Happy 54th birthday to David Wells, who threw a perfect game for the New York Yankees in 1998.
On Sunday, May 17, 1998, Wells threw a perfect game at Yankee Stadium for a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. It was the first Yankees’ perfecto since Don Larsen’s gem in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
Hall of Famer Bob Feller threw the only Opening Day no-hitter in baseball history, 77 years ago today.
The 21-year-old Feller used his “heater from Van Meter” fastball on April 16, 1940, to mow down eight White Sox batters as the Cleveland Indians topped Chicago 1-0. Feller’s parents and sister, Marguerite, were among the 14,000 fans at Chicago’s Comiskey Park that afternoon.
“I knew I had a chance for a no-hitter in the ninth,” Feller told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “but I tried to put the thought out of my mind by reminding myself you never have a no-hitter until the last man is out.”
Feller threw two additional no-hitters, tying Larry Corcoran and Cy Young for a major league record that would later be broken by Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan:
Cleveland Indians (AL)
Tuesday, April 30, 1946
Cleveland Indians 1, New York Yankees 0
Yankee Stadium (New York)
Cleveland Indians (AL)
Sunday, July 1, 1951 (First game of doubleheader)
Cleveland Indians 2, Detroit Tigers 1
Cleveland Stadium (Cleveland)
Feller nearly had some company on April 16, 1940. With all 16 teams in action, Boston Red Sox southpaw Lefty Grove took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before it was broken up with a single by the Washington Senators’ Cecil Travis. Grove retired the game’s first 21 batters but lost the perfecto on an eighth-inning error. He settled for a two-hit 1-0 complete-game shutout.
Asked by an AP reporter if he was disappointed by Travis’ single, Grove said, “No. No-hitters are bad luck.”
Two other no-hitters were thrown on the date of April 16:
Chicago Cubs (NL)
Sunday, April 16, 1972
Chicago Cubs 4, Philadelphia Phillies 0
Wrigley Field (Chicago)
St. Louis Cardinals (NL)
Sunday, April 16, 1978
St. Louis Cardinals 5, Philadelphia Phillies 0
Busch Stadium (St. Louis) (His first of two no-hitters)
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul Dean and the Oakland Athletics’ Vida Blue threw no-hitters on this date.
On Friday, September 21, 1934, during the second game of an Ebbets Field doubleheader against Brooklyn, Dean no-hit the Dodgers for a 3-0 win. The no-no broke the longest no-hitter drought in Major League Baseball history in terms of game days at 535 (more than three years!), a record that stands today.
Older brother Dizzy Dean pitched the opener of that doubleheader, holding the the Dodgers to three hits for a 13-0 complete-game win.
On Monday, September 21, 1970, Blue no-hit the Minnesota Twins at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum for a 6-0 victory. At 21 years, 1 month and 24 days, Blue set the new modern-era mark for a youngster.
St. Louis Cardinals rookie Bud Smith no-hit the San Diego Padres, 15 years ago today.
Smith, appearing in just his 13th major league game on Monday, September 3, 2001, struck out seven and walked four while holding the Padres hitless at Qualcomm Stadium en route to a 4-0 win. Smith threw 134 pitches during the game, and his Cardinals career wound up being short, and he pitched his last major league ballgame in July 2002.
Also throwing a no-hitter on this date is the Philadelphia Athletics’ Bill McCahan. At Philadelphia’s Shibe Park on Wednesday, September 3, 1947, McCahan no-hit the Washington Senators for 3-0 win.
Dean Chance threw a complete-game no-hitter for the Minnesota Twins 49 years ago today, just 19 days after throwing a rain-shortened perfect game.
Chance no-hit the Cleveland Indians during the second game of a Friday doubleheader on August 25, 1967, for a 2-1 win at Cleveland Stadium. Chance yielded an earned run in the first inning on two walks, an error and a wild pitch. He settled down and scattered three walks over the next eight innings, striking out a total of eight batters.
Just four starts earlier, on Thursday, August 6, 1967, Chance retired the only 15 Boston Red Sox batters he faced at Metropolitan Stadium for a 2-0 rain-shortened victory. Such games were considered official no-hitters until 1991.
Chance died in October at the age of 74.
Also throwing a no-hitter on this date was the Detroit Tigers’ Virgil Trucks. On Monday, August 25, 1952, trucks no-hit the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium for a 1-0 win. It was Trucks’ second no-no.
The Chicago White Sox’s Bob Keegan no-hit the Washington Senators, 59 years ago today.
On August 20, 1957, during the second game of a Tuesday doubleheader at Comiskey Park, Keegan no-hit the Senators for a 6-0 win. Keegan walked two and struck out one, noting that he relied mostly on his sinking fastball and didn’t throw a single curve.
“I know I had a no-hitter going from the first inning on — the only trouble was pitching it,” he told the AP.
Also on this date — 135 years ago — the Buffalo Bison’s Pud Galvin threw the first of his two no-hitters. On Friday, August 20, 1880, Galvin no-hit the Worcester Ruby Legs for a 1-0 win at Buffalo’s Riverside Park. It was Galvin’s first of two no-nos.
Ninety-nine years ago today, Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore combined for baseball’s first combined no-hitter. The story is featured in the first chapter of Baseball’s No-Hit Wonders, and I offer the Chapter below:
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 New York Yankees’ David Wells tossed a perfect game and the Houston Colt .45s’ Don Nottebart threw a no-hitter on this date.
Eighteen years ago today, on Sunday, May 17, 1998, Wells threw a perfect game at Yankee Stadium for a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Wells later said in his autobiography Perfect I’m Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseball that he was still half drunk from a Saturday Night Live cast party the night before.
On Friday, May 17, 1963, 53 years ago today, Nottebart no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies for a 4-1 win at Colt Stadium. It was the first no-hitter for the franchise now known as the Houston Astros.
Oakland A’s pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter threw a perfect game, 48 years ago today.
On Wednesday, May 8, 1968, Hunter retired all 27 Minnesota Twins he faced for a 4-0 win at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. Hunter’s perfecto was the third of the 1960s, following gems by Jim Bunning (1964) and Sandy Koufax (1965).
Also throwing no-nos on this date are the Boston Doves’ Frank “Big Jeff” Pfeffer and the New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell.
Pfeffer in 1907 no-hit the Cincinnati Reds for a 6-0 win at Huntington Avenue Grounds.
In 1929, Hubbell no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates for an 11-0 victory at the Polo Grounds.