Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Worst Way To Lose A No-Hitter (The Sequel)

On March 13, 2010, I wrote a piece called "The Worst Way For The Mets To Lose A No-Hitter", which I have copied and pasted below this piece for your reading enjoyment.  Of course, since that piece was written, Johan Santana has become the first Mets pitcher to actually record a no-hitter.  (In a delicious twist of irony, Santana was used in the aforementioned piece as the pitcher who lost a hypothetical no-hitter in the ninth inning.)

In the above scenario, Santana lost the no-hitter in the ninth inning as the 27th out was recorded, but the Mets still won the game.  But what if a pitcher was one out away from a no-hitter, then gave up a walk-off hit, losing his gem and the game simultaneously?  It's actually happened, and it occurred when the whole country was watching.

Floyd "Bill" Bevens
On October 3, 1947, the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers were playing in the fourth game of the World Series, with the Yankees holding a 2-1 series lead.  Floyd Clifford "Bill" Bevens (not to be confused with former Met Cliff Floyd, who has no Bevens blood in his family tree) was due to start Game 4 for the Yankees and was a little wild, to say the least.

Bevens walked two batters in the first.  He then walked one batter in the second and third innings, before finally recording a one-two-three inning in the fourth.  In the fifth inning, Bevens walked two more batters, allowing one of them to score after a sacrifice and a fielder's choice.  The walk party continued with another base on balls in the sixth and one more in the seventh, followed by his second one-two-three inning in the eighth.

Eight innings.  Eight walks.  But still no hits.  And Bevens was allowed to pitch the ninth inning, despite his wildness and the Yankees' slim 2-1 lead.

Bevens gave up a deep fly ball to Dodger catcher Bruce Edwards, the owner of ten major league home runs at the time.  Two outs to go.  Bevens then issued his ninth walk of the game, issuing ball four to Carl Furillo.  Spider Jorgensen then fouled out to first base.  One out to go.

Bill Bevens was the architect of 40 major league victories at the time but had never pitched a no-hitter.  In fact, no pitcher had ever thrown one in World Series history.  All that stood between him and baseball immortality was Pete Reiser.  Perhaps Bevens had this on his mind as pinch-runner Al Gionfriddo was taking his lead off first base.  A lead that grew.  And grew.  Hey, where did Gionfriddo go?  Oh, there he is!  Gionfriddo stole second.

With the tying run now on second, Bevens went against the unwritten baseball book that has a chapter on how one should never put the winning run on base intentionally.  Bevens filled the open base by issuing his tenth walk of the game, putting Reiser on first while Gionfriddo remained on second.

Ten walks.  Still no hits.  One out away from immortality.

Up stepped the veteran Cookie Lavagetto to pinch hit for second baseman Eddie Stanky.  Lavagetto had barely played in 1947, collecting only 18 hits in 69 at-bats during the regular season.  But with one swing of the bat, he removed the immortal tag from Bevens and placed it on himself.

Lavagetto ripped a double to right field, scoring both Gionfriddo and Reiser to give the Dodgers a 3-2 victory.  The walk-off hit would be the only hit surrendered by Bevens in the game.

Whereas most pitchers who lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth get a chance to redeem themselves after their near-miss, Bevens never got that chance.  He never started another game in the major leagues.  But although the no-hitter and the game was lost with one swing of the bat, Bevens did go out on top, as the Yankees rallied to win Game 7 and the World Series title.

Johan Santana lost a no-hitter in the hypothetical situation I wrote about two years ago (see that post below), but eventually pitched one non-hypothetically on June 1, 2012.  Bill Bevens almost became the first player to pitch a no-hitter in the World Series, but then lost one in the worst way, one that could've cost his team a championship.  He got his ring, but never got another chance.  I'm sure he thought about his near-miss with baseball immortality every day for the rest of his life.

(Here is the original piece that inspired this one, written two years before the date no Mets fan will ever forget.  Enjoy!)

The Worst Way For The Mets To Lose A No-Hitter

Every young boy with aspirations of being a major league pitcher dreams of tossing a no-hitter. The thrill of recording out #27 before giving up hit #1 is one of the biggest joys in sports. However, this thrill has never been felt by a New York Met.

The Mets are one of four teams to have never pitched a no-hitter. Two of the other three teams are recent expansion teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies). The other team is the San Diego Padres, who came into existence in 1969. The closest they came to a no-no was in 1972, when Steve Arlin's bid was broken up by the Phillies' Denny Doyle with two outs in the ninth inning. That's closer than any Mets pitcher has come.

Of the 33 one-hitters thrown by Mets pitchers (two of the 33 were of the rain-shortened variety), only two were no-hitters entering the ninth inning. Both were thrown by The Franchise, Tom Seaver, and both were broken up with one out in the ninth inning. Jimmy Qualls of the Chicago Cubs broke up Seaver's perfect game bid with a one-out single on July 9, 1969 and the Padres' Leron Lee singled to break up Seaver's no-hitter on July 4, 1972. Since then, the longest any Mets pitcher has carried a no-hitter is 7 2/3 innings.

Both Tom Glavine and John Maine had their bids for baseball immortality dashed with two outs in the eighth inning. Glavine's 2004 bid was broken up with a double into the right field corner by Rockies' catcher Kit Pellow and Maine's 2007 no-no ended when Marlins' catcher Paul Hoover hit a slow roller to third reminiscent of the excuse-me single hit by the Cubs' Keith Moreland to break up Dwight Gooden's no-hitter in 1984. (Side note: This Studious Metsimus blogger was present at the Glavine and Maine games. There is no truth to the rumor that I turned to my neighbor and said "do you think we'll finally see a no-hitter today?" in each game's eighth inning.)

As seen by the above examples, the Mets have lost no-hitters late in games by hard-hit line drives and little dribblers. But what would be the worst way for the Mets to lose a no-hitter? Studious Metsimus has the answer.

Say Johan Santana is mowing down the Phillies and becomes the first Mets pitcher not named Tom Seaver to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. (What, did you expect it to be Maine or Perez? Neither of them is capable of pitching into the ninth inning, let alone carrying a no-hitter into the ninth.) Santana retires Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco to start the ninth inning, making him the first Mets pitcher to come within one out of a no-hitter.

The next batter is Chase Utley, but he draws a walk. The Phillies now have a baserunner, but the no-hitter is still intact as Ryan Howard steps up to the plate. Howard hits a routine grounder towards Luis Castillo that appears to be the third out of the inning, but the ball hits Utley as he's running to second base. The umpires immediately call Utley out for being hit by a batted ball in fair territory and the game is over.

Could it be? Has Johan Santana become the first pitcher in Mets history to toss a no-hitter? The players on the field seem to think so, as they're celebrating with Johan on the mound. But let's borrow the Major League Baseball Official Rule Book from the official scorer and take a look at two rules.

  • Rule 7.08 (f): Any runner is out when he is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has been touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance.

  • Rule 10.05 (a) (5): The official scorer shall credit a batter with a base hit when a fair ball that has not been touched by a fielder touches a runner or an umpire, unless a runner is called out for having been touched by an Infield Fly, in which case the official scorer shall not score a hit.

While Johan Santana and his Merry Men were all celebrating his apparent no-hitter, the official scorer noticed that Utley had been called out because he was touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball was touched or passed Castillo (Rule 7.08 (f)). By Rule 10.05 (a) (5), the official scorer had to give Ryan Howard a base hit since there was no Infield Fly involved when the ball hit Utley.

Therefore, at the exact moment Johan Santana recorded the 27th out of the game, he also lost his no-hitter. Imagine the shock on his face when the scoreboard flashed the "1" in the hit column. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose would have been sick to their stomachs. If Bob Murphy were still alive, he'd be spinning in his grave while saying "and Santana loses the damn no-hitter", Ron Darling would have analyzed how losing a no-hitter this way would affect Santana's psyche and Keith Hernandez would have said that we shouldn't have female official scorers.

The Mets will pitch a no-hitter ... someday. But I wouldn't be surprised if they lost one in the way detailed above before they actually completed one.

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