Johnny Vander Meer became the first pitcher to throw no-hitters in back-to-back starts, 80 years ago today.
Vander Meer’s first no-hitter was on Saturday, June 11, 1938, as he led the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-0 no-hit victory at Crosley Field over the Boston Bees (Braves). His second, 80 years ago today, came in the first night game at Ebbets Field. On Wednesday, June 15, 1938, he no-hit the Brooklyn Dodgers for a 6-0 win.
Vander Meer continues to be alone in this club, but did you know that there are six pitchers — Mike Moore, Frank MacCormack, Gary Gentry, Les Cain, Sandy Koufax and Rex Barney — who also threw back-to-back no-hit starts, though none of their outings went nine innings? The details of those starts, researched using http://www.baseball-reference.com‘s superb Play Index, are below:
No. 1: Mike MooreSeattle Mariners starter Mike Moore retired the first four Baltimore Orioles he faced during his start at Memorial Stadium on May 30, 1985. But when he walked Fred Lynn with one out in the second inning, he had to leave the game with a groin injury.
Moore returned to the mound on June 4 and made it through the first inning of his start against the Detroit Tigers with just a base on balls, but when he walked Lance Parrish and Darrell Evans to begin the second, Mariners manager Chuck Cottier pulled him and gave the ball to reliever Salome Barojas.
Moore didn’t allow a hit in either outing.
No. 2: Frank MacCormack
The Detroit Tigers’ Frank MacCormack, who was 0-5 on the season, got the start against the Brewers at Milwaukee County Stadium on July 26, 1976, and nearly backed his way into the record books despite a brief horrible outing.We’ll let Retrosheet give the play-by-play for MacCormack’s one-third-inning appearance:
BREWERS 1ST: Joshua flied out to center; Money walked; MacCormack threw a wild pitch [Money to second]; Scott walked; MacCormack threw a wild pitch [Money to third, Scott to second];
Aaron walked; CRAWFORD REPLACED MACCORMACK (PITCHING)
Jim Crawford took over with the bases loaded and walked in two runs, but finished out the inning without allowing a hit as the Brewers led 2-0. Starting with the final out of the first inning, Crawford retired 22 straight batters and didn’t lose the combined no-hitter until the ninth, when George Scott led off with a single to center. The Tigers wound up winning 4-3 in the 13th inning.
MacCormack never pitched another inning for the Tigers, but the Seattle Mariners drafted him from the Tigers in the 1976 expansion draft.
MacCormack got his next start during the second game of an April 24, 1977 doubleheader at the Kingdome, and this time he made it into the fourth inning without allowing a hit, but his wildness against the Kansas City Royals got the best of him.
MacCormack began the game by walking George Brett and he allowed him to advance to second on a wild pitch. He then hit John Mayberry with a pitch but escaped the inning without allowing a run. The second inning was less eventful, with just a lone walk, but MacCormack got into trouble in the third.
He again led off the inning by walking Brett and then hit Hal McRae with a pitch. He managed to get one line-out before throwing a wild pitch to Mayberry, allowing Brett to score. He got out of the third, but when he walked Cowens to lead off the fourth inning, Manager Darrell Johnson called to the bullpen for John Montague, who finished out the game for a 4-2 victory.
The two games weren’t pretty, but MacCormack can say he had back-to-back no-hit starts.
No. 3: Gary Gentry
Gary Gentry, a New York Mets starter traded to the Atlanta Braves following the 1972 season, took the mound on June 5, 1973 for a start at Parc Jarry against the Montreal Expos despite dealing with a sore shoulder. He retired a couple of Rons — Hunt and Woods — before walking another — Fairley.
Gentry retired Ken Singleton to get out of the inning but never returned to the mound, as Manager Eddie Mathews sent up Chuck Goggin to pinch hit in the second. The Expos wound up winning 7-6 in 11 innings.
Five days later, while still fighting shoulder soreness, Gentry started the opener of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals by walking Lou Brock and Ted Sizemore. The walks led to a run, as Brock advanced to third on a Joe Torre ground out and scored on a Ted Simmons sacrifice, but Gentry minimized the damage to one run. He mixed one walk into an otherwise quiet second inning but was done for the day after just 2 innings.
The Cardinals won that game 4-3, and the Braves’ Roric Harrison flirted with a no-hitter in the nightcap, holding a zero in the H column until Ken Reitz led off the sixth inning with a triple.
Gentry’s back-to-back starts in June 1973 were hardly memorable, but he held opponents hitless in each.
No. 4: Les Cain
Les Cain was a member of the Detroit Tigers rotation in 1970 and 1971, starting 55 games over the stretch. That’s second only to Mickey Lolich.
But Cain began drawing the ire of Manager Billy Martin in the start of the 1972 season after getting off to an 0-3 start. Cain’s struggles were partially attributed to a bad shoulder, but it was clear by newspaper accounts that Cain was getting on Martin’s nerves.
Cain took the ball against Milwaukee at Tiger Stadium on May 24, 1972, and held the Brewers hitless through 5 1/3 innings, but he got into trouble in the sixth inning by issuing his third, fourth and fifth bases on balls of the night. Cain walked pinch hitter Ron Theobald and retired Bob Heise on a ground out before walking Tommie Reynolds and George Scott. Martin gave the ball to reliever Fred Scherman, who allowed all three inherited runners to score.
“Do you know that Cain has started 64 games and finished just eight?” Martin asked the AP. “Apparently he’s a shutout pitcher if he would just stay away from the walks.”
Cain’s next start came four days later at Yankee Stadium, and after Cain issued a leadoff walk to Horace Clarke, Martin had seen enough. Cain was pulled from the game,. placed on the disabled list and never again appeared in a game for the Tigers or any other MLB team.
Cain had just technically thrown back-to-back no-hit starts, and they were his last in the majors.
No. 5: Sandy Koufax
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax would not begin his string of no-hitters in four consecutive seasons until 1962, but he actually achieved back-to-back no-hit starts midway through the 1958 season.
Facing the Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on July 5, 1958, Koufax got off to a fine start, striking out Tony Taylor and inducing a fly-out to center from Al Dark before shortstop Don Zimmer allowed Lee Walls to reach base on an error. Koufax struck out Ernie Banks to end the inning, and he got Bobby Thomson to ground out to first for the second inning’s initial out.
Cubs’ outfielder Jim Bolger followed by grounding another ball to first, prompting Koufax to run over to cover the bag.
“Bolger barreled into Koufax after the Dodger southpaw had taken a throw from first baseman Norm Larker,” noted the Long Beach Press-Telegram‘s George Lederer. “Koufax twisted his ankle as he crossed the bag and Bolger stepped on it as both players sprawled to the turf.”
Dodgers’ Manager Walter Alston brought in reliever Johnny Klippstein, and Koufax would spend days on crutches before returning to the mound.
Koufax took the ball for a July 18, 1958, start against the Philadelphia Phillies, but after he walked four batters in the first inning, Alston brought in Klippstein to try to minimize the damage. It marked a second straight no-hit start for the lefty.
Fortunately for Koufax, his no-hitter prowess would surpass these two starts years later to cap a Hall of Fame career.
No. 6: Rex Barney
The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Rex Barney threw his only career no-hitter in 1948 against the New York Giants.But five years earlier, Barney threw back-to-back no-hit starts thanks to some finagling by manager Leo Durocher, which began on Saturday, September 25, 1943, at Wrigley Field, against Chicago Cubs’ skipper James Wilson.
“Durocher instituted his campaign of trickery earlier, starting Rex Barney, right-hander, on the mound, inducing Wilson to start a lineup loaded with left-handed hitters,” noted Brooklyn Eagle correspondent Tommy Holmes. “After Barney had pitched to one batter, Durocher replaced him with Fritz Ostermueller.”
Barney in that game finished with a single base on balls issued to Stan Hack.
Barney next got the ball for the Dodgers three days later against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the opener of a doubleheader at Forbes Field.
After issuing one walk each in the first and second innings, Barney opened the third by walking opposing pitcher Wally Hebert before getting Pete Coscarart to ground out to third. After he walked Johnny Barrett and Jim Russell to load the bases, Durocher gave the ball to Rube Melton.
The Brooklyn Eagle‘s Holmes questioned Durocher’s “jittery mental gymnastics” in making the call to the bullpen.
“Maybe Durocher, as manager, was justified in his lack of confidence in Barney because Rex was so wild,” noted Holmes “But he sent Rube Melton to relieve and Melton had done nothing in months to establish any sort of confidence.”
The Dodgers dropped both games of the twin bill to Pittsburgh, yet Barney had his back-to-back no-hit starts.