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Baseball History: Pitching Accomplishments

Detroit Tigers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Plenty of things happened this week in baseball history, but now might be the perfect time to focus on pitching, as this week marked the 68th anniversary of Johnny Vander Meer’s second consecutive no hitter. Throwing two consecutive no hitters is one of the most incredible accomplishments in baseball history; no one else, of course, has ever done so. But Vander Meer was in the middle of a run that would be the envy of almost any pitcher. From May 27th-June 19th, he started six games, pitched all 55 innings (the first start went 10 innings) and allowed only four runs and only 17 hits. Opposing batters hit .096 off of him during the run. Never much of a control pitcher, Vander Meer did walk 24 batters, but still, this was dominant stuff.

The first of his no hitters had taken place in Cincinnati on June 11th, but when he took the mound at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on June 15th, history was already being made. It was the first night game in Ebbets Field history. Attendance was 38,748, or almost seven times higher than it had been in Cincinnati on the 11th, despite it being a weekday as opposed to the weekend game at Crosley Field. Vander Meer was effectively wild. He walked 8 and struck out 7. Only A.J. Burnett and Jim Maloney have walked more in a no hitter, and Maloney had 10 innings in his no hitter. In his next outing, in Boston, Vander Meer would throw three hitless innings before Debs Garms singled with one out in the fourth, bringing a string of 21 hitless innings to an end.

But Vander Meer would do other things this week in history. On June 16, 1941, despite being on his way to a 16 win season, Vander Meer never found the strike zone. He started the game by walking the first four hitters, and then was pulled without retiring a batter.

Maloney’s no hitter also took place this week in 1965.

This week in 1974, Nolan Ryan struck out 19 for the first of four times in his career. It took him 13 innings to do so, however, and his pitch count was certainly over 200. Pitch counts are unexact, but even if his strikeouts were all on three pitches and his walks were all on four, he would have thrown 125 pitches. Ryan was eventually pulled, and the Angels won in the 15th, walking off against Luis Tiant, who pitched a complete game for the Red Sox, and probably threw a lot fewer pitches than Ryan.

On June 16, 1976, Mark Fidrych threw his sixth consecutive complete game to start his career, the most in the expansion era. He threw 24 complete games in his rookie season, a ridiculous amount of overwork for his 21 year old arm, and he would be essentially done after the All Star break in 1977, with only 16 more career games spread over three seasons. His torn rotator cuff wouldn't be diagnosed correctly for eight years, so it was partially the fault of the doctors, but certainly the overwork didn’t help. Tragically, Fidrych died in an accident while working on his dump truck in 2009.

A couple of big moments for Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who was traded to the Reds this week in 1977, and then no-hit the Cardinals on June 16, 1978. While Seaver was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, he only threw one no hitter.

Matt Cain threw a perfect game this week in 2012.

Finally, some Diamondbacks history, although not of the good variety. Russ Ortiz was designated for assignment this week in 2006, and in 2005, the Diamondbacks became the first team since the Mets in 1969 to allow 10 runs in an inning in consecutive games. Those two bits of history are connected, as Ortiz started the first game on June 15th and allowed seven of the ten runs which scored in the sixth inning, as the White Sox turned a 6-2 deficit into a 12-6 lead. Claudio Vargas surrendered the other runs. After a travel day, Brad Halsey and Matt Herges combined to allow ten runs in the third inning in Cleveland.