June 26, 2014
On Seeing Two No-Hitters in Person in One Week
One of our Effectively Wild listeners, Anthony Rinaldi, lives in Pennsylvania. He decided to go to California for the first time in his life, by himself, and while he was here he managed to stumble into both Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter and Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter, 400 miles away from each other. Here are the pictures to prove it, y'all skeptics. Just to reiterate, Anthony writes,
Let me reiterate how ridiculous this is...I live in Pennsylvania...I decided to go to California for the first time in my life, by myself, and see two no hitters with in a week of each other...400 miles from each other...
We all started wondering whether anybody has done this, seen two no-hitters in the same week—at least anybody since Johnny Vander Meer, who in 1938 definitely saw two no-hitters within a week of each other. So I dug into it: I looked at all the no-hitters that fell within a week of another no-hitter since WWII. I looked at any roster changes that might have sent a player from one no-hit team to another in the span of the week; at umpire crews; at distance between the parks; at the attendance for each game; and I pondered whether there would be any clear reason for a fan to be at both games. Were I immortal, I’d have time to go through and find national columnists who covered both games or search the entire population for people who claimed to have been at both, but as I am mortal I’m left to make Wild Guesses. Here are my Wild Guesses about how rare Anthony’s experience is:
Ed Head and Bob Feller, April 1946
Each game was pitched in New York, Head throwing for the Dodgers and Feller throwing against the Yankees. Each game drew well (27,000 and 38,000), and there must have been plenty of fans who attended both—especially because the type of person who can go to a game on a Tuesday is likely the type of person who can go to a game on the next Tuesday. It’s likely that some writers covered both. Radio news reporters. Heck, maybe vendors. Wild guess: 400 people saw both of these in person.
Earl Wilson and Sandy Koufax, June 1962
The distance between these games was probably the farthest any two games could possibly be at that point, with Wilson pitching for Boston at home and Koufax pitching for the Dodgers at home. Here’s one very, very slim possibility: The Mets signed Ed Kranepool on June 27, just after the first no-hitter (June 26, by Koufax) and just before the second (June 30). It’s conceivable, if an incredible stretch, to imagine that they might have had him in L.A. with the club to sign the deal that week. And it’s conceivably he might have flown back home to New York and, for some reason, ended up in Boston for the later game. Practically impossible, though; the sort of circumstances that might make for a novel but not a credible novel. So, no, the best bet is that some LA Times writer who covered both teams or all sports had been in Los Angeles and then traveled with the Angels to Boston. This strikes me as very hard to bet on, especially because the Angels were playing the day Koufax threw his, and a guy who was writing about the Angels would have probably been with the Angels (in Boston) already. Wild guess: Nobody saw both of these in person.
Sandy Koufax and Don Nottebart, May 1963
Koufax threw his in L.A., Nottebart threw his in Houston, for the Colts. Just 8,000 saw the Colts game, so we’re already in a deep hole. Two days after this game, the Phillies played the Giants; is it possible somebody affiliated with the Phillies was at the Giants/Dodgers games, doing advance scouting? If so, he likely wouldn’t have had the sort of job that would bring him to Houston to watch a random series his own team was playing in. That, or some league official, would I guess be the best bet. Wild Guess: One person saw both of these in person.
Sandy Koufax and Dave Morehead, September 1965
It’s the old Boston-to-Los Angeles journey again, a practically uncrossable distance, and different leagues to boot. Oh, also: 1,247 people attended the Red Sox game. It was late in the season, and Boston was 36 ½ games back of first. So we’re down to those 1,247 people. Feel pretty good with this Wild Guess: Nobody saw both of these in person.
Gaylord Perry and Ray Washburn, September 1968
Back-to-back games in the same ballpark with the same teams playing, so this one’s pretty easy: Every player on both sides, all four umpires, every member of each team’s coaching staff, the traveling secretaries, the radio technicians, the beat writers, the peanut salesmen, the grounds crew, the cops on the footstools down by the bullpen, the bat boys. And some portion of the fans: 9,500 one game, 4,700 the other. A thousand fans seems fair, plus the infrastructure personnel—I’ll call them 540 people, excluding the guys selling Coke on the concourse who couldn’t really see the game. Wild guess: 1,540 people saw both of these games in person.
Jim Maloney and Don Wilson, April/May 1969
Same deal: Back-to-back days between the same clubs in the same ballpark. All the assumptions above, except the crowds were 3,900 and 4,000, so let’s cut the repeat crowd to 650. Wild Guess: 1,190 people saw both of these games in person.
Jim Palmer and Ken Holtzman, August 1969
One in Baltimore, one in Chicago, 703 miles apart. Different leagues, 17,000 at one game and 38,000 in the other. Only one-day turnaround. Wild Guess: Nobody saw both of these games in person.
Charlie Lea and Len Barker, May 1981
Barker’s came in Montreal and Lea’s was against Toronto, though it’s hard to make a relevant connection that doesn’t assume all Canadians are single-mindedly focused on watching Canadian baseball teams, wherever they might be. There were no players switching teams from one game to the other, and the different leagues eliminate umpires or advance scouts. Wild Guess: One person saw both of these games, probably a traveling bra salesman.
Bob Forsch and Mike Warren, September 1983
No known connection. Oakland and St. Louis, both fairly sparsely attended. Wild Guess: Two people saw both of these games, a traveling blues guitarist and his manager.
Joe Cowley and Mike Scott, September 1986
In Anaheim and in Houston, both games well attended. Different leagues, different regions, no players traded or released to the others. Wild Guess: One person saw both of these games, a players union lawyer who just wanted to use his travel budget for the year.
Dave Stewart and Fernando Valenzuela, June 1990
These games started two hours and 55 minutes apart; one was in Los Angeles, the other in Toronto. Nobody saw both of these games in person.
Jim Abbott and Darryl Kile, September 1993
So close! Frank Tanana was the losing starter in the Kile game, and nine days later was traded to the Yankees, who were the winners in the Abbott game. But nine days later is not helpful at all; the Abbott game came four days earlier. Wild Guess: One person saw both of these games in person, a searching teenaged boy whose mother had recently told him that his dad was a pro ballplayer but wouldn’t tell him which one.
Al Leiter and Dwight Gooden, May 1996
Leiter in Miami, Gooden in New York. There’s at least some shared population between Florida and New York, so I can buy a businessman or two down (or up) for the week. People are always going to New York, actually, so that seems plausible. The Yankees traded for David Weathers later in the year, so what the heck, let’s just say somebody from the Yankees front office was in Miami, looking over a middle reliever whom the team was considering acquiring two-and-a-half months later. Sure, that probably happened. Wild guess: Seven people saw both of these games in person.
Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander, May 2011
Liriano (Minnesota) pitched on May 3. Verlander pitched against Toronto on May 7. Now follow me here: The Boston Red Sox started a series against Minnesota on May 7, and then immediately after that started a series against Toronto on May 11. I’d bet a dollar against four that the same advance scout was at both games. Wild Guess: One person (that scout) saw both of these games in person.
Kershaw and Lincecum, June 2014
Wild Guess: Anthony Rinaldi saw both of these games in person.
So, our totals: Since the end of WWII, 3,147 people saw two no-hitters in person in the same week. Since the end of the Vietnam War, though, just 14 people have seen two no-hitters in person in the same week. These numbers might not be right, but they are definitely numbers, and numbers never lie.
Follow Anthony on Twitter so you can read all about this when he gets home from his trip.
Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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