Monday, September 15, 2008

History repeated -- nearly! (Corrected)

Ernie Koob -- May 5, 1917

Bob Groom -- May 6, 1917

Update/correction to what is posted below: Groom's no-hitter came in the second game of a doubleheader on May 6. So, there was one game (an 8-4 Browns victory) between the tainted no-hitter by Koob and the gem by Groom. So, the no-hitters came on consecutive days but not consecutive games. (An added note: Groom pitched two hitless innings to close that first contest of May 6, so he had 11 no-hit innings that day.) I have it right in the Red Faber biography; I just didn't read it carefully enough! Apologies!


The Chicago Cubs nearly made baseball history today by having a pitcher throw a no-hitter one game after a teammate tossed a no-no.

Sunday night, Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros in Milwaukee (where the teams were sent after Hurricane Ike prevented their series from being played in Houston).

This afternoon, Ted Lilly almost did it himself. He didn't surrender a hit until the start of the seventh inning, giving the Cub fans in Wrigley Field North plenty of time to consider the stunning possibilities. Then the Chicago relief corps held the Astros hitless, sending Houston on their way with a single hit in 18 innings of baseball.

Shortly after the game, someone at our Page One meeting asked whether a team ever had no-hitters in consecutive games.

My hours of research on Deadball Era baseball finally paid off. I told them about two members of the St. Louis Browns, who stymied the Chicago White Sox on consecutive days. I also mentioned the unusual feature of the first game, where the official scorer after the game changed a hit to an error, thus creating a belated no-hitter. The change occurred so late that morning newspapers across the U.S. reported it as a one-hitter. (I recalled that it was in the 1920s, but it occurred May 5 and May 6, 1917.) Ernie Koob was the beneficiary of the hometown scorer, 1-0, while Bob Groom the next day blanked the White Sox, 3-0.

No other team has ever had no-hitters in back-to-back games. Keep in mind, however, that this was during the Deadball Era, when low-scoring games were the norm. Koob and Groom were the third and fourth pitchers to throw no-hitters in a three-week period on 1917.

There was another no-hitter the following month -- where Babe Ruth issued a disputed walk, got himself immediately ejected by the umpire and watched Ernie Shore retire the next 27 batters in order for a no-hitter (and nearly a perfect game).

Until Zambrano on Sunday night, the last Cubs no-hitter occurred in September 2, 1972. Milt Pappas lost a perfect game on the 27th batter when umpire Bruce Froemming called Ball Four on a 3-2 pitch! Pappas settled down and retired the next hitter to "salvage" a no-hitter.

Wonder what the next Cubs starter, Ryan Dempster, will do Tuesday against the Brewers.

Photos: Bain Collection, Library of Congress


erik hogstrom said...

I am continually amazed by the small gloves of the dead ball era. Can you imagine if today's players were forced to use those small gloves for even one day?

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian, thanks for the info! Laura and I skipped school yesterday and drove up to the game. All 12,000 in the park collectively held their breath, waiting to see if E or H went up on the scoreboard in the 7th, E went up, all cheeered, only to be silenced minutes later. Laura and I were wondering on the way home if back-to-back NH's had ever been done! Thanks! Jane