(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
This week’s no-hit performance by Giants pitcher Chris Heston at Citi Field got us thinking about the Mets experience over the years with no-hit ballgames.
Most true blue and orange Mets fans can quickly tell you that Johan Santana ended the Mets long drought of no-hitters with his gem on June 1, 2012. Prior to Santana’s no-no against the Cardinals at Citi Field, the Mets played 8,019 games without Mets pitching hurling a no-hitter. Three years later, Santana’s masterpiece is still the only game the Mets have ever won behind no-hit pitching.
But what of the Mets being on the losing end of no-hit performances? It turns out that with Heston’s game in the books, the Mets have now been no-hit seven times since the team was born in 1962. Let’s take a walk down Mets Memory Lane to look at the other six times the Mets came up empty on hits, as several of those games are quite memorable.
It should be no surprise that the first time Mets hitters were blanked came in 1962 when the new team was downright dreadful (season record of 40 wins and 120 losses) while at the same time Sandy Koufax was magnificent (leading the National League with a 2.54 ERA). On June 30 at Dodger Stadium, Koufax struck out 13 Mets in a 5-0 no-hitter. In the five years remaining in Koufax’s career he owned the Mets, winning against the New Yorkers 17 times and losing only twice in 20 appearances.
The next no-no the Mets suffered is the one remembered more than any other, as it was the first perfect game thrown in the National League in 84 years. Hall of Famer Jim Bunning was the author of the masterpiece, which took place on June 21, 1964 in the Mets sparkling new Shea Stadium. It was only the 31st game in the new ballpark, and was the first game of a Father’s Day doubleheader. Fittingly, Bunning’s family was in the stands and greeted him on the field between games.
Five years later, in 1969, the Mets were on the losing end of a no-hitter once again, this time in the middle of a red-hot pennant race. The Mets were closing in on the “magic number” to eliminate their second place rival, the Chicago Cubs when the Pirates invaded Shea Stadium for the weekend of September 19-21. The Mets march to the pennant was stalled with a double-header sweep by the Pirates on Friday night, then Bob Moose shut them down on Saturday with a 4-0 no-hitter, saved by a one-handed catch in the sixth inning by the great Roberto Clemente.
Moose was a journeyman pitcher having the best year of his 10-year career in 1969 as he led the league in winning percentage with a 14-3 record. The Mets rebounded quickly after their no-hit spanking though, following it up with a nine game winning streak that clinched the pennant and put them in position for a dramatic World Series win over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.
The next few no-hitters thrown against the Mets were marked by considerably less drama. On October 2, 1972 Bill Stoneman, another journeyman pitcher with a losing career record (54-85), stymied the Mets 7-0 on behalf of the Montreal Expos at Jarry Park in Montreal. The game was notable for a few reasons.
First, though Stoneman pitched only eight years in the majors with a mediocre record at best, he authored two no-hitters, the first a 1969 gem against the Phillies and then the no-no in 1972 vs. the Mets.
Second, Stoneman’s gem in Montreal turned out to be the first no-hitter ever pitched outside the borders of the United States, making it the answer to a trivia question destined to stump many a baseball fan.
The next pitcher to shut down Mets hitters was also a journeyman with a less than outstanding major league career. Ed Halicki spent most of seven years with the San Francisco Giants and compiled a career record of 55 wins and 66 losses. One of those wins was a 6-0 no-hitter vs. the Mets on August 24, 1975. The legitimacy of the no-hitter, however, is marred somewhat by a controversial official scorer’s decision to call an error in the 5th inning on a tough ball hit to the second baseman by Mets batter Rusty Staub. Nevertheless, the game is in the books as the fifth no-hitter thrown against the Mets.
Astros pitcher Darryl Kile pitched the sixth no-hit game vs. the Mets on September 8, 1993. The Mets managed to score a run without a hit, but still succumbed 7-1. Notable about this no-hitter is the tragic ending of Kile’s career and life a few years later. Kile had an excellent career, 133 wins and 119 losses, but succumbed to heart disease at age 33 in the middle of the 2002 baseball season. He was the first active major league player to die in the middle of the season since Thurman Munson passed away in 1979.
Only time will tell whether Chris Heston’s no-no will join the ranks of no-hitters crafted by great pitchers like Koufax and Bunning, or be relegated to the ranks of games thrown by mediocre pitchers who managed to rise to the occasion for one glorious performance.
Meanwhile, Mets fans have the opportunity to reflect upon no-hitters thrown against the team by both the greatest pitchers in the game as well as those thrown by guys who are just happy to be in the record books.
And wasn’t that a great game pitched by Johann Santana in 2012?