No-Hitter Etiquette

Ten Years Ago Today: Armando Galarraga’s Would-Be Perfect Game

Ten years ago today gave us perhaps the most egregiously blown call in baseball history. With one out to go in a would-be perfect game, Tigers righty Armando Galarraga induced a soft tapper to the right side of the infield. First baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded it cleanly and fed the covering pitcher in time to beat the runner by a step.

Umpire Jim Joyce called him safe.

There were two primary reactions in the immediate aftermath. One was to blister Joyce over a terrible call. The other was to begin discussing, in depth and at length, the idea of universal instant replay.

Regarding the former, Joyce acquitted himself as well as anybody in his position might have. Upon watching a replay after the game, he tearfully proclaimed that “It was the biggest call of my career and I blew it,” and that “I cost that kid a perfect game.” Joyce apologized publicly, and Galarraga accepted. The class shown on both sides of the issue served as a beacon for those hopeful that grace and civility might be making a comeback to our society.

Oh well.

As for the latter reaction, instant replay was in use at that time, just not in a way that could have helped Galarraga. It had been implemented in 2008 with three express purposes: determining whether a ball was fair or foul; determining if a ball had left the playing field; and confirming possible fan interference on a home run. In 2014 the challenge system was implemented, and replay began to have significantly more effect. (I weighed in on the topic for The New York Times amid some pretty select company shortly after the game.)

My point at the time, which I reinforce now, is that there’s an unwritten-rules aspect to the call—this one covering umpires, not players—that could have prevented all of the ensuing trauma. Namely, that the first hit of a game must be clean.

It’s an easy one. Nobody—not the pitcher, not the opposition and especially not the umpire—wants a game to go into the books with the only hit allowed having been controversial … or, even worse, an incorrect call. This is especially pertinent late in the game, never mind with two outs in the ninth inning. Joyce himself said in the Detroit News that “This was a history call, nd I kicked the shit out of it.”

Had the runner that day, Jason Donald, actually beaten the throw by a half-step and been called out by Joyce, nobody would be talking about the call today.

At least it gives us some brief distraction while our country burns.

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

Rex Hudler Is Looking Out For Your Best Interests

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

Rex Hudler, who played for the Cardinals when Fernando Valenzuela no-hit them in 1990: “After the game, I walked up to out dugout and took the lineup card off the wall. The next day I had Fernando and some other players sign it. I wanted a keepsake.

“I had it professionally framed, with a photo of Fernando. I had it a long time. Years later, when I worked for the Angels, I asked Freddie, after he became a broadcaster, ‘Do you have anything from your no-hitter? The ball or anything?’ He said, ‘No, I have nothing.’

“I said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’ I went home, took the frame off the wall and brought it to the ballpark the next day. I gave it to him around the batting cage. Mickey Hatcher, Scioscia, all these ex-Dodgers had their names on it. I said ‘Fernando, come check this out.’

“Mike [Scioscia] was talking about how they pitched each of the guys. When we were done, Fernando gave it back to me, and I said ‘No, that’s for you and your family. I want you to have it.’

“He got all emotional and excited. The game means so much to us. It means our whole life, and you can only do it for such a short time. That’s why memories are so big.”

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

Pete Rose Knows All About Your No-Hitter

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

Oscar Gamble: “When Rick Wise threw that no-hitter, in about the sixth or seventh inning, Pete Rose realized what was happening. He was saying that he was going to break it up. ‘I’m coming back up. It’s gonna be broke up. I know you have a no-hitter going!’ He’d talk real loud and let him know. ‘I’m gonna break it up! I’m gonna break it up!’

“When he was playing third base he’d yell into their dugout: ‘I know he’s got a no-hitter—I’m coming up again and I’m going to break it up.’

“He did come up again, and ended up hitting a line drive … right to Mike Schmidt. He was a great player, and it felt like he was going to get a hit all the time, anyway.”

[Not only did Wise complete the no-no, but he hit two homers on the day in a 4-0 victory over Cincinnati.]

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

The Catcher Is Always Smarter

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

Brooklyn’s Rex Barney had just finished his seventh no-hit inning against the Cubs in 1949 when he bragged on the bench to Ralph Branca that he was going to complete the task.

Branca was incredulous that he’d even mention the event, at which point Barney explained that the only stout hitter he’d have to face over the final two frames was Phil Cavarretta. “If I get him out, they’re dead,” he said.

Cavarretta led off the eighth. Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella signaled for a first-pitch curveball, but Barney, figuring that Cavarretta would be taking, shook the catcher off and threw a fastball. Cavarretta rifled it through the right side for a clean single.

Barney finished the inning (and the game) without further incident, but as he was walking off the mound after the eighth, Campanella approached him. “Don’t ever shake me off again,” he said, “You know I’m smarter than you are.”

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

Don’t Applaud, Lad, Don’t Applaud

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

During Sandy Koufax’s no-hitter in 1963, San Francisco’s Felipe Alou hit a long fly ball that Tommy Davis had to catch on the run. Dodgers rookie Dick Calmus jumped up to applaud, which was entirely too much for coach Leo Durocher, who ordered him to sit back down.

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

When People Get Too Passionate, Things Can Go Sideways

From Deadspin, Aug. 5, 2006: “A caller to Yankee announcer Michael Kay’s radio show took Kay to task for mentioning Chien-Ming Wang’s in-progress perfect game during a broadcast.

According to the caller, it’s against ‘baseball etiquette’ to do such a thing, but Kay vehemently disagrees. So vehemently, in fact, that the conversation then moves on to American slavery, putting ‘people in the ovens.’ And then he calls someone else stupid and infantile.”

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

Words Of Warning

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

In the fifth inning of Shawn Estes’ would-be no-hitter with the Mets in 2002, the Shea Stadium scoreboard informed the crowd that Estes had pitched four career no-hitters in high school.

That was all it took. Shortly thereafter, Milwaukee’s Eric Young singled to center. “They’re not supposed to do that, are they?” asked Estes after the game.

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

Good Things Happen When Sizemore Plays Left Field

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

During Bob Gibson’s no-hitter in 1971, nobody in the St. Louis dugout said a word about it. However, second baseman Ted Sizemore, with a rare start in left field that night, mentioned that he’d had a similarly rare start in left while playing with the Dodgers a season earlier.

As it happened, Bill Singer tossed a no-hitter in that one.

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

Bert Blyleven Made Jim Sundberg Very Nervous

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

Bert Blyleven: “When I pitched my no-hitter in Anaheim, it was about the seventh inning and I hadn’t given up a hit yet. I was sitting there between the seventh and eighth inning, near my catcher, Jim Sundberg.

“I looked over at the scoreboard and said, ‘Jimmy, you know we got a no-hitter going?’ He just got up and walked away. Wouldn’t even talk to me. I don’t know why. I thought it was kind of funny. It kind of relaxed me a little bit, but it made Jimmy very nervous.

“I thought I had friends on a team until I got to a situation like that. I had numerous no-hitters that went into the sixth, seventh, eighth inning, and yeah—they leave you pretty much alone. But you know it. That’s just the way it is.”

No-Hitter Etiquette, Pandemic Baseball

No Jinx For Mustache Man

In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Talking during a no-hitter.

On the final day of the 1975 season, four A’s pitchers combined for a no-hitter. Rollie Fingers, the last of them, was tasked with pitching the final two innings.

Before the closer entered, his roommate, friend and consistent antagonist Ken Holtzman said to him, “Fingers, you’re going to blow it!”

Fingers, nonplussed, bet him a dinner that he was wrong.

After Fingers set down the side in order in the eighth without allowing a ball out of the infield, he asked whether Holtzman might like to raise the ante.

“No,” said Holtzman, “let’s just stick with this.”