By Dan Schlossberg
Major League Baseball needs to get its act together. It can’t keep denying no-hitters to teams and pitchers who earned them.
In a sport that has more than its fair share of radical rules changes in recent seasons, sticking to the 1991 decision that discredited dozens of no-hitters makes no sense.
Officially, there have been 273 no-hitters in baseball’s Modern Era (since 1901). But there were actually many more, since no-hitters shortened by weather, darkness, power failure, seven-inning games during Covid-era doubleheaders, or marathon games that went into extra innings before the first hit was recorded all fell victim to the 1991 ruling.
So did four games — including one this week — in which home teams went hitless but won because they outscored opponents and thus did not need to bat in the bottom of the ninth.
How could the 12-inning perfect game by Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix in 1959 not count as a no-hitter? Ditto the 1995 game in which future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez pitched nine perfect innings for the Montreal Expos before Mel Rojas relieved and yielded a double to the first San Diego batter in the ninth.
Like Martinez, Madison Bumgarner was denied a no-hitter through no fault of his own on April 25, 2021. He no-hit Atlanta for seven innings, got credit for a complete game and shutout, but not a no-hitter. The same seven-inning rule deprived the Tampa Bay Rays of a five-man shutout of the Cleveland Indians on July 7.
That’s too bad because the Indians, now known as the Guardians, were victimized a record three times by regulation no-hitters last year. The July 7 game would have been the fourth.
On April 22 of this year, seven Tampa Bay pitchers beat the Boston Red Sox, 3-2, after holding them hitless into the 10th. Another nine-inning no-hitter cancelled because the game did not end at that point.
Then, on May 15, sensational Reds rookie Hunter Greene and reliever Art Warren did not allow a hit but still managed to lose a 1-0 game to the Pittsburgh Pirates. They did not get credit for a no-hitter because the Pirates did not need to bat in the home ninth.
That seem scenario unfolded five times previously in major-league history (we’re talking about you, Andy Hawkins!).
Recognizing no-hitters erased by the 1991 ruling would be a great impetus toward restoring the integrity of baseball, which has taken dozens of hits during the Rob Manfred years.
It would mean putting a no-hitter on the resume of Pedro Martinez, who never hit one that fit the confines of the ruling but did hold hitters to a microscopic .196 average from 1997-2003.
Roger Clemens struck out 20 men in nine-inning games twice en route to 354 wins, second only to Greg Maddux among living pitchers. But, like Martinez, he never had a nine-inning no-hitter. Neither did Maddux, Tom Glavine, or John Smoltz.
Even the great Grover Cleveland Alexander, who ranks second on the career shutout list with 90, never held a rival team hitless over nine innings.
In a game that seems to tinker with everything from regular-season scheduling to post-season play, it’s time for the no-hitter to return to its historic role as a great baseball tradition. Just because a Sad Sam Jones no-hitter for San Francisco on Sept. 26, 1959 was stopped by rain after seven innings is no reason to deny the gem.
As for Harvey Haddix, The Kitten must be howling in frustration.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch and author of co-author of 40 baseball books. He’s been making the rounds of libraries, civic clubs, and anywhere else that wants a baseball historian to speak. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.