cubs at West Side Park for a 1-0 win. The right-hander from Factoryville, Pennsylvania faced just 28 batters, with the only Cubs base runners coming courtesy of errors by Bill Dahlen and Billy Gilbert (one runner was doubled up).
“Neither run, nor hit, nor base on balls did Mathewson allow Chicago in the full nine innings, and if his support had been perfect, he would have tied “Cy” Young’s record of not permitting an opponent to reach first base,” the New York Times noted.
Mathewson’s first no-no came on Monday, July 15, 1901, when he beat the St. Louis Cardinals on the road at Robison Field 5-0.
Pittsburgh Pirates hurler Dock Ellis thought June 12, 1970 was an off-day, so after a long night of partying he woke up and decided to take some LSD. What he didn’t know was he had slept through a full day and he was actually scheduled to pitch Game 1 of a doubleheader against the San Diego Padres.
But Ellis was able to not only secure a 2-0 Pirates win in San Diego, he held the Padres hitless in what is believed to be the only Major League no-hitter thrown by a man tripping on acid.
The story was long thought to be an urban legend, but Ellis talked openly about the experience in a 2005 Dallas Observer story. Ellis, who died in 2008, had long been drug free and was working as a drug counselor when he was interviewed for the article.
“What’s weird is that sometimes it felt like a balloon. Sometimes it felt like a golf ball,” the alternative weekly reported. “But he could always get it to the plate. Getting it over the plate was another matter entirely. Sometimes he couldn’t see the hitter. Sometimes he couldn’t see the catcher.”
That’s evident in the box score, as Ellis apparently walked eight and hit at least one batter.