As the crowd filed into Arizona’s Bank One Ballpark on June 25, 1999, many likely hoped that they’d see a great pitching performance. Why shouldn’t they? After all, on the mound that day was one of the most dominating hurlers in history.
Randy Johnson was in his first year in the desert, but everyone knew how good he was. He’d led the AL in strikeouts four straight times with the Mariners. When Johnson came to the NL in a trade to Houston in mid-1998, he destroyed the league, posting a 10-1 record with a miniscule 1.28 ERA.
So far he hadn’t been as otherworldly brilliant with Arizona, but still had a 9-3 record with a 3.36 ERA. With a guy like Johnson, there was no telling what could happen when he stepped on the mound.
And certainly he should get another win on this day. Up against him was maybe the worst starting pitcher in all baseball, St. Louis’ Jose Jimenez. The 25-year-old rookie was suffering through a brutal season, with a 6.69 ERA so far. Somehow he’d won three games, but that was alongside seven losses.
Sure enough, the fans would see a great pitching performance from Johnson, but improbably they’d see an even better one from Jimenez. Johnson was nearly unhittable, but Jimenez one-upped him with one of the least likely no-hitters of all-time.
Arizona was a heckuva team that year. The D-backs won 100 games, and while Johnson was a big part of that, their offense was an even bigger part. They led the league in runs scored, with 908. Sure they played in a hitter’s park, but that was nearly 100 runs over an average team. Besides, today’s game was at the hitter’s park, so it should be especially hard to shut them down.
Yet shut them down Jimenez did. They had all their regular starters in the lineup, but they couldn’t do a thing. Three men reached base all day against Jimenez, on two walks and a hit-by-pitch. Both walkers were immediately erased on double plays. Arizona’s best “rally” of the day came in the third inning, when number eight hitter Andy Fox received a one-out HBP and advanced to second when Johnson weakly bounced one back to the pitcher. Fox advanced no further.
Jimenez didn’t have to rely too much on his defense, either. Oh, they helped—but Jimenez fanned eight batters on the day. Jimenez forced an array of grounders, almost all to the right side of the infield. Nearly half the balls in play went to either Mark McGwire at first base or Joe McEwing at second. Shortstop Edgar Renteria fielded the ball just once all day, as did third baseman David Howard.
For much of the game, though, it wasn’t clear that Jimenez would get the win, even if he prevented Arizona from getting any hits. That’s because Johnson was arguably even more dominating that Jimenez.
Did Jimenez have a no-hitter going? So did Johnson for the first three frames. While that ended with a leadoff double in the fourth by McEwing, Johnson had already fanned five guys in a row before then—and proceeded to whiff McGwire to strand McEwing in scoring position.
Entering the ninth, the game was still 0-0. Johnson had allowed just two hits and no other base runners. Oh, and he’d fanned 12.
Make it 13, as Johnson whiffed McEwing to lead off the top of the ninth. However, Johnson was tiring. He walked the next two batters, the second man getting a free pass on just four pitches. Well, maybe he was just pitching around that guy—it was McGwire, after all. And Johnson quickly recovered to blow away Eric Davis on three pitches. He was now one out from a scoreless ninth, but it was not to be. Thomas Howard snaked a single to left and the lead runner came around to score. In an empty consolation prize, the D-backs nailed McGwire trying to advance to third, ending the inning, but St. Louis now led, 1-0.
That’s all Jimenez needed. A strikeout, a flyout to right (just the fifth defensive play by a St. Louis outfielder all day), and a ground out to second ended the game—and gave Jimenez a no-hitter.
In a strange coda, this game proved to be a bizarre sign of things to come. This was the first of four consecutive shutout losses Johnson suffered. He’d fan 54 batters in 32 innings with a 1.41 ERA—and an 0-4 record. Arizona’s offense got a little better each game—from a no-hit game, to a one-hit performance, then two hits, and finally three hits. Yes, really. Oh—and Jimenez threw the two-hitter, too. It turned out to be his second and last career complete game.
His first one was, of course, the no-hitter. And that was 5,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since Cubs pitcher Carlos Silva improves his record to an unlikely perfect mark of 8-0.
1,000 days since the Brewers cut Jeff Suppan.
3,000 days since Seattle signs free agent Richie Sexson.
3,000 days since Major League Baseball suspends all Nationals merchandise/tickets sales due to a vote the day before by the Washington city council saying half the funding for a new stadium must come from the private sector.
4,000 days since Phillies manager Larry Bowa receives a one-game suspension for his conduct toward umpires in a spring training game.
6,000 days since Mike Greenwell appears in his final game.
8,000 days since Sammy Sosa’s first of 69 multi-home run games.
9,000 days since Terry Steinbach defeats the NL, 2-1 in the All-Star Game. His solo home runs and sacrifice fly drive in both of the AL’s runs, which is ironic given that some commentary before the game was about how Steinbach didn’t really belong on the team.
10,000 days since the Cardinals clinch the 1985 NL pennant with a 7-5 win in Game Six over the Dodgers. They rallied from a 4-1 deficit after six innings, and scored thrice in the top of the ninth to take the lead.
40,000 days since a train containing the Browns and Indians derails in Ohio. No one dies, but three are injured, including Cleveland star Nap Lajoie, who sprains his knee.
1860 Hall of Famer Monte Ward is born. He won 164 games as a pitcher before converting to a successful position player, getting over 1,000 hits. Oh, he founded the players league, which lasted just one year (1890). Rather well rounded, don’t you think?
1872 Hall of Fame left fielder Wee Willie Keeler is born. He set a record with eight straight 200-hit seasons.
1894 Ned Williamson, star 1880s third baseman, dies. He’s just 36 years old.
1905 Stump Wiedman, 1880s pitcher, dies at age 44. He was 101-156 in his career, mostly due to terrible run support. He led the NL with a 1.80 ERA in 1881, but five years later his 12-36 record paced the league in losses (and also hits allowed, 549, and earned runs allowed – 215).
1932 Ed Morris, pitcher, dies at age 32 from knife wounds he received two days earlier at a party given his in his honor. He has a 42-45 career record.
1946 The Browns sign former Cardinals star Joe Medwick.
1949 Jesse Jefferson is born. If you’re in my generation, you might remember him as the Blue Jays pitcher with all those horrible win-loss records on the back of his baseball card: 9-17 in 1977, 7-16 in 1978, and 2-10 in 1979. It was mostly terrible offensive support, but he wasn’t much of a pitcher.
1953 The Boston Braves block an attempt by the St. Louis Browns to move to Milwaukee. Soon, the Braves will claim it as their own town.
1953 Former base-stealing star Clyde Milan dies at age 65. He stole 495 bases, including 88 in 1912 and 75 in 1913, leading the league both times.
1960 Neal Heaton is born. He’ll have a mostly forgettable career as a pitcher, but does make the 1990 All-Star team with the Pirates, thanks to a 10-4 first half with a 3.47 ERA. He’ll go just 2-5 in the second half, despite a 3.42 ERA. (Just eight starts and a half-dozen relief appearances after the All-Star break, though).
1968 Scott Radinsky, quality southpaw reliever for the White Sox and Dodgers, is born.
1977 Former player Stubby Overmire dies at age 57. He was a swingman pitcher for the 1940s Tigers.
1980 Jerry Priddy, former player, dies at age 60. The AL second baseman received some token support in MVP voting four times from 1943 to 1950, though was never named to an All-Star team.
1984 Baseball owners select Peter Uerberroth as the new baseball commissioner.
1987 Danny Kaye, entertainer and part-owner of the Seattle Mariners, dies.
1991 The Dodgers sign amateur free agent Roger Cedeno.
1994 Darryl Strawberry comes under IRS investigation.
1997 Billy Jurges dies at age 88. The former third baseman was part of three Cubs pennant winners in the 1930s.
1998 Former Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse undergoes surgery to remove a tumor from the lining of his brain.
1999 Moises Alou undergoes surgery to repair left knee ligaments. He injured himself while trying to adjust the speed of his treadmill in the Dominican Republic. He’ll miss most of the season.
2006 It’s the first ever World Baseball Classic game. South Korea tops Taiwan, 2-0.
2010 The Dodgers sign free agent Garret Anderson.