Perhaps due to the evolution of media over the years, there appears to be a distinct divide in New York Yankees fans' memories recalling the franchise's no-hitters. Many have seen countless clips of the perfect games thrown by Don Larsen, David Wells, and David Cone, and further clips from the no-hitters tossed by Dwight Gooden, Jim Abbott, and Dave Righetti are extremely easy to find as well. However, the Yankees threw five no-hitters prior to Larsen's perfecto, and they are not often discussed, a likely byproduct of the lack of video footage. There are some pictures of the two no-hitters that Allie Reynolds threw in 1951, but beyond that, baseball does not have much regarding the first three no-hitters in Yankees history. Southpaw George Mogridge threw the first one, silencing the two-time defending champion Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 24, 1917 (For many years, Tom Hughes was credited with the first no-hitter after he threw 9.1 hitless innings at old Hilltop Park in a 5-0, 11-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians on August 30, 1910, but an updated definition of no-hitters invalidated it). "Sad Sam" Jones threw the second no-hitter on September 4, 1923 against the Philadelphia Athletics in Shibe Park, a surprisingly strikeoutless effort 70 years to the day before Abbott's gem.
The third no-no in Yankees history happened 74 years ago today. Righthanded curveball specialist Monte Pearson was the artist, and his canvas was the Indians' lineup, which featured Hall of Famer Earl Averill. Incredibily, Pearson fired the no-hitter despite pitching on just two days' rest. It was the second game of a doubleheader, the Yankees' fifth in a row and sixth in seven days. 12 games in seven days would be exhausting for most teams, but the incredible Joe McCarthy Yankees went 8-3 up through the second game on August 27th. This Yankees team won 99 games and held a wide 13-game lead on the Red Sox entering the contest. The race for the pennant stopped being close in July, as the Yankees stormed through the "dog days" of August with a 28-8 record. In the first game of the August 27th doubleheader, 23-year-old center fielder Joe DiMaggio had his own game to remember by tying an AL record with three triples, including a walk-off three-bagger against former Yankee Johnny Allen (another great Yankee center fielder, Earle Combs, also hit three triples in a game on September 22, 1927). Unfortunately for "the Yankee Clipper," his headlines were stolen by what "Hoot" Pearson did in the second game.
Pearson actually started his career with the Indians from '32-'35, and he burst onto the AL scene in '33 with a 2.33 ERA in 16 starts (19 games). Considering the fact that the 1930s might have been the greatest offensive decade in baseball history, a 2.33 ERA was quite the accomplishment for a 24-year-old, as proven by his incredible park-adjusted 194 ERA+. Pearson never recaptured that form in Cleveland though, and after pitching to a 4.68 ERA over the next two seasons, he was traded with minor league pitcher Steve Sundra to the Yankees for the aforementioned Allen. The trade turned his career around almost immediately. Whether it was because he was playing with a better team and offense, or just natural improvement upon entering his prime years was anyone's guess.
Pearson's 3.71 ERA and 125 ERA+ led an impressive pitching rotation in '36 that featured Hall of Famers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez. He led the AL by only allowing 7.7 hits per nine innings, and he won Game 4 of the World Series 5-2 against Hall of Fame pitcher Carl Hubbell and the New York Giants with a complete game. In '37, he missed time with an arm injury, but he had a 3.17 ERA and 142 ERA+ in 144.2 innings and came within an out of another complete game against the Giants in the World Series (he settled for a 8.2 inning, one-run, five-hit win). Pearson had another fine season in '38, successfully helping the Yankees win their then-unprecedented third World Series title in a row by pitching 202 innings of 115 ERA+ baseball. He was never better than when he took on his old Indian teammates at Yankee Stadium on August 27th.
Though Pearson was on very short rest, he certainly did not appear weary. Pearson blew threw the first innings perfectly, "like reeds before a high gale," according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, the powerful Yankees offense that scored 966 runs on the season put the game away very quickly against former Tar Heel Johnny Humphries. They knocked him out of the game by the fifth inning with the score 10-0 thanks to a nine-hit barrage powered by homers from Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Gordon and "Ol' Reliable" right fielder Tommy Henrich. Both men each added another homer against reliever Denny Galehouse, and the Yankees had 13 runners cross home plate on the day. Despite the offensive exploits, Pearson's performance on the mound became the story of the game.
Pearson walked the first two men who faced him in the fourth inning, former Yankee Lyn Lary and right fielder Bruce Campbell. A timely hit would have chipped into the Yankees' seven-run lead at the time, but Pearson stayed strong against the heart of the Indians' batting order. He struck out home run threats Jeff Heath and Hal Trosky, and induced a weak ground ball from Averill. Pearson went back to perfection and the Indians subsequently went down in order from the fifth through the eighth. The crowd of 40,959 was brimming with excitement as Pearson took the mound in the ninth inning. No player had ever thrown a no-hitter in Yankee Stadium the park's 15-year history. No Yankee had thrown a home no-hitter even when they played at Hilltop Park from 1903-12 and the Giants' Polo Grounds from 1913-22 (Hughes's effort notwithstanding).
Pinch-hitters Julius "Moose" Solters batted for Galehouse and struck out, Pearson's seventh victim of the day. Another pinch-hitter came on for Lary, regular catcher Frankie Pytlak. Another weak groundout later, Pearson was on the doorstep of history as Campbell came to the plate again. No Indian had reached base since his walk in the fourth, a streak of 17 consecutive batters. The crowd's excitement was put on hold since the sun was setting, forcing DiMaggio run to the dugout in search of sunglasses. He wasn't about to be the goat of a no-hit attempt should the sun blind his view. Campbell forced everyone to hold their breath when he lined a ball down the first base line. "Foul!" shouted first base umpire Cal Hubbard. The fans sighed in relief. Campbell then lifted a low liner into left field, just the fifth ball hit by an Indian to escape the infield. George Selkirk rushed in on the ball and made the catch, sending the crowd to a frenzy.
Yankees fans had finally witnessed a no-hitter in their own park, and they stormed the field. One fan even grabbed Pearson's cap right off his head as the pitcher tried to escape the mob and reach his teammates. Hubbard and two policemen finally managed to escort the righthander off the field to his clubhouse. It was the first AL no-hitter in a year and a half and the closest to a perfect performance any no-hitter had come since Paul "Daffy" Dean of the Cardinals allowed one walk in a '34 no-hitter. Later that year, Pearson won another World Series complete game with a five-hit, 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs, and in '39, he flirted with a second no-hitter, this time in the World Series. Pearson was five outs from the first no-hitter in World Series history when Hall of Fame Cincinnati Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi singled to end it. He finished with a two-hit shutout. Pearson won every World Series start he pitched, and his 1.01 career World Series ERA is fourth all-time among pitchers with 35 innings in the Fall Classic.
Pearson unfortunately never recovered from a torn shoulder ligament suffered in 1940, and his career ended at age 32 in '41. He was still a big part of the Yankees' four straight championships from 1936-39, and he had his finest hour 74 years ago today with the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium history.
Further sources: Tan, Cecilia. The 50 Greatest Yankee Games. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005.