By Glen Sparks
Kenny Rogers tossed a perfect game on this date in 1991. The Texas Rangers left-hander struck out eight and threw 98 pitches in setting down all 27 California Angels hitters at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Rogers’ perfecto was the 12th in the major leagues since 1900. The Montreal Expos’ Dennis Martinez threw his perfect game, the 11th of the modern era, exactly three years before Rogers. He beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 at Dodger Stadium.
Now, 21 perfect games have been thrown since 1900, the most recent by Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 15, 2012. July 28 is the only date that has two perfect games on its ledger. (May is the most popular month, seven.)
In honor of July 28 being a perfect day of sorts for perfect games, I’m posting a perfect trivia package. You can read about some of the greatest-pitched games in MLB history. You’ll find 21 bullet points below, in honor of the 21 complete games of the modern era (1900 and after).
- The Boston Americans’ Cy Young threw the first post-1900 perfect game. He beat the Philadelphia A’s 3-0 on May 5, 1904, at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston.
- The Chicago White Sox’ Charlie Robertson threw his perfect game in just his fifth career appearance, April 30, 1922. Robertson’s won-loss percentage of .380 (49-80) is the lowest of any perfect-game pitcher.
- Jim Bunning’s perfect game on June 21, 1964, for the Philadelphia Phillies was the first of the modern era in the National League.
- Sandy Koufax and Matt Cain recorded the most strikeouts in a perfect game, 14. Addie Joss recorded the fewest, three. (Ed Walsh struck out 15 for the Chicago White Sox that day against Joss’s Cleveland Naps.)
- Six Hall of Famers have thrown perfect games in the modern era (Young, Joss, Jim Bunning, Koufax, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Randy Johnson).
- Young, of course, has the most wins of any perfect-game pitcher, 511. Philip Humber has the fewest, 16 and counting).
- The New York Yankees’ Don Larsen threw the most famous perfect game in MLB history, Oct. 8, 1956, in Game 2 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He went with a no-windup delivery throughout the game. Talk about a bounceback start. Larsen went just 1 2/3 innings in his Game 2 start and gave up one hit, four walks, and four unearned runs.
- Baseball went more than 34 years between Robertson’s perfect game (April 30, 1922) and Larsen’s (Oct. 8, 1956). Conversely, baseball waited less than three weeks between Dallas Braden’s perfect game (May 9, 2010) and Roy Halladay’s (May 29, 2010).
- Records do not indicate how many pitches that Young hurled in his perfect game. Of the others, Joss threw the least, 74, and Cain threw the most, 125.
- Koufax has the most no-hitters of any of the pitchers, four. (In case you’re wondering, the fewest walks that Nolan Ryan gave up in any one of his seven no-hitters was two. He did that three times.)
- Talk about pressure. Six perfect games have ended 1-0. Four have ended 2-0. Cain’s game was the biggest blowout, 10-0 against the Houston Astros.
- In Koufax’s perfect game, opposing pitcher Bob Hendley of the Chicago Cubs gave up just one hit in his complete-game effort, to Lou Johnson in the seventh inning. The Dodgers scored their lone run in the fifth inning. Johnson walked, went to second on a sacrifice bunt, stole third and scored on an error by Cubs catcher Chris Krug.
- Bunning threw his no-hitter on Father’s Day (June 21, 1964). Braden threw his on Mother’s Day (May 9, 2010).
- Hunter was the youngest pitcher to throw a modern-day no-hitter, 22 years, 30 days. Johnson was the oldest, 40 years, 256 days.
- Tom Browning’s perfect game on Sept. 16, 1988, came against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that went on to the win the World Series, the only time that has happened.
- Mike Witt threw his perfect game on the last day of the regular season for the California Angels.
- David Wells graduated from Point Loma High School in San Diego, the same high school as Larson.
- They could swing the bat, too. Hunter (3 RBI), Bunning (2) and Young (1) all drove in runs in their perfect games.
- 2012 was a perfect year. Three pitchers threw perfect games in 2012—Humber (Apri 21), Cain (June 13) and Felix Hernandez (Aug. 15).
- Pitchers have thrown three perfect games against the Tampa Rays (also, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays). They also have thrown three against the Dodgers, who have been around a little longer.
- The Yankees have the most perfect games (Larson, Wells and David Cone).
By Glen Sparks
Only a single off the superbly nicknamed Louis Nelson “Chicken” Hawks kept Dazzy Vance from throwing back-to-back no-hitters in the late summer of 1925.
Vance tossed his no-no for the Brooklyn Robins (forerunner of the Dodgers) on Sept. 13 at Ebbets Field. He beat the Philadelphia Phillies 10-1 in the first game of a doubleheader. The Brooklyn ace, and reigning National League Most Valuable Player, struck out nine batters and walked one. The Phillies scored a run on two Brooklyn errors and a sacrifice fly. Milt Stock and Jimmy Johnson led the Brooklyn offense, with three RBI apiece.
Just a few days before his no-hitter, on Sept. 8, Vance had tossed a one-hitter against those very same Phillies, also at Ebbets Field. In that start, Vance only got the bare minimum of support. He beat Philly 1-0 in a pitching duel with Ray Pierce. Jack Fournier knocked in the Robins’ only run, scoring Stock in the fourth inning on a base hit.
Dazzy didn’t walk anyone and struck out six. Chicken Hawks, batting fifth in the order, singled with one out in the second inning. (Thank you to baseball-reference.com for providing details about these games. You can go there to check out box scores from games in 1914 to the present day. Awesome.)
Hawks, who was erased on a caught stealing, finished the game 1-for-3. The first baseman from San Francisco batted .322 in 1925, his second and final year in the majors. Hawks broke in with the New York Yankees as a 25-year-old rookie in 1921 and hit a respectable .288 in 73 at-bats. The first baseman from San Francisco spent most of his long playing career in the minor leagues, in California and on the east coast.
Following his two great starts, Vance raised his won-loss record to 22-8 and lowered his ERA to 3.32. He extended his no-hit streak to 16 innings until giving up a first-inning single to Max Carey of the Pittsburgh Pirates in his next start.
The 6-foot-2-inch right-hander from America’s heartland (born in Iowa, raised in Nebraska) finished the 1925 campaign with a 22-9 mark and 3.53 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts, something he did every from 1922 through 1928, with 221 and in shutouts with four. Dazzy retired after the 1935 season with a 197-140 career won-loss record and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.
Johnny Vander Meer, of course, is the only pitcher in Major League history to toss back-to-back no-hitters. He did it in 1938 for the Cincinnati Reds. Besides Vance and Vander Meer, the only other pitchers to throw back-to-back shutouts, allowing one or fewer total hits are:
Howard Ehmke, 1923 for the Boston Red Sox
Jim Tobin, 1944 for the Boston Braves
Max Scherzer, 2015 for the Washington Nationals
Congratulations to this select group of pitchers for being back-to-back magnificent.
By Glen Sparks
James Vaughn pitched quite well for a man named “Hippo.”
The left-hander from Weatherford, Texas, won 178 games in his 13-year big league career. He fashioned a 2.49 ERA (119 ERA+) and tossed 41 shutouts. Many fans of baseball history know him for being on the losing end of a so-called “double no-hitter.”
Vaughn, born on this date in 1888, did most of his best work with the Chicago Cubs. He went 151-105 in nine seasons on the north side. Conversely, he compiled just a 27-32 won-loss record in five seasons with the New York Highlanders (forerunner of the Yankees) and Washington Senators.
The Highlanders discovered Vaughn while he was pitching for Temple in the hot, dusty Texas League. Scouts liked the way the youngster chucked fastballs and fooled hitters. Vaughn tossed a couple of major league innings in 1908, hurled a minor-league no-hitter in 1909 and put together a solid 1910 season on the big club. His 13-11 record barely told the story. He added a 1.83 ERA (159 ERA+) and five shutouts to that.
New York figured it had a star. But, the star faded fast. Vaughn followed up with an 8-10 year in 1911 and an unfavorable 4.39 ERA (82 ERA+). He split 1912 as a Highlander and Senator, going 6-11 with a 3.88 ERA (90 ERA+).
Washington sent Vaughn to Chicago. And, things really clicked. Vaughn turned into one of the game’s top lefties. He won at least 20 games five times as a Cub and 19 games once. In 1918, he led the National League in wins (22), ERA (1.74), ERA+ (159), shutouts (eight) innings pitched (290.1) and strikeouts (148). Vaughn also led the NL in innings pitched (306.2) and strikeouts (141) in 1919.
Vaughn’s most famous game came two seasons before, May 2, 1917, at Weeghman Park, the original name for Wrigley Field. Vaughn hooked up with Fred Toney of the Cincinnati Reds. Both pitchers threw nine innings of no-hit ball. Vaughn had struck out 10 and walked two through nine. With one out in the 10th, the Reds’ Larry Kopf broke up the no-no with a single to right-field. Kopf ended up scoring, and Toney and the Reds prevailed 1-0. (Toney retired the side in order in the bottom of the 10th inning to preserve his no-hitter. Vaughn’s game is no longer considered a no-hitter, as it once was. It remains, though, the only big league game when both starters completed nine innings without giving up a hit.)
Through the years, the Cubs counted on Vaughn to win big games. And, Vaughn was a big guy. They didn’t call him “Hippo” for nothing. Svelte he was not. Baseball-reference.com lists Vaughn at a rock-solid 6-feet-4, 215 pounds, good size for an NFL quarterback of today and larger-than-life for a big-league pitcher in the World War I era. Some sources say Vaughn checked in at almost 300 pounds near the end of his productive career.
Vaughn retired after losing a game July 9, 1921 and falling to just 3-11 with a 6.01 ERA. It was his only bad season in Chicago. The problem is, Hippo didn’t hold a press conference to call it quits. He just left. The Cubs suspended Hippo; so did Commissioner/Baseball Czar Kennesaw Mountain Landis.
Things just got worse for Vaughn. His wife reported him missing. She called the police. The couple’s son, “Little Hippo,” missed his dad. Could the police please find the man, Mrs. Vaughn asked. Actually, Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn had planned to go their separate ways. Hippo had accused his wife of being unfaithful. Harry Debold defended his daughter’s honor by stabbing his son-in-law outside a bar in Kenosha, Wisc. Hippo quickly and quietly recovered from his wounds.
Following his career in the majors, Hippo began pitching semi-pro ball. He did this for years. In the majors, he won 178 games. He came out on top 223 more times in the minors and in semi-pro leagues, giving him 401 total victories.
He left baseball at age 49 to become a refrigerator assembler in Chicago and died May 29, 1966. Vaughn never garnered any Hall of Fame support. Still, he remains one of the greatest pitchers in Cubs history. He was awfully good for a “Hippo.”