Yankees who pitched no-hitters: Don Larsen, Allie Reynolds …

14 10 2015

This continues my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

Ten Yankees have pitched 11 no-hitters. I’ll review them here, in order of importance:

Don Larsen

Larsen had a mostly unremarkable career for the Yankees and seven other teams. He never won more than 11 games in a season (but he lost 21). He only made it to double figures in wins twice, though he made it to double figures in losses three times. He finished 14 seasons with a losing record, 81-91.

But for one Monday, October 8, in Game Five of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen was better than any pitcher ever. In a World Series, you face a team that knows how to get on base, how to score runs. That’s how they make it to the championship level, and no other pitcher has ever pitched a no-hitter in World Series play. But Larsen pitched a perfect game.

Facing a lineup that included four future Hall of Famers — Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese — Larsen didn’t allow a base runner.

Second baseman Jim Gilliam led off, an All-Star who hit .300 that year, with a .399 on-base percentage. He struck out looking, then grounded out to second base and shortstop against Larsen.

Batting second was Reese, age 37, but still eighth in the MVP voting that year, just ahead of Stan Musial. Pee Wee struck out looking, grounded out to second base and flew out to deep center.

Snider batted third. He led the National League with 43 homers that year, drove in 101 runs and led the league with 99 walks, a .399 on-base percentage and a .598 slugging percentage. He lined out to right field, struck out looking and flew out to left against Larsen.

Robinson batted clean-up. It was his final year, but he still had a strong .382 on-base percentage. He lined out, flew out and grounded out.

The fifth hitter, Gil Hodges, isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but he made the Golden Era Ballot this year (no one was elected). He hit 32 homers and had a solid .354 on-base percentage in 1956. Larsen struck him out swinging in the second and got him to line out to third in the eighth. In the top of the fifth, with one out, Hodges hit a ball in the gap between left and center field. Mickey Mantle caught the ball on a dead run and kept the perfect game going.

Batting sixth for the Dodgers was Sandy Amoros, who had a .385 on-base percentage. He popped out, grounded out and flew out to deep center.

Carl Furillo, with 21 homers and a .357 on-base percentage, hit seventh. He was retired on two flyballs and a pop-up.

Three-time MVP Roy Campanella hit eighth. He was coming off his eighth straight All-Star season, with 20 homers and a .333 on-base percentage. Larsen struck him out swinging and retired him on a pop-up and a ground ball.

Dodger pitcher Sal Maglie played for all three New York teams in the 1950s, winning 23 for the Giants in 1951 and joining the Dodgers in ’56, after a stop in Cleveland. He won only three games for the Yankees in parts of 1957 and ’58.

Maglie had pitched a no-hitter himself just 13 days earlier, yielding only two walks and blanking the Phillies, 5-0, on Sept. 25. Maglie’s clutch performance kept the Dodgers just a half-game behind Milwaukee with four games to play.

After winning Game One, Maglie pitched an outstanding game himself against Larsen, giving up just five hits, including a Mantle homer and an RBI single by Hank Bauer.

Maglie was the only easy out Larsen faced in the Dodgers’ lineup, having gotten only nine hits and a walk all year as a batter. After 26 straight outs, Dodger Manager Walter Alston pinch-hit Dale Mitchell for Maglie with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. I don’t know if Alston ever explained his pinch-hitting choice. Mitchell was used mostly as a pinch-hitter by the Indians and Dodgers in 1956, going 10 for 46 with seven walks, a weak .217 batting average, with a .321 on-base percentage. Including two World Series with the Indians, Mitchell would have a career .138 World Series batting average. But he was a veteran left-handed hitter, facing the right-handed Larsen. He had a .312 lifetime batting average and was twice an All-Star with the Indians. Even in the next-to-last at-bat of his career, he had a better shot at scraping out a hit or drawing a walk than Maglie.

Mitchell checked his swing on a 1-2 pitch and struck out looking, Larsen’s seventh strikeout of the game. Mitchell went to his grave swearing that the pitch was outside. A PolitiFact review of the play said it might have been out of the strike zone, but nowhere near the “foot and a half” outside that baseball fan but serial exaggerator George Will claimed.

Didn’t matter. Catcher Yogi Berra was embracing Larsen while Mitchell stood at the plate with his bat, on the wrong side of history.

Allie Reynolds

Allie Reynolds' autograph on a baseball my wife's uncle used to take to Yankee Stadium in the 1950s. Yes, that's Mickey Mantle's autograph to the right. Also outfielder Gene Woodling and pitcher Bob Kuzava.

Allie Reynolds’ autograph on a baseball my wife’s uncle used to take to Yankee Stadium in the 1950s. Yes, that’s Mickey Mantle’s autograph to the right. Also outfielder Gene Woodling and pitcher Bob Kuzava.

I address Reynolds’ full career in my post on Yankee starting pitchers who belong in the Hall of Fame.

He’s the only Yankee to pitch two no-hitters and one of only six pitchers in baseball history to pitch two in a single year. The others are Nolan Ryan, Virgil Trucks, Johnny Vander Meer and Roy Halladay. (After I originally wrote that passage, Max Scherzer pitched his second no-hitter of 2015.)

Halladay pitched a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, 2010 and the only post-season no-hitter other than Larsen’s perfect game against the Reds on Oct. 6.

Vander Meer pitched the only back-to-back no-hitters June 11 and 15, 1938. Trucks’ two no-hitters were the only high points of a 5-19 season.

Ryan’s first two no-hitters (of a record seven) came just two months apart in 1973, May and July 15.

Reynolds’ two no-hitters in 1951 were as impressive as anyone’s, coming against the second- and third-best teams in the American League (the Yankees won by five games). He outdueled Hall of Famer Bob Feller, walking three and striking out four, for a 1-0 victory on July 12. Feller, who pitched three no-hitters, gave up only four hits in that game and lost on a Gene Woodling homer in the seventh. Reynolds retired the final 17 hitters in a row, after a fourth-inning walk.

Reynolds retired Hall of Famer Ted Williams, often called the greatest hitter ever, for the final out of an 8-0 win on Sept. 28, to clinch the pennant. Reynolds walked four and struck out nine.

Berra caught both of Reynolds’ no-hitters. He shared the record for most no-hitters caught until Phillie catcher Carlos Ruiz caught his fourth this year.

David Wells

Boomer pitched the Yankees’ first perfect game since Larsen on May 17, 1998, beating the Twins, 4-0. Wells struck out 11, getting his fifth win of an 18-4 season. Jorge Posada caught the perfect game.

Wells led the league in winning percentage and finished third for the Cy Young Award. He won all four of his post-season starts, taking MVP honors with two wins against the Indians in the American League Championship Series.

I was surprised the following February when Wells was traded along with two other players for Roger Clemens, who had won back-to-back Cy Young Awards for the Blue Jays.

Both players pitched well for their new teams. I tell more about Wells in my post on 200-game winners without a shot at the Hall of Fame.

David Cone

David Cone, a teammate of Wells’ in 1998, stayed in New York and pitched the Yankees’ third perfect game the next season, July 18, 1999. He struck out 10, notching his 10th win of the season. Current Yankee manager Joe Girardi was the catcher. He won only two more games that year, but beat both the Red Sox and Braves in the post-season.

I discuss Cone’s Hall of Fame chances in another post in this series.

Monte Pearson

Pearson was perhaps the third-best pitcher of the dynasty that won four straight championships from 1936-9, behind Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing.

He was 19-7 and an All-Star in 1936, followed by years of 9-3, 16-7 and 12-5. He pitched the first Yankee Stadium no-hitter in 1938, a 13-0 rout in the second game of a doubleheader. He struck out seven, walked two, caught by Joe Glenn.

Pearson was undefeated in World Series play, winning a game in each of the four straight World Series, with an ERA of 1.01. He was an All-Star again in 1940 but tore a shoulder ligament a week after the game and only finished 7-5 in 16 starts.

He retired a year later, 100-61.

Sad Sam Jones

Jones pitched his no-hitter Sept. 4, 1923, beating the A’s 2-0, walking just one batter. I wonder if he’s the only pitcher ever to pitch a complete-game no-hitter without striking out a batter. Fred Hoffman was his catcher. Jones also gets mentions in my post on 200-game winners and an upcoming post on nicknames of Yankee starters.

Dwight Gooden

Gooden’s no-hitter, May 14, 1996, gave brief hope that he might regain his once-dominant form for the Yankees. He beat the Mariners, 2-0, walking six and striking out five. Girardi also caught Gooden’s no-hitter.

Instead, it was a last hurrah. Gooden was 11-7 that season but had an ERA of 5.01. He also pitched for the Yankees in 1997 and 2000, his final season, but he never again won 10 games in a season. He finished his career winless in the post-season, 0-4, including a loss to the Yankees in the 1998 ALCS, when he was pitching for the Indians.

George Mogridge

Mogridge pitched the first Yankee no-hitter, April 24, 1917, 2-1 over Red Sox. He walked three and struck out three, with Les Nunamaker catching. The Yankees also committed three errors. Mogridge actually had a losing season that year, 9-11, though he had solid seasons for the Yankees the next two years.

All the first eight no-hitters I’ve discussed came in years the Yankees played in the World Series. They finished sixth in 1917.

Jim Abbott

Abbott didn’t have a particularly memorable two years with the Yankees, 11-14 in 1993 and 9-8 when the 1994 strike deprived the Yankees of a shot at returning to post-season play for the first time in 13 years.

I’m not going to make a big deal about his deformed right arm, because Abbott didn’t. But his left arm pitched a really memorable game for the Yankees on Sept. 4, 1993, beating the Indians, 4-0. He walked five and struck out three. Matt Nokes was his catcher.

Dave Righetti

Righetti pitched the first Yankee no-hitter since Larsen on July 4, 1983. After a gap of nearly 27 years, Yankees would then pitch four more no-hitters in the next 15 seasons. He struck out nine and walked four, with Butch Wynegar catching. Rags end his gem with a strikeout of Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.

I write more about Righetti in the post on Yankees who succeeded as starters and relievers.

Future Yankee no-hitters

Lots of pitchers threw no-hitters before joining the Yankees: Ewell Blackwell (who also will appear in the nicknames post), A.J. Burnett, Bullet Joe Bush (more on him in the next post in this series), John Candelaria, Wes Ferrell, Randy Johnson, Derek LoweBill Monboquette, Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry.

Ken Holtzman pitched two no-hitters for the Cubs before he became a Yankee.

Catfish Hunter and Kenny Rogers pitched perfect games before becoming Yankees.

Babe Ruth, while pitching for the Red Sox, got ejected after arguing with the umpire after walking the lead-off hitter. That lone base runner was picked off, and relief pitcher Ernie Shore, also a future Yankee, retired the next 26 Senator batters for a 4-0 win and baseball’s most bizarre almost-perfect game.

Former Yankee no-hitters

Seven pitchers threw no-hitters after leaving the Yankees: Kevin Brown, Lew Burdette, Ray CaldwellJoe Cowley, Al LeiterEric Milton and Dazzy Vance (also scheduled for a mention in the nicknames post).

Who else?

I’m pretty sure I included all the Yankee no-hitters, but do you have special memories of one of the games? Did you see one live? Do you recall a no-hitter against the Yankees? Or have a favorite no-hitter memory involving other teams?

Also in this series

Other posts in this series on Yankee starting pitchers:

Source note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics cited here come from Baseball-Reference.com.

Correction invitation: I wrote this series of blog posts over several months, mostly late at night while unable to sleep while undergoing medical treatment. I believe I have fact-checked and corrected any errors, but I welcome you to point out any I missed: stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com. Or, if you just want to argue about my opinions, that’s fine, too.



20 responses

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