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A Most Unlikely No-Hitter

June 4, 2012

ImageI’m a tremendous Mets fan. Huge. Not that I have to defend my stake as an uber-fan, but:

*I was at one of the NLCS games in 1986 against the Astros (no, sadly, I don’t have mementos signifying which one, but I do have a fantastic/lame picture of myself with a lifesize Dwight Gooden cutout at the stadium from that evening). I was at John Rocker’s return to Shea, Rick Ankiel’s meltdown, the final Game 5 of the Subway Series surrounded by Yankee fans in the upper deck. I was at a Louisville sports bar surrounded by Cardinal fans when Endy Chavez went airborne and Carlos Beltran froze. I have the 1986 Mets videotape and get misty whenever Wild Boys plays, and remember exactly where I was when Backman dove outside the line to get to 1st. I suffered through Bobby Bo, Vince Coleman, Juan Samuel.

This is all to say that I missed the first eight innings of Johan Santana’s no-hitter Friday night. I was on stage, because I’m an actor. And that’s what I do. I got off stage (the show was only 75 minutes) to a text from a friend and fellow Met fan – who was also at that Louisville sports bar with me – telling me to get to a television. I saw the final inning. Thank God. And even if Santana’s arm falls off his next outing, it was worth it. It was.

But this post isn’t about Johan Santana’s blessed no-hitter. This is about somebody else, well, somebody else’s game.Santana’s no-no was just the eighth against the defending World Series champs:

Year, Pitcher Opponent
2012, Johan Santana Cardinals
1990, Nolan Ryan Athletics
1974, Dick Bosman Athletics
1973, Jim Bibby Athletics
1968, Gaylord Perry Cardinals
1952, Virgil Trucks Yankees
1941, Lon Warneke Reds
1917, George Mogridge Red Sox

Considering how many times the Yankees have won the World Series, it’s kind of incredible they’ve only been no-hit once in a year following a Series victory.

Here are those pitchers with their Wins Above Replacement career scores.

Johan Santana: 50.5 WAR (All-Star)

Nolan Ryan: 77.4 (Hall of Fame)

Dick Bosman: 9.5

Jim Bibby: 16.5 (All-Star)

Gaylord Perry: 87.5 WAR (Hall of Fame)

Virgil Trucks: 39 (All-Star)

Lon Warneke: 40.5 (All-Star)

George Mogridge: 26.4 (Pre-All-Star days)

So…Dick Bosman.

Bosman had a fantastic 1969 (was one of the best AL pitchers that year), and…that’s kind of it. His WAR is the lowest of the eight hurlers, and he’s the only one of the seven who pitched in the All Star years not to make the midsummer classic.

But on July 19, 1974, on his third team in as many years, the Cleveland Indians’ Bosman shut down the Oakland A’s and their stacked lineup that featured a murderers’ row of Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, and Joe Rudi.

The A’s not only won the 1973 Series, but would go on to win the 1974 Series.

Those 3-4-5 hitters of the A’s would have a 130, 140, and 166 adjusted OPS that year. If that’s not enough, those three guys finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the MVP voting in the AL that year.

And Dick Bosman shut them all down.

What’s more, Bosman didn’t walk anybody that game.

Yes, he would’ve had a perfect game. Except that in the top of the 4th, on a grounder that Bosman himself fielded — and this was a Bando swinging bunt down the third base line — his throw pulled first baseman Tommy McCraw off the bag.

Bosman was ridiculous that game. He only threw 79 pitches. 79 pitches! That’s eight and a half pitches an inning! The A’s – the walloping A’s – hit only seven balls to the outfield.

So…to backtrack. The 2012 Cards are good — right now they sport one of the best offenses in the National League — but they’re not this good. I mean, as this ESPN article points out, they’ve been borderline historic good. One of the major reasons they won the Series last year (Albert Pujols) is gone. The rest of the team will come back to earth from their dizzying OPS+ heights right now.

Nolan Ryan’s opponents, the 1990 A’s, went back to the Series that year, getting swept by the Reds. They sported the otherworldly Rickey Henderson, as well as Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. However. Neither of the Bash Brothers played that game. In their place were Doug Jennings and Felix Jose.

Ok. Jim Bibby. July 30th, 1973. A very identical team to the one that Bosman no-hit. Gene Tenace, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris. And Bibby did an admirable job. Along the way, however, he walked six, including Reggie twice.

Gaylord Perry. Damn, he pitched a long time. His first year in the bigs, 1962 his teammates on the Giants included Willie Mays and Harvey Kuenn – and they were only 31 then. Twenty-one years later, his teammates on the Royals included  Danny Jackson. Or to put it another way: Wee Willie Keeler – Jack Quinn – Ernie Lombardi – Warren Spahn – Gaylord Perry – Danny Jackson – Trevor Hoffman. Baseball Reference has a fun little widget called Oracle of Baseball, which links players, kind of how you would when playing the Kevin Bacon Game. Minnie Minoso, whose career spanned five decades, is the most linkable. Gaylord Perry is the 26th.

Anyway, Perry no-hit the Cardinals in 1968. The Cards returned to the Series that year, but.. You may remember 1968 from such seasons as The Year of the Pitcher. Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA; the National League pitching AS A WHOLE had a 2.99 ERA; etc. Now, the Cards did have Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Roger Maris, and Orlando Cepeda. For what it’s worth, Brock only pinch-hit in the game. And, again, come on. 1968. The pitching was so dominant that in the offseason, MLB lowered the pitching mound and reduced the strike zone.

Virgil Trucks, against the Yanks. August, 1952. Yes, they won the World Series from 1949 to ’53. Yes, they sported Yogi, Mickey, Hank Bauer, and Billy and Scooter (the last two of whom had pretty subpar offensive years in ’52). With the Bombers’ full lineup facing him, Fire Trucks shut them down. Walked just one guy (Mantle, in the third, after Rizzuto reached on an error). Trucks sported an unsightly 5-19 record that year. Terrible record, but his peripherals were better than that. A year later, he won 20 games and finished fifth in the MVP voting.

But here’s the weirder thing: two of Trucks’ wins that year? No-hitters. Yeah, he no-hit the Tigers in May. And then in July, facing the Tigers again, gave off a leadoff single to Eddie Yost, and then didn’t allow another hit. In Trucks’ five wins in 1952, two were no-hitters, one was a one-hitter, one was a two-hitter, and one he scattered six hits, giving up just one unearned run. Flashes of brilliance.

When Lon Warneke faced the Cincinnati Reds on August 30th, 1941, he wasn’t exactly facing a juggernaut. The big hitters of the previous season – Ernie Lombardi, Frank McCormick — were in the middle of fairly mediocre seasons, and in fact were a below-league average offensive team, ending with the lowest adjusted OPS in the NL, and ahead of only Brooklyn and the Phillies for runs per game.

Here’s a good piece of trivia: The first no-hitter at Fenway Park and the first no-hitter by a Yankee happened on April 24th, 1917. George Mogridge no-no’ed the Red Sox, winning 2-1. (The only one of these eight games listed that featured a run by the opposing team. In the seventh, Boston scored via two walks, an error, and sacrifice fly.) Here’s the Boston Globe article on the game. Man, I love reading sports wrapups from a century ago. The Sox sported Duffy Lewis and Harry Hooper in the outfield, but the Red Sox weren’t a terribly strong offensive team, and some of their backups were playing the game.

Running down all of these different no-hitters, Dick Bosman probably had the most improbable no-no against a World Series champ. The lowest career WAR of any of the pitchers, facing one of the strongest teams, in a year when the team should’ve just killed him.

The postscript to the story is that in 1975, some of the A’s players apparently approached crazy Oakland owner Charles Finley and suggested he trade for Bosman, considering how he had baffled them the year before. Finley did, sending Blue Moon Odom over to the Indians for Bosman and Jim Perry. He responded by posting his best season since 1970 for the A’s, before getting released in 1976.


From → History, Stats

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