Nolan Ryan And His Four Angelic No-Hitters

The San Diego Padres have played 6,868 games. The New York Mets have played 7,993. Neither franchise has ever had a pitcher throw a no-hitter for them. This is especially noteworthy for the Padres, as there hasn't been a hit in Petco Park since 2009. That means there's some sort of paradox at play, but the part about the no-hitters checks out.

The no-hitter is rare enough that two franchises can go 40-plus years without one. So every so often, it's worth remembering that Nolan Ryan was a freak. You knew that. But think about it again. Seven no-hitters. Two of them after he turned 43. Freak.

But the recent no-hitter from Jered Weaver reminded me about Ryan's stretch from May 15, 1973 through June 1, 1975. In just over two calendar years with the California Angels, Ryan threw four no-hitters. Four no-hitters in an 86-game stretch with the same team. This isn't to take away from Weaver's accomplishment; it's just to make you take off your glasses and rub your temples in disbelief. If you don't have glasses, go get some. I can wait.

In honor of … well, nothing other than Weaver reminding me, really … here are Ryan's four Angels no-hitters in order, along with with a factoid or two:

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No-hitter #1
May 15, 1973

The basics
Ryan walked three and struck out 12 against the Royals in Kansas City. This was the last pitch of the game:


That's a ******* whiffle ball coming at 95-m.p.h. Jiminy.

Best hitter on the opposing team
Tough call between John Mayberry and Amos Otis, but the latter finished 3rd in the MVP voting that year. That's a good tiebreaker.

Something of note
The no-hitter came after this relief appearance, which happened because Ryan was knocked out of his prior start after facing only six batters.

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No-hitter #2
July 15, 1973

The basics
Ryan walked four and struck out 17 Tigers in Detroit.

Best hitter on the opposing team
Norm Cash was 38, but he could still hit. Jim Northrup was pretty good, too, but he wasn't in the lineup.

Something of note
Cash came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with a table leg.


No, really. A table leg. That's the late, great Ernie Harwell with the call. Cash took a leg from a table in the clubhouse and brought it up to the plate. From a 2001 issue of Baseball Digest:

Northrup tells the story: "In his last at-bat, Norm walked up to the plate with a table leg from the locker room. The plate umpire, Ron Luciano, says, `You can't use that up here.' Cash says, `Why not, I won't hit him anyway.' He then gets a bat, strikes out on three pitches, and walking away he says to Luciano, `See, I told ya.'"

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No-hitter #3
September 28, 1974

The basics
Ryan walked eight and struck out 15 Twins in Anaheim for his last appearance of the year

Best hitter on the opposing team
Rod Carew, though Tony Oliva was no slouch.

Something of note
According to the pitch-count estimator here, Ryan likely threw somewhere in the neighborhood of 156 pitches. Also, his manager's name was Bobby Winkles, which is probably cooler than any of the other factoids here.

Winkles liked to keep Ryan out there. The age of the specialized reliever hadn't dawned, so that wasn't an unusual strategy, and you can be damned sure they didn't give a rip about pitch counts. Ryan took a start into extra innings twice in his last ten games of the year. The no-hitter was his sixth complete game, and ninth out of his last ten starts. Ryan threw 26 complete games and 332 innings that year. He pitched for 20 more years after that. Freak.

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No-hitter #4
June 1, 1975

The basics
Ryan walked four and struck out nine Orioles in Anaheim.

Best hitter on the opposing team
Don Baylor, who was in the middle of one of his best seasons.

Something of note
Five of the Orioles in the starting lineup had averages below the Mendoza Line, including Tom Shopay, who had nine at-bats for the year … over two months. Shopay was on the roster for the entire year to that point, and it was his second start of the year.

Earl Weaver: You're getting the start today, Tommy.

Tom Shopay: Yesssss. Thanks, Skip!

Shopay thinks for a second

Shopay: Dammit.

Weaver: No one likes you, Tommy. I hope you know that.

Four no-hitters in an 86-game stretch. There were also two one-hitters and a pair of two-hitters mixed in, too. The start after the fourth no-hitter? A complete-game two-hitter. It was a different style of game back then, sure. But whenever a pitcher throws a no-hitter, take a second to remember just how much of a freak Nolan Ryan was.

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