Friday, June 8, 2012

How Long It's Been: A Pitcher for a National League Team From New York Pitched a No-Hitter

When Johan Santana pitched a one-hitter last week, it was the first time a pitcher for a National League team from New York got credit for a no-hitter since...

Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

We know the Mets had never pitched one before. So we've got to go back to the pre-1958 era, with the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The oddity is that the no-hitter was pitched by a man who was, quite possibly, the Giant that Dodger fans hated the most (aside from Dodger manager turned Giant manager Leo Durocher): Sal Maglie. But it was after Maglie had been traded not just from the Giants to the Cleveland Indians, but from the Indians to... the Dodgers!

On September 25, 1956, at Ebbets Field, Maglie pitched a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was not a perfect game: He walked 2 batters, and, typical of Maglie, a headhunter known as "Sal the Barber" because his fastballs gave batters "close shaves," he hit a batter, Richie Ashburn. Only 15,204 fans saw it live. Yes, it was a Tuesday, not a weekend game. On the other hand, the Dodgers were in the middle of a mad Pennant race with the Milwaukee Braves, which they would win by all of 1 game, and it was at night, not during the workday.

The Dodgers scored on an RBI groundout by Carl Furillo, a 2-run home run by Roy Campanella, and a Phillies' error on a ground ball by Sandy Amoros.

The 3rd base umpire that night was Babe Pinelli. Just 13 days later, he would be behind the plate for another Maglie start, in Game 5 of the World Series. Which turned out to be the next no-hitter thrown by a New York pitcher: Don Larsen's perfect game.

After 1956, no-hitters were thrown by New York pitchers in 1983 (Dave Righetti), 1990 (Andy Hawkins -- sort of, it was still closer to being a legitimate no-hitter than Santana's game), 1993 (Jim Abbott), 1996 (Dwight Gooden), 1998 (David Wells, perfect game) and 1999 (David Cone, perfect game). All by Yankees, although Gooden and Cone had been Mets.

So it was 55 years, 8 years and 6 days. How long has that been?


Well, for one thing, with the death of Duke Snider on February 27, 2011, all the Dodgers who played in the game in question game are dead. Five of the Phillies who played in it are still alive: Stan Lopata, Solly Hemus, Bob Miller, Ed Bouchee and Ted Kazanski -- no, not the Unabomber, that's Ted Kaczynski.

The Dodgers, for the only season (in their Brooklyn days, anyway), were defending World Series Champions. For a long time, the Phillies were "the other team" in Philadelphia, behind the Athletics. At this point, the A's were wrapping up their 2nd season in Kansas City. In other words, there was a team in Kansas City, but it wasn't the Royals. Prior to that, there were no major league teams west of St. Louis. There were still none south of St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington. There was a baseball team in Washington, but it was in the American League and it wasn't the Nationals, it was the Senators. There was a team in Milwaukee, and it was in the National League, but it wasn't the Brewers, it was the Braves. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Toronto, Atlanta, Miami and Tampa were all still minor-league cities. So was Montreal, for whom big-league ball has since come and gone.

Every Major League Baseball park had lights, except Wrigley Field in Chicago. But none of them had artificial turf, or a roof, retractable or otherwise. There were still 3 MLB teams that did not have a black player: The Phillies, the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox. And while the Cubs were already advertising their home ground as "Beautiful Wrigley Field," hardly anybody thought of Fenway Park as wonderful -- mainly because every team, except for Baltimore and Milwaukee, was playing in a stadium built before World War II. Having a ballpark that opened in 1912 was no big deal at that time: The Giants, Phillies, Senators, Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates were all then playing in ballparks built that year or earlier.

The defining baseball stars of my childhood? Carl Yastrzemski and Pete Rose were in high school. Tom Seaver was in junior high. Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench and Mike Schmidt were in grade school.

There was an NFL team in Baltimore, but it wasn't the Ravens. It was the Colts, and they were about to start the season the following Sunday. Johnny Unitas, who would become known as their quarterback, and perhaps the greatest quarterback ever, had yet to play an NFL game. The NFL had already expanded to the West Coast, but not yet to the South, including Texas. Iconic teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos did not yet exist. There were 2 teams in Chicago -- the Cardinals not yet having moved to St. Louis, let alone Arizona -- and one in New York, the Giants.

The defending champions of the NFL were the Cleveland Browns. Yes, that was a long time ago. In the NBA, it was the Philadelphia Warriors, who moved to San Francisco in 1962. In the NHL, it was the Montreal Canadiens. The Boston Celtics had yet to win their first NBA title -- but then, Bill Russell had yet to make their debut for them. Wilt Chamberlain was a sophomore at the University of Kansas. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was in grade school. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan weren't born yet.

Officially, the heavyweight championship of the world was vacant, as Rocky Marciano had retired. Two months later, Floyd Patterson would beat Archie Moore in the fight to determine the new champ. Muhammad Ali was 14 -- and he was still Cassius Clay.

The Olympic Games had never yet been broadcast on American television -- nor would the games about to be held in Melbourne, Australia, held in November so it would be summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The first European Cup Final had recently been held, with Real Madrid of Spain beating Stade de Reims of France, 4-3.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, for the 2nd time, was about to be elected President in a landslide over Adlai Stevenson. Richard Nixon was Ike's Vice President. Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and the widows of Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt were still alive. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were in the U.S. Senate, Gerald Ford in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jimmy Carter was running a peanut farm, George H.W. Bush an oil company, and Ronald Reagan was about to make the one and only film in which his co-star was his wife, then still billed as Nancy Davis: Hellcats of the Navy. Neither Carter, nor Reagan, nor Bush had ever yet run for office. Bush's son was 10. So was Bill Clinton. Barack Obama wasn't born yet.

The Governor of the State of New York was Averell Harriman. The Governor of New Jersey was Robert Meyner. The Mayor of the City of New York was Robert F. Wagner Jr. Under the law of the time, the man next in line to be Mayor was the President of the City Council. His name was Abe Stark, and he rose to prominence by having a sign advertising his clothing store at the base of the Ebbets Field scoreboard: "HIT SIGN WIN SUIT." Thanks to the fielding of the aforementioned Carl Furillo, and before that of Dixie Walker, Stark only had to award one free suit to an opposing player: Mel Ott of the Giants. Someone suggested that, due to Furillo having saved Stark from having to give out free suits, he should give Furillo one. He did.

Major novels of 1956 included Seize the Day by Saul Bellow, the political thriller The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor, Ian Fleming's James Bond story Diamonds Are Forever, Philip K. Dick's science-fiction story The Minority Report, and one of the first mainstream novels to treat a homosexual relationship as something other than a plot point to explain something twisted, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. Amazingly -- this was 13 years before the Stonewall Riot -- it did not hurt Baldwin's career. Less well-received, but much more groundbreaking, was Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg.

Two major sports-themed books appeared that year: Mark Harris' baseball novel Bang the Drum Slowly and A.J. Liebling's collection of boxing writing, The Sweet Science. Notable plays of the year included Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, and John Osborne's Look Back in Anger.

It was a big year for movies. Film versions were made of Jules Verne's novel Around the World In 80 Days, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and the Broadway musical Carousel. Alfred Hitchcock, frame-for-frame but in color and with an American cast, remade his 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much -- not to be confused with the film version of Sloan Wilson's novel The Man In the Gray Flannel Suit, which also premiered this year. Cecil B. DeMille also remade one of his films in color, The Ten Commandments, and the only way it could have been more over-the-top would have been if the actors were allowed to intentionally act gay. Anastasia marked Ingrid Bergman's return to the mainstream after the scandal of her affair with director Roberto Rossellini. American audiences were introduced to actress Brigitte Bardot and her then-husband, director Roger Vadim, in And God Created Woman. And to Japanese legends Akiro Kurosaw, with his Seven Samurai -- upon which The Magnificent Seven would be based -- and Gojira, or Godzilla as he's known here.

Yul Brynner playing King Mongkut of Siam in The King and I? It made some sense, as he was half-Siberian, half-Mongol. John Wayne playing Genghis Khan in The Conqueror? It made no sense, as he was all-Irish. The Conqueror turned out to be the last Wayne film that had never been shown on television. Much better was another Wayne film, The Searchers.

There was a film titled Naked Gun, but it didn't star Leslie Nielsen. What did was Forbidden Planet, a science-fiction version of William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Also that year, in science fiction, was the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We said hello to Elvis Presley, who burst onto the music scene like no solo performer has before, nor has since, and who made his film debut in Love Me Tender. And we said goodbye to Grace Kelly, whose last film before giving up her career to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco was High Society; and to James Dean, who was killed in a car crash almost exactly a year before the Maglie no-hitter, whose last film Giant was released. The most notable body parts in film that year were Kirk Douglas' ear, as Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life; and Jayne Mansfield's breasts, inspiring a different kind of lust in the first great rock and roll movie, The Girl Can't Help It.

TV shows debuting that year included the soap operas As the World Turns and The Edge of Night, the game shows Queen for a Day and the original version of The Price Is Right, the anthology series Playhouse 90, and the variety program The Ford Show -- officially named for its automotive sponsor, not its host, country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford. Shows ending their runs that year were The Honeymooners, r 26 – The Price Is Right game show premieres (1956–1965). Opportunity Knocks on ITV (UK) (1956–1978). Shows ending that year included The Honeymooners. And the DuMont network went out of business.

In September 1956, tensions were rising in Hungary and Egypt. Australia began TV broadcasting. Anastasio Somoza, President of Nicaragua, was assassinated; two of his sons would also be President, their regimes ending no better. Reynold Johnson and his team of IBM scientists invented the hard disk drive.

In the days surrounding Maglie's no-hitter, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and Alfred Kinsey, and Albert Von Tilzer, who wrote the melody for "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," died. Magician David Copperfield, and actress Linda Hamilton, and decathlete Sebastian Coe, organizer of the 2012 Olympics, were born.

September 25, 1956, the last time a pitcher for a National League team in New York pitched a no-hitter.

Unless you really think Carlos Beltran's line drive was foul. Then, by all means, give Johan Santana the no-hitter.

Until you can show that it was foul... uh-uh.

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