Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Perfect Games Spoiled (Part II)

Over the course of baseball history, eight major league pitchers were able to retire 27 batters without a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch only to have their perfect games ruined by errors. The following unlucky hurlers came close to immortality:

On June 13, 1905, Mathewson was facing the Cubs at the West Side Grounds in Chicago. The Cubs had their own ace, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown on the mound. Matty retired the first 10 Chicago batters before shortstop Bill Dahlen misplayed a grounder, allowing a runner to reach safely. Second baseman Billy Gilbert added another error in the sixth. There were no other baserunners in the game for Chicago as Mathewson came away with his second career no-hitter. Mathewson won 31 games in 1905 and added 3 complete-game shutouts in the World Series. 

On September 5, 1908, Superbas hurler Nap Rucker came close to perfection against the Boston Doves at Washington Park in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, three miscues by the Superbas spoiled Rucker's bid. He had 14 strikeouts that afternoon. The Superbas were terrible during Rucker's tenure with the club, prompting one writer to comment: "The fates have tied him up with an aggregation that has steadfastly refused to make a bid for championship honors." From 1907-1910, Rucker's won/loss record was above .500 only once though his earned run averages ranged from 2.06 to 2.58. He came close to a second no-hitter in 1911, pitching 8.2 hitless innings before yielding a single. 

On July 1, 1920, "The Big Train" was wheeling and dealing against the Red Sox and had mowed down 18 straight before the normally reliable Bucky Harris bungled a grounder, allowing Harry Hooper to reach base. Johnson retired every other batter he faced that day. A right-hander, Johnson used a sidearm delivery that made it difficult for opponents to pick up the movement of his pitches. Though his fastball was widely praised by contemporaries, it has been estimated that he probably threw in the low-nineties--average by today's standards. Johnson tossed a second no-hitter in 1924, but it was shortened by inclement weather.

On September 3, 1947, Little known right-hander Bill McCahan missed out on a perfecto at Shibe Park in Philadelphia when first baseman Ferris Fain made a throwing error, allowing Stan Spence of the Senators to reach safely in the second inning. None of Spence's teammates were as successful against McCahan that day. McCahan had a short career, winning 16 of 30 decisions over portions of three seasons. Fain lasted nine years in the majors and won two batting crowns. Prone to throwing difficulty at times, Fain was once instructed by A's manager Connie Mack to hang onto the ball after he fielded it. 
"What do you want me to do with the ball, stick it up my ass?" Fain replied sarcastically. 
"Well, Ferris," Mack dead-panned, "You'll have to admit it would be safer up there."

On June 27, 1980, Dodger shortstop Bill Russell made a first inning throwing error, allowing Jack Clark of the Giants to reach base. The play seemed inconsequential until starter Jerry Reuss retired the next 25 batters in order.  "I just threw it away. It's as simple as that," Russell said after the game. "Later I thought, 'There's nothing I can do about it now. He can't get a perfect game, so let's go for a no-hitter." Reuss was not upset with the way things turned out. "I just threw a no-hitter!" he said to reporters. "What could be bigger thrill?!"

On August 15, 1990, Mulholland set down 18 straight Giants hitters before Charlie Hayes made a poor throw on a Rich Parker grounder, pulling John Kruk off the bag at first. Mulholland finished with a no-hitter. He wasn't having a great year to that point, entering the game with a 6-6 record and 4.34 ERA. During warm-ups, he didn't feel as if he had good control. The Veterans Stadium crowd was chanting his name in the ninth when Hall of Famer Gary Carter ripped a hot liner to third base. Hayes handled it this time. "You can't realize what went through my mind when he caught that ball," said Mulholland. "It was such a rush of emotion." Mulholland's gem was the first no-hitter thrown at "the Vet."

On July 10, 2009, Sanchez was on his way to perfection against the Padres when Juan Uribe botched a routine grounder with one out in the eighth. Before that, Adrian Gonzalez had hit a deep fly to the warning track that had most fans holding their breath. Sanchez followed Uribe's muff with a wild pitch, allowing the runner to advance. In the end, he kept his no-hitter. After concluding a post game interview, Sanchez said "Dios es Grande." (God is big.)

An obvious candidate for a perfect game, Kershaw settled for a no-hitter on June 18, 2014 when a seventh inning throwing error by shortstop Hanley Ramirez gave the Rockies their only baserunner of the game. In a gesture of support, Kershaw picked Ramirez's hat up off the infield grass and handed it back to him. Kershaw struck out 15 and had a 3-ball count on only one of the Colorado batters he faced. He used 107 pitches in all. "I'm so amazed," he said. "It was just so much fun I can't explain it."    

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