10 things I didn’t know about one-hittersby Chris Jaffe
February 06, 2012
My last column here at THT was on the men least likely to break up a full-length (nine innings pitched or more) no-hitter by getting their team’s sole hit of the day. In all, I looked up nearly 1,000 games from 1919 onward to produce that list.
It was fun, but in the process I learned a whole bunch of other things about no-hitters. Rather than just sitting on them, I thought I’d share some of the most interesting items I came across about one-hitters. Ripping off the format Boss-man Studes pioneered for THT, allow me to present “10 things I didn’t know about one-hitters.”
1. Players who did it multiple times
In all, I have on hand 968 different one-hitters that lasted at least nine innings. Exactly 801 different players accounted for those hits.
663 guys did it only once in their careers. 114 did it twice. 21 did it three times. Only one guy, Don Blasingame, did it four times. And two guys—Cesar Tovar and Eddie Milner—did it five times.
Many players provided the game’s only hit for two different teams, but only two players have ever done it for three squads. Rico Brogna did it with the Mets, Phillies, and Red Sox. Jerry Hairston, Jr. did it with the Orioles, Cubs, and Reds.
(On a side note, Hairston is part of the one of the two father-son combos ever to score his team’s only hit, as Jerry Hairston, Sr. did it once in his career. So did Bob and Bret Boone). Ken Griffey, Jr. never did it, though his dad is one of the only men to do it three times. Speaking of family relations, two pairs of brothers have done it: Felipe and Matty Alou, and Vince and Joe DiMaggio).
Jerry Hairston, Jr.: well-traveled player with the knack for the well-timed hit.
Some of the guys who did it multiple times are among the greatest players of all time. Hall of Famers Enos Slaughter, Tony Gwynn, and Rickey Henderson each did it three times. Barry Bonds, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, and Robin Yount are among the guys who did it twice.
Still, some of these guys are pretty obscure. The guy with the fewest career hits to break up a no-hitter multiple times is Neil Walker, with 296 hits. Well, that hardly counts because he’s still an active player for Pittsburgh who promises to bop plenty more hits.
Aside from Walker, here are the fewest career hits by any of the 138 guys with the only hit in multiple one-hitters.
Name H Duffy Dyer 441 Skeeter Webb 498 Ronny Cedeno 522 Jamie Quirk 544 Goody Rosen 557 Mike Aldrete 565 Nelson Liriano 576 Gene Baker 590 Juan Castro 601 Sam Bohne 605Like Walker, Ronny Cedeno’s career isn’t over. Rather interestingly, they’re teammates on Pittsburgh. In fact, they are the team’s middle infielders, with Cedeno manning shortstop and Walker serving at second base.
Cedeno and Walker: 818 combined hits, yet four no-hitterss broken up
2. Eddie Milner and Cesar Tovar
Let’s look at the two men to do it five times each. First, here are the games they did it in:
Player Team Dat. Cesar Tovar MIN 4/30/1967 Cesar Tovar MIN 5/15/1969 Cesar Tovar MIN 8/10/1969 Cesar Tovar MIN 8/13/1970 Cesar Tovar TEX 5/31/1975 Eddie Milner CIN 4/28/1982 Eddie Milner CIN 6/11/1982 Eddie Milner CIN 8/24/1983 Eddie Milner CIN 6/14/1984 Eddie Milner CIN 8/2/1986The incredible one here is Milner. He provided the only hit in five different games despite only 607 career hits. If you ignore still-active players Walker and Cedeno, Milner has the 10th-fewest career hits among anyone with multiple one-hitter hits to his credit. The nine guys ahead of him all did it twice, yet Milner did it five times.
(If you’re curious, among guys who got the only hit in a one-hitter three times, the man with the fewest career hits is Dan Pasqua with 638 hits. As long as I’m mentioning Pasqua, he and Milner are the only ones to do it three consecutive seasons, 1991-93 for Pasqua).
There is no reason at all for Milner to be atop this list. He’s a career .253 hitter who appeared in 804 games. He played in the early 1980s, which was not a historically bad period for batting average. Yeah, he normally batted near the top of the order, which would help him a little, but that doesn’t explain why he did it five times. The ten men who are most like him according to Similarity Scores combined for one hit in one of these games. (Jim Delsing, Milner’s second-most similar player, did it once).
Two games are especially notable in Milner’s case. In the 1983 game, his hit came with two outs in the ninth, depriving a Cubs pitcher of a would-be no-hitter at the most heartbreaking of moments. At the other extreme, his June 11, 1982, hit came leading off the first against LA’s Jerry Reuss. After that, Reuss retired 27 consecutive batters, so it would’ve been a perfect game if not for Milner’s opening swing.
Tovar makes more sense than Milner atop the list. He had one 200-hit season and narrowly missed it another time in his 1,488-game career. Like Milner, one of Tovar’s games came leading off the first (against Washington’s Dick Bosman in 1970). Unlike Milner, Tovar twice saved his hit for the ninth inning. Both came in 1969, each against the Orioles (Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar, respectively).
3. Two in one year
Both Milner and Tovar did it twice in one year. They are among a select group of 23 players to do that since 1919. Here’s the full list of such players, and the year they did it.
Player Year Jimmie Foxx 1934 Bob Johnson 1937 Goody Rosen 1938 Ralph Kiner 1951 Stan Musial 1959 Don Blasingame 1963 Ed Bailey 1964 Jim Hickman 1965 Woodie Held 1965 Glenn Beckert 1968 Jim Northrup 1968 Cesar Tovar 1969 Ollie Brown 1971 George Scott 1975 RickeyHenderson 1979 John Mayberry 1980 Eddie Milner 1982 Tony Gwynn 1988 Nelson Liriano 1989 Jay Bell 1990 Rafael Palmeiro 1993 Brad Hawpe 2008 Michael Young 2009
No one ever did it three times in one campaign, but Jim Northup did it three times in 353 days from 1968-69. Jim Hickman wins the award for worst batting average, with a lowly .236 mark in 1965.
4. Smallest and biggest gaps
Of the 23 guys who did it in one year, a few did it in one week. The record-holder is Stan Musial. After doing it on April 18, 1959, he did it again just three days—and two games—later. Those were the only times he did it in his 20-plus year career.
That narrowly beats Nelson Liriano and Rickey Henderson, each of whom broke up no-hitters five days apart. Actually, Henderson is a strange one. After doing it twice in his rookie year, he waited a decade before doing it again for his third and final time. That ten-year gap is one of the longest ever.
But it’s not the longest. That title belongs to Ben Oglivie. As a young ’un with the Red Sox, he did it on Aug. 23, 1972, with an eighth-inning line-drive single against Kansas City. Almost 13 years later, on Aug. 2, 1985, an aging Oglivie bopped a fifth-inning homer for Milwaukee for what turned out to be their only hit against Frank Tanana and the Tigers.
5. Leading off the game
I can’t say exactly how many of the sole hits in one-hitters led off the game. Box scores aren’t available until 1950 (and not for all games until the early 1970s), but from 1950 onward, I found 27. The most recent example came from Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins last year on June 28.
Among the more notable ones, Pittsburgh’s Pete Castiglione led off a game with a triple against Sal Maglie on May 4, 1951, but that was it for the Pirates. Two players had leadoff homers in a one-hitter: Paul Molitor on July 14, 1991, and Bobby Adams on May 13, 1954.
The Adams homer came off Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. Three fellow Hall of Famers also allowed leadoff hits to spoil what was otherwise a no-hitter: Don Drysdale (May 25, 1965), Steve Carlton (April 25, 1972), and Nolan Ryan (June 3, 1989). The Drysdale game was the first one-hitter to have a leadoff hit in a decade.
6. Pinch hitters
There have been (at least) 21 pinch hitters who got the sole hit for their teams. The most recent example was the White Sox’s Juan Pierre, who got a line-drive single to start the bottom of the ninth against Ted Lilly of the Cubs on June 13, 2010.
Here’s a list of when they happened, including the inning the pinch hit occurred.
Guy Team Date Inning Pitcher Bobby Veach WSH 9/19/1925 ??? Ted Lyons Lew Riggs BRO 5/12/1942 6th Junior Thompson Bobby Avila CLE 5/11/1951 8th Joe Dobson George Crowe MLN 5/21/1955 9th Warren Hacker Chuck Harmon CIN 7/23/1955 9th Jim Hearn Ed Fitz Gerald WSH 6/27/1958 9th Billy Pierce Stan Musial STL 4/18/1959 7th Jack Sanford Julio Becquer WSH 7/4/1959 9th Bob Turley Walt Moryn CHC 4/16/1960 8th Sam Jones Cleon Jones NYM 9/11/1965 5th Tony Cloninger Charlie Moore MIL 9/2/1977 8th Paul Splittorff Terry Puhl HOU 4/16/1983 8th Charlie Lea Jerry Hairston CHW 4/15/1983 9th Milt Wilcox Jim Traber BAL 9/30/1988 9th Dave Stieb Ken Phelps OAK 4/20/1990 9th Brian Holman Bill Bean SDP 9/29/1993 9th Tim Pugh Dave Hansen CHC 4/10/1997 9th Alex Fernandez Bobby Higginson DET 9/27/1998 9th Ray Halladay Carl Everett BOS 9/2/2001 9th Mike Mussina Mike Sweeney KCR 8/31/2007 9th Scott Baker Juan Pierre CHW 6/13/2010 9th Ted Lilly
Ken Phelps had the most dramatic one, a pinch-hit home run with the pitch just one out from a perfect game. The Veach game was a 17-0 loss where the victorious White Sox rapped out 24 hits.
Juan Pierre: the man who ruined things for Ted Lilly in the Chicago Crosstown Classic.
7. Hall of Famers vs. Hall of Famers
Here’s another angle to take: How often has a one-hitter had a Hall of Famer get a hit off another Hall of Famer? To date, it’s happened 13 times.
Date Hitter Pitcher 5/23/1924 Harry Hooper Walter Johnson 5/26/1929 CharlieGehringr Red Faber 8/5/1934 Jimmie Foxx Lefty Gomez 5/21/1939 Bobby Doerr Bob Feller 6/27/1939 Earl Averill Bob Feller 9/26/1941 Rick Ferrell Bob Feller 7/31/1946 Bobby Doerr Bob Feller 9/8/1949 Lou Boudreau Hal Newhouser 5/12/1953 Early Wynn Whitey Ford 8/1/1953 Richie Ashburn Warren Spahn 9/5/1969 Tony Perez Phil Niekro 7/9/1972 CarlYastrzemski Nolan Ryan 7/13/1979 Reggie Jackson Nolan RyanFeller is the king of this category, and the Doerr-Feller combination is the only one I can find that happened more than once. In more recent times, the most impressive combination is Jeff Bagwell getting the only hit against Greg Maddux on May 28, 1995. Both could make Cooperstown. If Tim Hudson keeps pitching well, there might be another addition, as Frank Thomas got the sole hit off him on Aug. 28, 2000.
The Lou Boudreau hit off Hal Newhouser in 1949 belongs to an even more select group: player-managers who broke up no-hitters. Only that Boudreau game and a Jimmie Dykes hit on Aug. 3, 1934, are in that club.
8. By franchise
What franchise has been one-hit the most since 1919? It’s the Phillies with 61. That’s not too surprising as they’re the club with the most overall losses. The next-fewest by any pre-expansion franchise is the Indians with 31. That’s fewer than the Rangers (36) or Mets (33), who both have been around for only about 50 years. Heck, the Padres have been one-hit 27 times, and they’ve only existed since 1969.
Flipping it around, the Dodgers have thrown the most one-hitters of at least nine innings in length: 63. That narrowly beats out the Cubs, who have 60.
The Mets lead expansion franchises with 31. That must be a point of pride and frustration for the franchise. Pride because it’s so many—even more than the Pirates (29) who have been around forever. Frustration because, rather (in)famously, the Mets have yet to throw an actual, honest-to-goodness, officially sanctioned no-hitter.
Here’s a weird bit: The Rockies have been one-hit 18 times but have thrown only one full one-hitter. Four times they’ve been one-hit at Coors Field.
9. By date
There’s been a one-hitter on every single day from April 5 to Oct. 5—every day except one, that is. From 1919 onward, there are no one-hitters on Aug. 7. If anyone is curious, Vic Willis threw a no-hitter on that date back in 1899.
April 26 has by far the most one-hitters with 16. Second place in June 26 with a dozen. Bob Turley threw two one-hitters on April 26, the first in 1955 and the second in 1958. April 26, 2002, had two just on that day. There are about 40 times two teams threw one-hitters on the exact same day.
The all-time day is Aug. 29, 2000, when three teams threw one-hitters. All three were distinctive in their own way.
In one game, a John Flaherty single ruined what otherwise would have been a 13-strikeout Pedro Martinez no-hitter. If that game had a great pitcher, the second game saw a great hitter get the hit. Barry Bonds laced a first-inning single against Kris Benson in a Giants-Pirates contest. Finally, Milwaukee got two runs on one hit when James Mouton hit a two-run shot off LA’s Chan Ho Park (who fanned 14 batters in eight innings).
10. Long Yankee and Cub streaks without being no-hit
On June 11, 2003, the Houston Astros no-hit the Yankees, an impressive performance for several reasons, but for our purposes it was notable because it ended a then-record stretch of 45 years without the Yankees being no-hit. They went from a Hoyt Wilhelm no-hitter in September 20, 1958, until the 2003 interleague game without it happening.
How often had they just avoided being no-hit in between? Well, looking it up, in that era of no times no-hit, the Yankees were one-hit 23 times. In many of those games, the hits came early, including four times in the first inning. However, three times the Yankees waited until the ninth to finally get their hit.
On July 2, 1970, Horace Clarke got a single with one away in the ninth. Nearly a decade later, on July 13, 1969, Reggie Jackson also singled with one out in the ninth to get the only Yankee hit of the game.
But the real prize came back on April 14, 1967. In this game, the Yankees came one out from a no-hitter while facing a pitcher making his big-league debut. Boston’s Billy Rohr would win only three games in his career, but he sure had a memorable start, coming just an Elston Howard single away from a debut no-hitter.
Oh, but there's one great moment that must be mentioned. One of the times the Yankees were one-hit came in their last home game in 1968 when Mickey Mantle got their sole hit. That was Mantle's last game in Yankee Stadium. The hit itself wasn't dramatic—it was a first inning single—but it's still pretty cool that he got the team's only hit in his last home game.
That said, the Yankee mark of 45 years without getting no-hit has since been topped by the Cubs, who haven’t been no-hit since Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965. That’s 46 years and change without one. In that period they’ve been one-hit 21 times.
Twice they waited until the ninth to get their only hit. One is a fairly famous game. Tom Seaver took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Cubs on July 9, 1969, only to see Jim Qualls make sports trivia history by getting a one-out single (one of only 31 career hits for him).
The second game was the closest the Cubs came to being no-hit in the post-Koufax world, though. Against the Marlins on April 10, 1997, they also got their only hit with one out in the ninth, but on this occasion it was an infield grounder back to the pitcher by pinch-hitter Dave Hansen. A ninth-inning infield single is an odd way to avoid the no-hitter. It must’ve rattled Florida, as they followed it up with back-to-back errors but held on to win, 1-0.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.