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BLI''S 100 Years....100 Duels: Numbers 49 to 40




Number 49- Mike Cuellar (BAL) vs. Nolan Ryan (CAL) July 19, 1973

 


There has been one pitcher in MLB history to throw back-to-back no-hitters, that being Johnny Vander Meer in the summer of 1938. There have only been six pitchers in MLB history to throw two no-hitters in one season: the aforementioned Johnny Vander Meer as well as Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks, contemporary pitchers Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer and the author of seven career no-hitters, Nolan Ryan.

 

To this day no MLB pitcher has ever thrown three no-hitters in a season and no pitcher likely ever will. However, on July 19, 1973, the incomparable, Nolan Ryan, came as close as any pitcher had ever come to both matching Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters and throwing three no-no’s in a season.  For seven innings Ryan had completely dominated the Baltimore Orioles and was just six outs away from achieving the improbable when the most unlikely of batters spoiled Ryan’s no-hit bid with a bloop single to short center. The hard-luck Ryan would not only lose the no-hitter but he’d also eventually lose the game in extra-innings as his team was mesmerized by his antithesis- the soft-tossing crafty lefty, Mike Cuellar, in our 49th ranked pitcher’s duel.

 

The hype surrounding Ryan’s scheduled start against the Orioles and Cuellar that day was ardent. Four days earlier Ryan had no-hit the Detroit Tigers, striking out 17 batters in the process in what was dubbed at the time as “the most over-powering no-hitter ever pitched in the majors (119).” Exactly two months to the day prior to his Detroit no-no, Ryan was almost as dominating when he struck out 13 Kansas City Royals for the first of his seven career no-hitters.

 

“Can Ryan do it Again?” was the Associated Press (AP) headline appearing in the newspapers the day of Ryan’s anticipated start versus the Orioles. The AP was asking the question that was on the mind of most baseball fans- would Ryan become just the second pitcher in history to throw back-to-back no-hitters and in doing so, become the first MLB pitcher to throw three no-no’s in a season? With respect to the former, famed odds-maker, James Snyder, aka “Jimmy the Greek,” pegged Ryan’s chances at 400 to 1 to throw back to back no-hitters. “With some pitchers the chances are 250,000 to 1 against throwing a no-no (120),” the Greek was quoted as saying. Ryan though wasn’t just “some pitcher” in 1973. By then the flame-throwing Ryan had become the most feared pitcher in baseball and was in the process of putting up a historical season thanks to an overpowering fastball complimented by a sensational curve.

 

“Faster than instant coffee (121),” is how Oakland Athletics’ outfielder and 1973 AL MVP, Reggie Jackson, described Ryan that season. “Wall to wall heat…He’s the only one who ever made me feel fear at the plate (122).” Jackson’s teammate, Sal Bando, concurred. “The last time I faced him (Ryan), he threw me one pitch I didn’t even see (123).” Ryan’s catcher at the time, Jeff Torborg, who had the privilege of catching Los Angeles Dodger legend, Sandy Koufax, compared the two pitchers’ fastball.  Torborg:  “When I caught Nolan this spring, the first thing that struck me was I’d never expected to catch anybody that fast again. But Nolan is about that fast. I got a bone bruise on his third pitch of the game the other night. The last time that happened was when I caught Koufax in his perfect game (124).”

 

A Young Nolan Ryan With the Mets

Of course Ryan had always thrown hard which was the main reason the New York Mets originally drafted him. However, once he was dealt to the Angels by the Mets during the 1971 offseason, Ryan became a complete pitcher for several reasons; the first being an improvement in his control.

 

“Three-and-nothing Ryan (125),” is what some had called Ryan during his time in New York. Dodger great Maury Wills once said, “You can’t hit his fastball, fortunately; you don’t have to (126),” alluding to Ryan’s inability to consistently throw strikes. Indeed, in Ryan’s 105 games pitched for the Mets he averaged approximately 6 walks per nine innings, the highest in the majors by nearly two. In ’71, his last season in New York, Ryan walked just under seven batters per nine innings, his highest walk rate since his brief call-up in 1966.

 

However, shortly after arriving in California, Ryan’s control began to steadily improve. In ’72, his first season with the Angels, Ryan cut his walk rate down to five per nine innings. In ’73 it was down to 4.5. The main reason for Ryan’s improved control was simply reducing velocity i.e. taking something off of his fastball. “When I was a kid I had a good fastball and I wasn’t forced to throw to spots. I just reared back and let it go (127),” Ryan explained. “But when I got to the big leagues, I had problems. You can’t consistently get the fastball by these people. So I started trying to put more on the ball and I really got wild. I didn’t know about pitching then (128).”

 

Ryan pointed to a start in April of ’72 against, ironically enough, the Baltimore Orioles, as a turning point in his career. In that start Ryan lasted just 2+ innings. In the third inning he walked the bases loaded without registering an out before finally being pulled. In his three starts that month Ryan had walked 11 batters in 13 innings and was on the verge of being removed from the rotation. “We’ll decide within the next few days if Nolan will stay in the rotation (129),” Angels’ manager, Del Rice, stated after the Baltimore game. “We can’t keep him there if he’s going to walk five or six every time (130).”

 

Ryan was slated to make his next start against the Yankees in New York but the game had been rained out. Ryan though took advantage of the off-day. Under the Yankee Stadium stands Ryan threw for approximately 30 minutes under the guidance of Angels pitching coach, Tom Morgan. Over the next two weeks Morgan continued to work with Ryan on his control. It was during that time that Ryan “finally realized I had to start reducing velocity, polishing up my rhythm and throwing to spots more often (131).” Besides working on reducing velocity and spotting the fastball, Morgan also worked with Ryan to iron out “some little mechanical things in his motion-like turning his head too far to first base when throwing hard (132).” As a result, Ryan’s control and command steadily improved.  

 

Following his start versus the Orioles, Ryan threw a complete game three-hit shutout versus Milwaukee in which he struck out 14 batters, one short of the then Angels’ franchise record. In his next start versus Boston Ryan retired the first 12 batters he had faced, extending his scoreless inning streak to 13. In the top of the fifth inning, however, Ryan had to exit the game due to a strained groin. “I’m sick (132a)” Ryan said after the game. “I was really making some progress. All I can do is hope that it doesn’t take me out of the rotation…That it doesn’t cost me my rhythm (132b).

 

Rhythm was something Ryan hadn’t experienced in New York. While with the Mets Ryan was bounced between the rotation and the bullpen. With the Angels though, he was able to work regularly, an absolute must according to Ryan if he were to maintain his control. “Rhythm, confidence and pitching every four days…those are the keys (133),” Ryan declared.

 

Ryan Soaking His Finger in Pickle Juice

What had prevented Ryan from starting regularly in New York, for the most part, were no longer issues once he arrived in California. For one, Ryan had military obligations early in his career with the Mets. Ryan was also dogged by a nagging blister problem, both of which prevented him from being placed in the Mets rotation on a permanent basis. Moreover, in defense of the Mets, Ryan was inconsistent which was compounded by the lack of regular work Ryan was receiving; a catch-22 indeed. “I was really discouraged about my progress with the Mets (134),” Ryan reflected in ’73. “I felt like I should become a winner in a year or two. But, for one thing, I had military obligations. The first year that took me away every other weekend. Plus I had summer camp. Then I had a couple of injuries. I was on the disabled list with finger blisters and once with a pulled groin. I was never in the rotation and I think that hurt a lot. I think if I’d been left in the minors a year or two longer I would have come around quicker (135).”

 

Ryan’s military obligations ended in ’69 so that wasn’t something Ryan had to contend with in California. The blister issue though remained. Before being traded to the Angels Ryan had always pitched with a sore finger which stemmed from a childhood injury. A young Nolan Ryan, in trying to open a coffee can, cut his thumb and two fingers on his right hand. After the fingers healed, scar tissue developed. When Ryan pitched the scar tissue would develop into a blister on his middle finger. For years Ryan tried to remedy the issue.

 

In New York, at the suggestion of one of the team’s trainers, Ryan tried soaking his hand in pickle brine to make the skin tougher. That did not work because “a tougher outer layer would form but a blister would develop underneath it (136).” In California though, Ryan eventually found his answer. He began using a rough emery board to “file away the callus that formed after he pitched. When he finished, the finger was almost ready to bleed (137).” Ryan still pitched with soreness but “no blister formed. A new callus would develop after he pitched and he’d file that down before his next game (138).”

 

The groin injury Ryan suffered in his abbreviated start versus the Red Sox turned out to be minor. Ryan returned to the mound two days later to throw 7+ innings versus the Cleveland Indians and would not miss a start in 1972. Ryan completed 16 of his next 26 starts, fired 211 innings and posted an impressive 1.96 ERA, fifth best in the majors. In 1973, Ryan opened the season with three straight complete games and averaged over 8 2/3 innings per start in his first seven starts of the season. However in his next start versus the White Sox, Ryan was awful. He gave up five earned runs in just 1/3 of an inning.

 

Ironically after the game Ryan claimed that it was “the best I’ve thrown the last four or five starts (139).” Angels’ manager, Bobby Winkles, who had replaced Del Rice before the season, disagreed. Winkles pointed to Ryan’s lack of command as the reason for his poor showing. “He couldn’t get his fastball where he wanted to…that’s the first time I have seen his fastball hit that well (140).”


Ryan Being Congratulated by Bobby Winkles

The following night Winkles had Ryan enter the game in the eighth inning to preserve an Angels one-run lead. There was nothing wrong with Ryan’s fastball command on this night. In his two innings of relief Ryan struck out four, including dangerous White Sox first baseman, Dick Allen, on just three pitches with the bases loaded. Three days later Ryan no-hit the Kansas City Royals, the first of his seven career no-no’s.  In no-hitting the Royals Ryan did not just rely on his blazing fastball. Instead he unleashed a wicked curveball that complimented his fastball, making Ryan literally unhittable.

 

“If he ever gets that curveball over consistently, look out. He’ll be a legend- a right-handed Koufax (141),” Cubs future Hall of Fame third baseman, Ron Santo, said of Ryan back in 1970. Three years later, in ’73, at least on that night in Kansas City, Ryan was a “right-handed Koufax.” KC left fielder Lou Piniella affirmed Ryan’s dominance when he stated after the game that Ryan had “the best stuff in the league” including a curveball that “is just impossible to hit (142).”

 

According to Ryan, of his 132 pitches thrown, 30 percent were curves. The 70/30 split between fastballs and curveballs had over-powered the Royals. Indeed. Kansas City hitters pulled only one ball the entire game, that being an Amos Otis ground ball to the left-side of the infield. To go along with his new-found fastball control and command, Ryan now possessed a magnificent curveball that he could throw for strikes, something he did not have in New York. Now in ’73 with California, equipped with both a blazing fastball and a magnificent curve, the Ryan Express was fully in motion and would hit top speed two months later at Detroit.

 

Ryan’s fastball/curveball combination versus the Tigers on July 15, 1973 was devastating. Ryan struck out a total of 17 batters, including 12 of the first 14 hitters he had retired. With 16 strikeouts after seven innings of work it seemed to be a cinch that Ryan would break Bob Feller’s AL record of 18 strikeouts in a game; however, a long delay due to a rare five-run outbreak by the offensively challenged Angels’ lineup in the top of the eighth caused Ryan’s arm to stiffen up. He managed to strike out just one batter over his last two innings, falling one short of the record but completing the no-hitter. At the time Ryan’s 17 strikeout total was the highest number of strikeouts for a pitcher that had thrown a no-hitter. Since then only Washington’s Max Scherzer has equaled Ryan’s total. Ryan would go on to break Feller’s AL record for most strikeouts in a game the following year.

 

Angels’ catcher, Art Kusyner, who had also caught Ryan’s no-hitter at Kansas City described Ryan’s curveball as “outstanding” and the action on Ryan’s fastball as “exploding.” Equipped with the two, Ryan’s approach was simple. “If I had a hitter set up with a fastball, I’d use the curve for the strikeout. If I set them up with a curve, I’d use the fastball for the strikeout (143),” Ryan explained. Winkles summed up Ryan’s performance against the Tigers simply by saying, “That’s the best game I’ve ever seen pitched (144).” Indeed.

 

The Ryan no-hitter in Detroit had concluded an Angels’ 14-game road trip. The team was set to return home to face the Indians for three games. After Cleveland the Angels were scheduled to face the Orioles in a four-game series with Ryan versus Cuellar as the opening act. A crowd of over 20,000 was expected, a large crowd indeed for a non-promotional Thursday night game.  

 

Adding to the hype surrounding Nolan Ryan and his attempt to hurl back-to-back no-hitters was the fact that Ryan had been excluded from the American League All-Star team by Oakland manager, Dick Williams. The Athletics winning the 1972 World Series meant that its manager, Williams, would be managing the ’73 American League squad. As manager Williams would also be selecting the team’s pitchers. The AL pitchers chosen by Williams were announced the day before Ryan was set to duel Cuellar.

 

Oakland A's Manager Dick Williams

Williams selected three pitchers from his own team, starters Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman as well as reliever, Rollie Fingers. Williams also selected Ryan’s teammate, Bill Singer. At the time of his selection Singer was 14-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 184 innings pitched as opposed to Ryan’s 11-11 record, 2.90 ERA in 189 innings pitched. Advocates for Ryan though pointed to his 220 strikeouts and two no-hitters as reason enough to include Ryan on the AL squad. “If Nolan Ryan isn’t an All-Star, I don’t know who is (145),” Angels’ GM Harry Dalton told the press. “He’s spread-eagled the field in strikeouts and has two no-hitters in half a year. That would seem enough to qualify him…If Nolan Ryan isn’t an All-Star then there’s no such thing (146).”

 

When confronted by the press about his exclusion of Ryan, Williams defended his decision. “No matter who I select, someone is going to be unhappy. I asked people around the league to help with the selection and the people we have are the ones we feel are the best…Nolan Ryan had a losing record when the selection was made. If I had known he was going to pitch another no-hitter, I might have taken him (147).”

 

According to Williams, he submitted his selections “Wednesday or Thursday of last week (148).” If accurate that would mean Williams chose his all-star pitchers after Ryan pitched one of his worst games of the year- a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles and Mike Cuellar. Ryan struck out 11 but his control had eluded him. He ended up walking six Orioles’ batters in his six innings of work.

 

Mike Cuellar on the other hand went the distance scattering 10 hits, striking out six and allowing just the one unearned run. It was Cuellar’s seventh complete game of the season but just his fifth win. In defeating Ryan and the Angels, Cuellar was also able to trim his ERA down to 3.73. It had been north of 4.00 for most of the season.

 

Cuellar’s 1973 campaign began with a no-decision versus the Milwaukee Brewers in which the Cuban lefty gave up six earned runs over seven innings. He was able to right the ship somewhat in his next four starts in April, delivering a quality start in three of the four. However, in May Cuellar was ineffective. He lost four of his six starts and had a 6.58 ERA in just over 26 innings of work.

 

After a May 12th 8-0 Baltimore loss to the Yankees in which Cuellar lasted just four innings and surrendered five runs, the Orioles had seemingly began to lose their patience with the 36 year-old veteran. Prior to that loss both the team and the media were willing to stick with Cuellar for the first six weeks of the season given Cuellar’s history of being a slow-starter which may have been based more in perception rather than reality.


Baltimore Orioles Lefty Mike Cuellar

It’s true that Cuellar’s career ERA in the month of April was more than one run greater than his ERA in any other month; however, his ERA in the rest of the months of the season revealed no discernable trend. By May Cuellar had usually found his footing. Over his career Cuellar was 31-21 in the month of May with a 3.14 ERA, a far cry from his 1-4, 6.58 ERA in May of ’73.  

 

Cuellar though was certainly a strong finisher. Over his career, in the months of September and October, he had a .653 winning percentage and a 2.78 ERA, the lowest of any month. Moreover, in the post season Cuellar’s ERA was 2.85 in 85 innings pitched, better than any month during the regular season with the exception of September. In the ’69 World Series versus Nolan Ryan’s New York Mets, Cuellar was 1-0 with a stellar 1.13 ERA. Despite Cuellar’s tremendous pitching though the Orioles lost the series 4 games to 1.

 

1969 was Cuellar’s first season with the Orioles. He had been acquired by Baltimore in a trade with the Houston Astros in December of ’68. He began his career with the Cincinnati Reds back in 1959. After bouncing around the minors for five years he spent one year with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964. In the middle of ’65 he was dealt by the Cardinals to the Astros. Two years later Cuellar was named to the NL All-Star team. That season he was 16-11 with a 3.30 ERA.

 

In ’68 though Cuellar was just 8-11 but had a 2.74 ERA despite pitching with a sore shoulder for most of the year. Seeking to shore up its pitching Baltimore sent 1965 rookie of the year outfielder, Curt Blefary, and a minor leaguer to Houston in exchange for Cuellar and two other players. Harry Dalton, who prior to landing the general managerial job in California and orchestrating the Nolan Ryan trade was the Orioles’ GM at the time. According to Dalton Cuellar was the key to the deal for Baltimore.

 

In his first season in Baltimore Cuellar was 23-11 with a 2.38 ERA and was named the co-winner of the AL Cy Young Award along with Detroit Tiger, Denny McClain. In the following season Cuellar’s ERA jumped by over one run to 3.48 but along with his teammate, Dave McNally, as well as 1970 Cy Young Award Winner, Jim Perry, he led the AL in wins with 24. Cuellar also led the AL in complete games with 21 and finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting. In ’71 Cuellar recorded his third straight 20-win season by going 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA.

 

In the following year Cuellar posted his lowest ERA (2.57) in three years but had won “just” 18 games as the Baltimore offense struggled to score runs. Baltimore’s anemic offense in ’72 led to the O’s front office dealing former 20-game winner, Pat Dobson, along with second baseman, Davey Johnson, to Atlanta in the off season for hard-hitting catcher, Earl Williams. Interestingly prior to the trade, rumors had the Orioles trading Cuellar to the Yankees, a team Cuellar had dominated in the past for catcher, Thurman Munson. The Orioles believed Dobson was expendable given they had the promising 21 year-old right-hander, Doyle Alexander, waiting in the wings.


20-GM Winners Cuellar, Dobson, Palmer, McNally

The ’73 Orioles opened with a four-man rotation consisting of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar and Doyle Alexander with Alexander occasionally skipped in the rotation due to off-days in the schedule. However, after Cuellar’s rough May 12th 8-0 loss to New York an unnamed Orioles spokesman told the Baltimore Daily Times that Cuellar “could be demoted to the No. 4 slot on the club staff (149),” with Alexander being promoted to number three. “The only thing we can do is elevate Alexander to No. 3 (150),” the unnamed source said. “That way Mike won’t have to work as often (151).” The Daily Times also added that, “If Cuellar hasn’t improved by next month, don’t be shocked to read of his unconditional release. It could happen (152).”

 

Two weeks later Cuellar bottomed out. In a May 31 start versus the Kansas City Royals, the team Nolan Ryan had no-hit just two weeks prior, Cuellar failed to record an out before being pulled in the first inning. He walked the first three batters he faced before giving up an Amos Otis single that plated two runs and ended his day. Cuellar’s record now stood at 2-6 and his ERA a lofty 5.05.

 

After that dreadful start against the Royals Cuellar’s season slowly began to turn around. He was still inconsistent but had improved somewhat. After two no-decisions versus the White Sox and the Twins, Cuellar fired a complete-game three-hit shutout versus the Texas Rangers. “That looked like the old Mike Cuellar (153),” Orioles manager Earl Weaver commented after the game. “That’s’ the kind of stuff he had to win 85 games during the past four years (154).”

 

Cuellar’s control was certainly on versus Texas. Of the 98 pitches Cuellar threw that day, 62 were strikes. Cuellar’s ability to throw strikes was the difference according to Orioles pitching coach, George Bamberger. “When Mike gets behind, he can’t use all his pitches and he has to give in to the batter (155),” Bamberger explained after the game.

 

Two starts later versus the Brewers, Cuellar added a new wrinkle to his repertoire, a side-armed delivery reserved for left-handed batters. When asked about the new delivery Cuellar responded by saying, “I haven’t thrown too many that way before. It felt pretty good that way. If it keeps feeling like that, I’ll keep throwing them (156).” Indeed. Cuellar went 12 innings against Milwaukee and allowed just three runs (one unearned) while striking out nine without issuing a walk for his fourth win of the season. Cuellar followed up that start with another complete game, this time against the Tigers, albeit in a losing effort as the Orioles were only able to muster one run versus Detroit pitching.

 

After two mediocre starts versus the Brewers and Oakland A’s, Cuellar, in the precursor to his July 19th duel versus Ryan and the Angels, twirled the aforementioned complete-game victory versus California in which he scattered ten hits and allowed just one unearned run. He followed that up with a two-run complete-game win against the White Sox. With the two victories over California and Chicago Cuellar had finally seemed to have hit his stride in ’73.

 

O's Manager Earl Weaver & Mike Cuellar

“Mike got off to a bad start early in the season (157),” Weaver stated after the Chicago game. “He couldn’t get the curve over and it took time for his fastball to come around (158)….When he’s pitching good, it’s his slow curve which usually is the difference….Now he’s throwing the slow curve over for strikes on a 3-and-1 count. That’s the difference (159).”

 

Orioles’ catcher, Elrod Hendricks, elaborated further, “He’s (Cuellar) not throwing the curve and fastball with the same speed like before. A guy like Dave McNally can get away with that, but if Mike tries it he’s hurting (160).” Indeed. Possessed with a fastball “that couldn’t blacken your eye if he was standing three feet away (161),” Cuellar had to slow down his curve to make his fastball more effective. In other words, similar to what Nolan Ryan had discovered soon after he arrived in California, slower meant better for Cuellar, albeit at least 20 mph slower as Ryan pitched in the upper 90’s when he was on the mound whereas Cuellar barely threw in the 80’s. The contrast between the two pitchers could not have been starker; however, on that July 19th day in ‘73, their results were similar.

 

Initially the great duel between Ryan and Cuellar certainly did not appear as though it would materialize. In the first inning the Orioles immediately snapped Ryan’s scoreless inning string at nine after taking advantage of a Ryan walk and a subsequent wild pitch to open the scoring without registering a hit.

 

In the home-half of the first Mike Cuellar gave up singles to the first two batters he faced to open the inning. However, he was able to wiggle out of trouble by inducing a groundball out and then striking out former Orioles’ great and current Angels’ designated hitter, Frank Robinson, looking. Cuellar ended the Angels’ threat with another strikeout, this time a swinging K of right fielder, Bob Oliver. Cuellar would go on to punch out a total of 12 Angel hitters, just one less than Ryan’s 13 strikeouts.

 

The only blemish on Cuellar’s pitching line was a fourth-inning Frank Robinson solo home run that tied the score at one. By then Nolan Ryan had struck out six on his way to tying Sandy Koufax’s record of 41 total strike outs over three successive games as well as Sam McDowell’s AL record of 30 strikeouts over two successive games. However, as impressive as those two accomplishments were, Ryan had his eyes set on matching Vander Meer’s two consecutive no-hitters feat.

 

Reds Pitcher Johnny Vander Meer

“I went into the game determined to give it my best shot (162),” Ryan would say afterward, “It’s not that often you get a chance (163).” From his home in Tampa, Florida, Johnny Vander Meer was certainly rooting for Ryan. Vander Meer believed that if Ryan was able to match his mark it “would be good for baseball (164).” Also rooting for Ryan were the 20,823 fans at Anaheim Stadium that sensed that there was a very good chance that they were going to witness history.

 

After his shaky first inning Ryan settled down. In the second inning he struck out the side. Over the next three innings Ryan was more efficient. In setting down nine of the next ten batters he had faced, only two came by way of the strikeout.

 

In the sixth inning though, Ryan struck out 1973 AL Rookie of the Year winner and lead-off hitter, Al Bumbry for the third time. Ryan would strike out Bumbry four times on the day. Of note Bumbry struck out only 49 times all season, eight of them courtesy of Ryan. Ryan then fanned Richie Coggins before popping up Tommy Davis to end the inning. By this time the crowd was roaring after every pitch as Ryan continued to mow down the Orioles’ hitters. At one point Ryan was receiving standing ovations while returning to the mound to begin an inning.

 

In the seventh though, the home crowd became tense after Ryan issued a two-out walk to the Orioles’ right fielder Terry Crowley and then uncorked a wild pitch that put Crowley in scoring position, Baltimore’s first since the opening inning. However, the crowd then went into frenzy after Ryan retired O’s second baseman, Bobby Grich, on a groundout to end the inning. Ryan had fed off the crowd’s energy all game. “I enjoy crowds like that (165),” Ryan said after the game. Being appreciative means a lot to someone performing; the biggest reward in baseball is when somebody appreciates your efforts (166).” At this point Ryan was just six outs away from firing another no-hitter.

 

Then in the eighth inning it happened. The Orioles finally connected off of Ryan for a hit, putting an end to the no-hitter. As seemingly is the case more times than not, a no-hitter is frequently lost by way of a cheap hit off of the bat of an unlikely player. Ryan’s lost no-hitter to the Orioles on this day certainly fit the bill.

 

The inning began with a questionable hit by pitch call. With the count 1-1, Ryan came in with a pitch to Orioles’ third baseman, Brooks Robinson, that according to the home plate umpire had grazed the veteran, although Robinson days later would say that the pitch did not hit him. As a result, Robinson was awarded first base.


O's Light-Hitting Shortstop Mark Belanger

Next up was the light-hitting Baltimore shortstop, Mark Belanger. At the time, Belanger, a career .232 hitter was just 1 for his last 11 at-bats versus Ryan, including a strikeout in his last plate appearance. Naturally with the potential go-ahead run on first and the weak hitting Belanger at the plate, Ryan was expecting bunt. His first pitch to Belanger was up and in. Belanger fouled the pitch off in an attempt to bunt. With the count 1-1 Ryan then fired a pitch “in on the fists (167),” that Belanger was able to lift over the infield and deposit into shallow center for the Orioles first hit of the game thus ending the no-hit bid.

 

Ryan reflected on the Belanger at-bat after the game. “You have to anticipate a bunt in that situation (168),” Ryan told the press. “I took a chance that it would be a bunt and jammed him inside with a fastball. He just got enough of it to push it over the infield. I’d rather get beat on a sharp hit if I had my choice (169).” According to Belanger, he was thinking right along with Ryan. “I knew he thought I was going to bunt and I knew he’d throw me a high heater (170);” however according to Belanger, the bunt sign wasn’t on so he swung away. “I tried to pull and got it off the hands. If you swing at enough pitches, you’re going to hit some (171).” Belanger said.  He then added that, “If Berry (Angels’ center fielder Ken Berry) was playing me straight-away he catches that ball easily (172).”

 

With the no-hitter now lost, Ryan had to refocus and preserve the 1-1 tie. He did so by blowing away the Orioles’ next two hitters, Bumbry and Coggins by way of the strikeout and then retiring Tommy Davis on a fly ball to center. Davis though would return to haunt Ryan two innings later.

 

Ryan found himself in trouble again in the ninth after issuing a leadoff walk to the heavy-hitting Boog Powell. Earl Weaver then replaced Powell with a pinch-runner, Paul Blair. Blair then attempted to steal second but was gunned down by Kusnyer. Ryan then retired the Orioles’ next two batters to end the inning.

 

In the meantime Cuellar was also hurling a whale of a game. Cuellar had kept the Angels’ hitters off-balance for most of the night. Over his first eight innings Cuellar had yielded just six hits and with the exception of the Frank Robinson homerun, none were particularly hit hard. He had also struck out eight. The Belanger hit denied those in attendance from witnessing history; however, thanks to the crafty pitching of the 12-year veteran, Mike Cuellar, they were being treated to a terrific pitcher’s duel.

  

In the bottom of the ninth, after setting down the last ten batters he had faced in order, Cuellar got into trouble. He yielded a one-out single to Ken Berry. Angels’ infielder, Billy Grabarkewitz followed by grounding to third that erased Berry at second thanks to a 5-4 fielder’s choice. Grabarkewitz though promptly stole second base to put himself into scoring position. He was the first runner in scoring position that Cuellar had allowed since the fifth inning. Cuellar ended up stranding Grabarkewitz thanks to a weak groundout to first off of the bat of Kusyner to end the threat. Fittingly the game was headed into extra innings with the score still tied at one.

 

After a scoreless 10th inning the Orioles were finally able to end Ryan’s night in the top of the eleventh. After retiring Coggins for the first out of the inning, Ryan was set to face the Orioles’ designated hitter, Tommy Davis, for the fifth time. Davis had been 0-for-4 versus Ryan but was one of only two Baltimore starters that Ryan had yet to strike out. In this at-bat Davis drilled a Ryan offering down the left field line for a one-out double.

 

Ryan Tips His Cap After Losing a No-Hitter

Davis was the last batter Ryan would face. After the Davis double, Winkles visited Ryan on the mound. At that point, according to Ryan, “I’d lost it. My arm was too tired to go any longer…my arm was tired from throwing so many pitches the last two starts….I had had it, I couldn’t throw anymore (173)” Ryan then “told him (Winkles) to take me out before I lose the game (174).” And with that Ryan’s night was done. He had thrown 161 pitches, 99 for strikes, struck out 13, walked five and gave up just three hits over 10.1 innings. As he walked off the mound, the crowd gave Ryan its last standing ovation of the night.

 

When asked after the game about his coming up just short of a history-making second consecutive no-hitter and third in one season, Ryan simply shrugged, “What can you do…I gave it my best shot…I think I have another shot at a no-hitter if I keep my stuff and luck’s with me (175).”  

 

Luck though certainly wasn’t “with” Ryan on this night. Not only did Ryan lose the no-hit bid but he also ended up being charged with the loss. Dave Sells, who had relieved Ryan after the Davis double, walked Elrod Hendricks and then surrendered a double to Rich Coggins. Angel center fielder, Ken Berry, was able to get his glove on the Coggins liner as he raced toward the center field wall but was unable to hold on to the ball. Davis and Hendricks ended up scoring on the play to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead which seemed almost insurmountable the way Cuellar was pitching.

 

Indeed, Mike Cuellar had little trouble shutting down the Angels in the home-half of the eleventh and retired them in order for his fifth 1-2-3 inning of the night. Over his 11 innings Cuellar had struck out 12 and walked just two. His Game Score was 85, just two points less than Ryan’s 87. His ERA now stood at 3.42 He’d go on to win 11 of his next 16 decisions and finish the season with an 18-13 record and a 3.27 ERA.                    

 

Ryan would end his year with 21 wins versus 16 losses and a 2.87 ERA. He completed 26 of his 39 starts including his last seven. In his last start of the season against the Minnesota Twins, Ryan struck out 16 batters over 11 innings to finish with a total of 383 to break Sandy Koufax’s modern-day single-season strikeout record by one.

 

Postscript- On the day of Ryan’s start versus the Orioles, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had contacted him to inform him that he along with the NL’s Willie Mays were “specially appointed” to their respective league’s All-Star teams.

 


 

Number 41- Jim Bouton (NYY) vs. Dean Chance (CAL) June 6, 1964

 

 

“It just annoys me to think that others get raises and I don’t. Jim Bouton got an $8,000 raise but I’ll stack my two-year record against his (176).” That’s what Dean Chance told the press in the spring of 1964 after the young right-hander reluctantly signed his contract for the upcoming season. Chance was set to earn the same salary he had earned in 1963. Weeks after signing his contract Chance then proceeded to publicly lambaste Angel management for what he perceived to be an injustice leading to strong rebukes by Angels’ general manager, Fred Haney.

 

By late May/early June Chance’s frustration with his contract would reach a boiling point as speculation grew that the Angels would finally rid themselves of their outspoken young pitcher. However, shortly after his tremendous duel versus the New York Yankees’, Jim Bouton on June 6th, 1964, the man he had compared himself to when discussing his own contract situation, Chance and the Angels would settle their differences. Chance would then go on to have one of the most remarkable seasons for a pitcher in MLB history.

 

A quick comparison of Jim Bouton’s and Dean Chance’s first two full years in the majors, as Chance had suggested, reveals that the pitchers performed at just about an even rate. Bouton had a 3.04 ERA whereas Chance’s ERA was 3.09. In terms of modern-day advanced statistics such as ERA+ which compares a pitcher’s ERA with the league’s average as well as Wins Above Average (WAA) which compares a pitcher’s performance in a season to that of an average pitcher, Bouton was slightly favored. However, in terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), those numbers slightly favored Chance.

 

Of course the biggest discrepancy between the two pitchers was their won/lost record, particularly in 1963. That year Bouton won 21 games and lost just seven for the American League champion, New York Yankees. He had also pitched well in his lone World Series start versus the Los Angeles Dodgers by limiting LA to just one run over seven innings.

 

To reward Bouton for his terrific 1963 season the Yankees increased his salary from $10,000 to $18,000 for the upcoming 1964 season, the same amount Chance had earned in ’63 and was set to earn in ‘64. Bouton had asked for $20,000 but had to settle for the $18,000 after the Yankees threatened to fine Bouton $100 for every day he was absent from spring training. Bouton had been the last of the Yankee holdouts that spring.

 

Dean Chance Circa 1962

Chance on the other hand, who was just 13-18 in ’63, received no raise at all and made it a point to express his dissatisfaction with Angels’ management via the press. Some in the media would make the Chance/Bouton comparison to egg on Chance and much to their delight, Chance would engage. Up to that point, in his three years in California the 23 year-old Chance had yet to endear himself to the media. He was perceived to be a talented pitcher but also an unserious party-goer that would openly criticize his teammates for poor play.

 

Chance was originally signed by the Baltimore Orioles in June of 1959. At that time he was better known as Wilmer Chance. Eventually the first name would be dropped in favor of Chance’s middle name, Dean. The Orioles discovered Chance through their veteran outfielder, Gene Woodling. Woodling had come to know Chance through the manager of his Medina, Ohio farm who was friends with the Chance family. Like Woodling, Chance was a native Ohioan. Chance attended Northwestern High School located in Wooster, Ohio which was about a 45 minute drive from Medina.

 

At Northwestern Chance posted prodigious numbers. His high school record was an incredible 51-1 including an astonishing 17 no-hitters. Accompanied by Woodling, former Detroit Tiger great and then Orioles scout, Hal Newhouser, visited the Chance family farm in Wooster and promptly signed the 18 year-old Chance for $30,000. The Orioles’ offer was reportedly $10,000 less than an offer from ironically enough, the New York Yankees (177).

 

Chance pitched two seasons in the Baltimore minor league system in ’59 and ’60 under the tutelage of former major league pitcher, Bob Hooper. In ’59, with Class-D Bluefield of the Appalachian League, Chance was 10-3 with a 2.94 ERA and displayed above average control. He walked just 35 batters in his 107 innings pitched while striking out 85. The following year at Fox Cities, a B-level team in the Illinois/Indiana League, Chance was 12-9 with a 3.31 ERA in 207 innings pitched. He recorded 145 strikeouts and walked 78; impressive numbers indeed for a 19 year-old.

 

Conversely, Jim Bouton had struggled in his first year in D-ball. Bouton, who had previously pitched at Western Michigan University and had signed with the Yankees for $30,000 in December of 1958, pitched for both the Kearney Yankees in the Nebraska State League and the Auburn Yankees in the New York Penn League in ‘59. Hampered by a broken thumb, the result of a line drive, Bouton was a combined 3-8 with an ERA well above 5.00 in just 88 innings pitched.

 

A Young Jim Bouton With Greensboro

Nevertheless Bouton was promoted to Class-B Greensboro of the Carolina League the following year. There Bouton posted a 14-8 record to go along with a tidy 2.73 ERA. By March of ’61 Bouton was being touted as a top prospect. “If I had to nominate the number one young pitcher in camp right now, I would have to say it is Jim Bouton (178),” Yankees’ pitching coach Johnny Sain had boasted at the time. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he made it within three years as a real top flight pitcher (179).” Bouton, at the age of 23, ended up making his major league debut in 1962 after going 13-7 with a 2.97 ERA at Double-A Amarillo of the Texas League.

 

Despite being two years younger than Bouton, Chance had made his major league debut in September of 1961; the main reason being the American League’s decision to expand by two teams that year. Chance, who had been on the Orioles 40-man roster at the end of the 1960 season, was one of 15 players the Orioles had to make available for the expansion draft set for December of ’60.

 

The Orioles knew they had a very good prospect in Chance; however, given their second-place finish in 1960, the O’s were set to contend again in ’61. Moreover, Baltimore was loaded with young prospects. With Chance still a few years away from being promoted to the majors, the Orioles opted to protect veterans such as the 37 year-old Hoyt Wilhelm and 36 year-old Hal Brown to contend in ’61 while prioritizing young pitchers who had already made their MLB debut such as Steve Barber and Milt Pappas and were ready to contribute that season.

 

The Orioles though did protect one other pitcher that had yet to make his major league debut, that being 19 year-old Arne Thorsland whom they had signed in the summer of ’58 for $50,000, a significant investment indeed. With Chance being made available, the Los Angeles Angels, as they were known back then, snagged the fire-balling Chance in the expansion draft.  Chance would later reflect on his being let go by the Orioles, displaying no ill-will toward the organization. “I might have stayed with Baltimore (180),” Chance would say, “but they had too many pitchers. Lee McPhail (Orioles president) sent me a real long letter, telling me how sorry he was after Los Angeles drafted me (181).”

 

Chance performed well in the Angels’ first ever spring training camp but was optioned to Double-A affiliate Dallas to begin the 1961 season to gain more experience. “These youngsters have the best arms in camp (182),” Angels’ manager Bill Rigney said at the time referring to Chance and their other young pitchers. “They will get a chance with Dallas (183).” In Chance’s case Rigney stated that he may return to the majors before the end of the season because “he has a lot of heart and he doesn’t have any fear. He’s just green, that’s all (184).”

 

On September 12, 1961 Chance made his major league debut against the Minnesota Twins, hurling 7.1 innings of 4-run ball. He struck out two and walked one in a losing effort. Chance though struggled in two of his next three starts, failing to go beyond the second inning in both. He finished the season with two losses and a 6.87 ERA.


Angels' Mgr. Bill Rigney With Chance & Bo Belinsky

In 1962 Chance showed glimpses of what was yet to come. He began the season as a swingman/spot starter rather than a permanent fixture in the rotation, although that may have been in part Chance’s own fault. In June of that year, he along with teammate, Bo Belinsky, were involved in an off the field incident involving women and a car that resulted in a heated argument at 5:00 AM in the morning. The incident cost Chance a $250 fine and placed him in Rigney’s doghouse. Rigney and the Angels were so disappointed in Chance’s behavior that they contemplated demoting him to the minors. Fortunately for Chance they ultimately decided against doing so.

 

Approximately six weeks later Chance was placed in the rotation on a permanent basis and responded well. In the last two months of the season Chance was 7-4 with a 2.33 ERA in 13 games started, the highlight being a one-hit gem versus the Twins. Overall that year Chance was 14-10 with a 2.96 ERA in nearly 207 innings pitched. He struck out 127 and walked just 66. He finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting, behind New York Yankee, Tom Tresh.

 

The New York Yankees’ only other rookie other than Tresh to make a noteworthy contribution in ’62 was Jim Bouton. After an April 22nd three inning scoreless relief appearance versus Cleveland, Bouton made his major league starting debut on May 6th in New York against the second-year Washington Senators. Bouton walked seven and struck out just three but he managed to go the distance in a 7-0 Yankee rout. Bouton finished the year 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA in 133 innings pitched.

 

The following year Bouton had his breakout season and the best of his 10-year career. Bouton’s 21 wins in ’63 was the second most in the American League behind fellow Yankee Whitey Ford’s 24, impressive given that Bouton hadn’t started a game until May 12 at Baltimore. Yankee manager, Ralph Houk, had resisted starting Bouton because he had considered Bouton too important to the bullpen to make him a starter. However, an injury to Yankee starter, Bill Stafford, had forced Houk’s hand.

 

In that May 12th start in Baltimore Bouton had been perfect, retiring the first 19 batters he had faced until O’s second baseman, Jerry Adair, singled with one out in the seventh to spoil the no-hit bid. Bouton would end up giving up just two hits in the complete-game shutout. He’d be in the Yankee rotation for the rest of the season.

 

Jim Bouton Pitching in the '64 WS

Of note, Bouton’s season was almost completely derailed in his next start in Baltimore just four weeks later when “a line drive from Jackie Brandt (Orioles outfielder) in the fourth inning struck Bouton. The force was so great it seemed to lift the pitcher from the ground and turn him. As the ball rebounded from the mound to the grass in front, Bouton turned and landed on his face. Yankee and Oriole players rushed toward him amidst the silence of 28,025 fans in the stadium (185).”  Miraculously Bouton had suffered “only” a bruised collarbone and 12 stitches to the jaw. Incredibly he would make his next start just four days later.

 

On September 13th Bouton won his 20th game of the year, a complete game shutout at Minnesota to clinch the Yankees’ fifth consecutive American League Pennant. After the game Houk made it a point to credit Bouton as well as rookie sensation, Al Downing, for the Yankees’ fortunes that year.

 

Bouton though credited his pitching coach, Johnny Sain, for his breakthrough season. “When I started out in baseball I had a fastball, curve, change and knuckler….Johnny Sain said I’d be better off with one or two real pitches than a lot of average ones. I decided the fastball and curve were the ones I’d work on…It was the best advice I ever got (186).”

 

Bouton’s fastball and curve were on full display in Game Three of the 1963 World Series. Bouton had limited the Dodgers to just four hits over seven innings, allowing just one run. Unfortunately for Bouton and the Yankees, that one run was enough as Don Drysdale stymied New York for nine innings in a complete-game three-hit World Series shutout. The Dodgers ended up sweeping the Yankees in four games.

 

Coming off his All-Star 21-win season, Bouton entered spring camp in ‘64 seeking a significant pay increase from the $10,000 he had earned that year to $20,000, “a minimum raise for a 20-game winner (187),” according to Bouton.  The Yankees countered with an offer of $18,000, claiming that other “factors are involved other than just the number of games Bouton won (188).” Moreover, there were “benefits to playing with the Yankees-like a World Series share every year (189).”

 

Bouton Sitting on the Dugout Steps at Fenway in '64

Bouton though dug in by threatening to hold out. The Yankees responded with a threat of their own- they’d fine Bouton $100 for every day he held out, something the team hadn’t done since 1939 when they docked Joe DiMaggio two weeks’ pay ($2,273) for his holdout. The threat worked and Bouton signed soon thereafter. Bouton: “They had me over a barrel. I checked and found that it would be legal for them to deduct the hundred a day so there was nothing else to do but give up….I thought we had only one weapon- that was holding out…even that works against you (190).”

 

About five weeks prior to Bouton signing his 1964 contract, Dean Chance signed his contract for the same $18,000 Chance had earned in the year before. One week after the Bouton signing, reports of Chance’s unhappiness with his contract situation were made public. It was then that Chance compared himself to Bouton.

 

“Jim Bouton got an $8,000 raise but I’ll stack my two-year record against his. Roger Craig won five and lost 22 last year and they tell me he got a raise. I think I’d have got a raise with the Mets or any other team but here…Maybe they’d feel better with me gone (191).”

 

Dean went on to tout his numbers to the press. He pointed to him being fifth in the league in total innings pitched with 248 as well as fifth in strikeouts and being the Angels’ leader in earned run average. “If that isn’t good pitching I don’t know what is… I think that’s fantastic (192).” Chance declared. He then pointed out his team’s inability in scoring runs which significantly impacted his won/lost record: “I’m not knocking but they gave me just 1.2 runs per game for all last year. The most runs I got was three in a losing game. Eleven times I got one (193).”

 

Chance was even more direct when it came to criticizing his team’s defense, specifically Angels’ outfielders Leon Wagner, Lee Thomas and Albie Pearson. In an interview Chance gave in February of ‘64, the outspoken young pitcher singled out his outfielders for poor defensive play which by then, the press had learned, wasn’t unusual for Chance. He said what was on his mind and never regretted doing so. In fact, after learning that the reporter had quoted Chance directly about the play of his outfielders, Chance confronted said reporter. “One of the guys says he read your story this morning. He says it has me saying a lot of bad things about Wagner and Thomas and Pearson. Is this true (194)?” Chance had asked. The reporter nervously acknowledged that it was true. “That’s wonderful,” Chance replied. “I was afraid you wouldn’t have guts enough to write it (195).”

 

Chance’s going public with his dissatisfaction over his salary and his criticism of his teammates had forced a response from Angels’ GM Fred Haney. “I knew Chance pitched good ball regardless of his record (196),” Haney explained. “That’s why I gave him $18,000. Then to have him bellyache about it is amazing. I don’t think he has any squawk coming (197).” Given the news that Bouton had signed for $18,000, Haney and the Angels, for the most part, had the media on their side, specifically the Los Angeles Times. The Times: “Pitcher Jim Bouton’s experience with the New York Yankees has cleared Angel general manager Fred Haney of any possible charges that he’s a penny-pinching skin-flint. In fact, he comes out smelling like a rose (198).”

 

Angels GM Fred Haney, Bob Reynolds & Gene Autry

Getting nowhere with Haney and with rumors swirling that he would be traded, specifically to the Twins, Chance decided to bypass Haney and sought the counsel of Angels’ President, Bob Reynolds. According to Reynolds, “Dean asked for the meeting and I never refuse to see any member of the team (199).” Dean and I had a very friendly discussion over lunch. He wanted my advice and counsel on several matters but he never once requested or sought my help in acquiring a raise. I want it understood that I wouldn’t have given him help even if he’d ask me…That’s strictly Fred’s job and I’m not in a position to interfere (200).”

 

However, two weeks later, after Chance had fired a three-hit shutout versus Bouton and the Yankees on May 24th, Chance claimed that Reynolds had indeed promised him a raise which caused a great stir, so much so that Reynolds was forced to hold a press conference two days later. Reynolds, flanked by Haney and Rigney denied that he had promised Chance anything and reiterated that contract negotiations with players are Haney’s job. “There is only one man to see when money is involved and that’s Fred (Haney) (201).” Reynolds declared.

 

With the rumors of Chance being dealt to the Twins intensifying in large part due to Twins’ owner, Cal Griffith, confirming that he had been trying to acquire Chance for two years, Haney stated emphatically that Chance would not be traded.

 

In his first start after the Reynolds/Angels press conference Chance lasted just two innings at home versus the Orioles. He gave up three runs on five hits and walked one. He had also made a mental mistake by failing to cover first base on a simple infield ground ball. Chance’s performance was concerning given that two days earlier Haney had told the press that Chance had stormed out of his office after one of their meetings stating that if the Angels were not going to raise his salary he’d “pitch an $18,000 season (202).” Nobody was entirely sure what Chance meant but all those concerned were about to find out.

 

With the Angels having lost 16 of their last 20 games, Chance was set to make his next start versus the Boston Red Sox. As to how Chance would respond in that game would be anybody’s guess. Chance opened the game by issuing a walk. However, he then proceeded to retire 17 of the next 21 batters he had faced before giving up his first hit of the game in the top half of the sixth. Chance would end up going the distance in a two-hit shutout, striking out 15 and walking four. Even more impressive was the fact that Chance had pitched the latter half of the game with a blood blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

 

After the game Chance lauded his mother of all people; crediting her for his brilliant performance and ability to focus. “I talked to her on Monday (203),” Chance told reporters. “She really encouraged me. She took my mind off all this other stuff and really inspired me…She told me to just do my best, come on home this winter and forget the rest of my troubles (204).” When asked about his ongoing contract situation and his relationship with Haney the usually talkative Chance though refused to elaborate stating that doing so “will just make me sick (205).” Chance’s next start would come on June 6th against Bouton and the Yankees, a rematch of their May 24th duel in which Chance went the distance in a complete-game three-hit shutout.

 

The Yankees headed into the three-game series against the LA Angels tied for third place in the American League, five games behind first-place Baltimore. The Yankees’ starting pitching which had carried them for most of the ’63 season had regressed up until this point with the lack of complete games being particularly troubling. The Yankees’ four-man rotation of Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry, Al Downing and Jim Bouton had produced just ten complete games with Ford having completed seven of the ten. Bouton, who had completed 12 of his 30 games-started in ’63, had yet to throw a complete game in ’64. Up until that point Bouton was what was considered to be a disappointing 3-5 with a 3.33 ERA in his ten starts. Still though, he was ranked as baseball’s 25th best pitcher, 13 spots ahead of Dean Chance. However, by season’s end, Chance would catapult his way to fifth in the rankings and win the Cy Young Award with his duel against Bouton and the Yankees being the signature start of his tremendous season and perhaps his career.

 

Angels' Flame-Throwing Dean Chance in Action

Chance’s run support in ’64 was poor, historically poor. The Angels had managed to score just 2.9 runs per game with Chance on the mound. On this day the Angels would score exactly zero runs in 15 innings as Los Angeles six times had failed to score with a runner on second or third with less than two outs as Bouton was able to navigate his was out of trouble. Conversely, Chance had kept his team in the game by simply overpowering the Yankee lineup. Of the 161 pitches Chance had fired over his 14 innings of work, only three ended up being hits, the first of which not occurring until the seventh inning when Yankee outfielder, Roger Maris, had singled to left field.

 

Maris’ single put Yankee runners on first and second with nobody out. However, Chance was able to induce a double play groundball off the bat of Yankee first baseman, Joe Pepitone. Pepitone’s grounder advanced Tom Tresh to third but Chance left him stranded there after blowing away Yankee left fielder, Johnny Blanchard, with a strikeout. It was only the second time in the game the Yankees were able to get a runner to third base.

 

Up until that point though, Bouton had practically matched Chance inning for inning. Bouton too had only allowed two Angel baserunners to get as far as third base. In the second inning Bouton had yielded back-to-back singles to Angels’ Eddie Kirkpatrick and Tom Satriano. The Satriano hit advanced Kirkpatrick to third. Then with one out, runners on the corners and Angels’ shortstop Joe Koppe at the plate, Rigney called for a squeeze bunt. Koppe though failed to connect and Kirkpatrick was caught in a run down between home and third. He was thrown out at third attempting to get back to the base. Bouton ended the inning by way of an infield fly to first.

 

In the bottom of the sixth, Bouton would strand his second runner on third after Angels’ center fielder, Albie Pearson, reached by way of a Tony Kubek error, the first error of the season for the sure-handed Yankee shortstop. Kubek’s error was followed by a Billy Moran single that advanced Pearson to third. Bouton though, would once again escape an inning without allowing a run. With one out, Bouton had Lou Clinton pop up to short. Bouton then had Angels’ catcher, Buck Rodgers, ground out to end the inning. In the bottom of the seventh after Chance had stranded Tresh in the top half of the inning, Bouton quickly retired the Angels in order to preserve the scoreless tie.

 

After the seventh inning Chance would steamroll his way through the Yankee lineup well into extra-innings. For his part, Bouton or the Bulldog as he was nicknamed would put on an impressive display of clutch pitching, particularly in the ninth inning.

 

The Angels opened the bottom half of the inning with a Buck Rodgers single. Kirkpatrick followed with a bunt that failed to advance Rodgers to second. Kirkpatrick’s bunt was fielded by Pepitone at first who fired the ball to Kubek at second to force Rodgers. Kirkpatrick made up for the failed bunt attempt by stealing second. Bouton answered with a strikeout of Satriano for the second out of the inning. Controversy then followed.

 

Jim Bouton Looking on With NYY SS Tony Kubek

With Kirkpatrick at second, Joe Koppe grounded deep in the hole at short. Kirkpatrick ran for third. Rather than throwing to first to get Koppe in what would have been a difficult play, Kubek fired to third in an attempt to get Kirkpatrick. Yankee third baseman, Clete Boyer received Kubek’s throw and applied the tag but to no avail, Kirkpatrick was ruled safe by the umpire. First-year Yankee manager, Yogi Berra, vehemently protested the call in a heated exchange with the ump which resulted in an ejection for Berra.

 

With Bouton paying no attention to Koppe at first, the Angels’ shortstop advanced to second on what was scored as defensive indifference. With first base now open, the Yankees elected to intentionally walk the Angels’ number-eight hitter, Bobby Knoop, to load the bases.

 

With the .105 hitting Chance due up, Rigney was faced with a decision- lift Chance for a pinch-hitter for say the hard-hitting, Jim Fregosi, whom Rigney still had at his disposal on the bench or allow Chance to remain in the game and hit for himself. Rigney chose the latter, not a controversial decision given how Chance was pitching.

 

Going back to his previous start versus New York, Chance had now thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings versus the Yankees and had yielded just five hits. Moreover, having sat down the last six Yankees in order Chance appeared to be getting stronger. Not surprisingly, Bouton made quick work of the light-hitting Chance. After Bouton came in hard and inside on Chance which had Chance dancing in the batter’s box, Bouton fanned his counterpart to end the frame, sending the scoreless affair into extra innings.

 

The thirteenth inning would be Bouton’s last. He had faced just two batters over the minimum in the last three. However in the thirteenth, after getting the first out, Bouton surrendered a double off of the bat of Buck Rodgers. The Yankees then intentionally walked Kirkpatrick. With one out and runners on first and second, Bouton had Satriano pop up to short left. With shortstop Joe Koppe due up, this time Rigney had Fregosi come in to pinch-hit. The 22 year-old Fregosi, who was the Angels top RBI man in ’64 and was hitting a robust .336 at the time, had not started the last several games due to an injury. Bouton though was up to the challenge. In another display of clutch pitching, Bouton was able to rollover Fregosi to third which forced Rodgers for the final out of the inning.

 

Bouton had gone an impressive 13 scoreless innings having given up ten hits and walking five in what would end up being the longest outing of his career. Bouton’s 87 Game Score was the second highest of his career. With Bouton set to lead off the 14th, he was lifted for a pinch-hitter- Mickey Mantle. Mantle had not started a game in almost two weeks due to his ongoing knee issues.

 

Mantle was once quoted as saying, “Every time I see his (Chance’s) name in the lineup card, I feel like throwing up (206).” One could envision why Mantle would say such a thing given the lack of success Mantle had versus Chance since Chance’s arrival to the AL in ‘62. Mantle entered the batter’s box having gone 1 for 10 with four strikeouts versus Chance. He did though have six walks.

 

Mickey Mantle & His SP Nemesis Dean Chance

However in this at-bat Chance was able to retire the hobbled Mantle by way of a fly ball to center. He then made quick work of the Yankees’ next two hitters, Tony Kubek and Bobby Richardson to complete his 14th inning of work. He was finally lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom-half of the inning after Yankees’ reliever, Bob Stafford, plunked Knoop with a pitch to begin the inning. What turned out to be all too familiar for Chance in ’64, the Angels would again fail to score a run for their ace to give Chance a much-deserved win. They’d go on to lose the game 2-0 in 15 innings thanks to a two-run double by the reigning MVP- Yankees catcher, Elston Howard. Howard had been 0-for-5 vs Chance including two strikeouts. In fact, after the game Howard had remarked that Chance’s pitching was “the best pitching job I’ve seen by an opposing pitcher since I came into the American League (207).”

 

Angels’ manager Bill Rigney certainly agreed. “I’ve never seen a better pitching performance (208),” Rigney proclaimed after the game. “It’s impossible for anyone to pitch any better…his stuff was the same in the 13th inning as it was in the first (209).” Indeed. In extra-innings Chance gave up only two hits and faced just two batters over the minimum. In terms of Rigney’s claim of it being impossible for anyone to pitch any better, he wasn’t too far off the mark. Chance’s 116 Game Score is still ranked as the fifth highest Game Score since the end of the deadball era (1920).

 

Overall Chance went 14 innings having given up zero runs, three hits and two walks while striking out 12. Unbeknownst to Chance during the game was that he was within one strikeout of equaling the record for strikeouts over two consecutive games. He had struck out 15 Red Sox in his previous start. Interestingly, Chance had gone his last three innings without registering a whiff. “I wish someone would have told me because I sure would have struck one more out,” Chance said after the game. ”At the time I was more interested in one run than one strikeout (210).”

 

 Chance though made it clear that winning was his top priority and that records didn’t mean much. “I’m not satisfied with no-hitters, one-hitters or strikeout records. That’s all kid’s stuff. All I want is one run…How can you think of a no-hitter when you’re not even winning the game (211)?”

 

As his duel with Bouton would attest, wins were hard to come by for Chance in ’64 although he did manage 20 to lead the American League. However, he was saddled with nine losses despite a minuscule 1.65 ERA which was also an AL best. Incredibly, of Chance’s nine losses that season, eight occurred in games in which the Angels scored two or less runs. His only other defeat came in a game in which he appeared as a reliever. Overall he was 7-8 in those games with five of the seven wins being of the 1-to-nothing variety, tying the mark set by Hall of Famer, Carl Hubbell, back in 1933. Hubbell though did not experience the same lack of run-support that Chance had experienced in ’64 as the Angels’ right-hander lost four games by the same margin.

 

After his no-decision versus Bouton and the Yankees, Chance would go on to win 16 of his next 27 starts, en route to one of the greatest pitching seasons in MLB history. To go along with his league leading 20 wins and league-best 1.65 ERA were Chance’s 207 strikeouts in 278.1 innings pitched. Unfortunately for Chance he ended up 11 strikeouts shy of becoming the 14th pitcher in the modern era to capture baseball’s Pitching Triple Crown.

 

A 74 Year-Old Dean Chance Holding his CYA

However, Chance did accomplish an even rarer feat although it was not known at the time. Chance had become just the fourth pitcher since 1900 and the first since 1915 to win 20 games, hurl at least 200 innings, have a sub 2.00 ERA and an ERA+ (league ERA/ERA*100) of at least 200 in a season. Only six other pitchers have done the same since. Chance’s remarkable season was not lost on the Cy Young Award voters. Chance received 17 of a possible 20 first place votes to win the Cy Young, temporarily breaking Sandy Koufax’s strangle-hold on the award. Koufax had won the Cy Young the two previous seasons. He’d win it again in 1965.

 

Two weeks after his tremendous start, the Angels raised Chance’s salary. The amount wasn’t quite what Chance was looking for but it clearly satisfied the brash young right-hander. “I thought I deserved a little more…now everybody’s happy, and I’m going to go out and win a lot of ball games (212).” Chance indeed remained true to his word.



Pitcher Duels Numbers 49 to 40:



 

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