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Looking back at the Yankees’ no-hitters

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The pitchers who’ve thrown a no-no in pinstripes are an eclectic bunch.

Indians v Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

As far as impressive feats in sports go, throwing a no-hitter is unique. For a pitcher, throwing one is rare and difficult to achieve, but unlike other baseball accomplishments—say, winning the home run derby, or hitting safely in 56 consecutive games—it is not an individual effort. The feat requires teammates to support the pitcher every step of the way (and the umpire to make the correct calls).

And unlike other special achievements in baseball, no-hitters are kind of...democratic. Sure, a number of Hall of Famers have accomplished the feat. But so have journeyman pitchers, guys with great comeback stories like Carlos Rodón and those who had thoroughly underwhelming major league careers. The characteristics of pitchers who have thrown no-hitters don’t appear always to follow an obvious pattern. The exclusive club of pitchers who have tossed a no-no for the Yankees certainly don’t.

On the Yankees, Dwight Gooden was in the twilight of his career when he threw one. Dave Righetti tossed his early on in his career. A pitcher born with one hand and pitchers born with two, lefties, righties, finesse pitchers and guys who throw heat—they all belong to the same club. As eclectic as that group is, the no-hit games they threw were pretty similar.

Yankees’ non-perfect no-hitters since 1950

Pitcher Date Opponent Location Age Why it wasn't perfect SO GB/FB Notes
Pitcher Date Opponent Location Age Why it wasn't perfect SO GB/FB Notes
Allie Reynolds July 12, 1951 CLE Yankee Stadium 34 3 BB 1 Error 4 10/12
Allie Reynolds September 28, 1951 CLE Yankee Stadium 34 4 BB 1 Error 9 7/10 First game of a double header
Dave Righetti July 4, 1983 BOS Yankee Stadium 24 4 BB 9 5/11 George Steinbrenner's 53rd birthday
Jim Abbott September 4, 1993 CLE Yankee Stadium 36 5 BB 3 15/7 Kenny Lofton led off the ninth inning with an attempt to bunt
Dwight Gooden May 14, 1996 SEA Yankee Stadium 31 6 BB 1 Error 5 8/14 Doc did not play in 1995
Data courtesy of baseball-reference.com

One notable similarity these games share is that they were all pitched at home, in Yankee Stadium. That walks and errors were what made the no-hitters imperfect is another quality the Yankees’ no-hitters have in common. Interestingly, three of the five no-hitters thrown by Yankees since 1950 were against Cleveland.

In the gem he pitched earlier this week, Rodón didn’t record his first strikeout of the evening until the top of the 4th inning. The Yankees’ no-hitters didn’t include an overwhelming amount of strikeouts, either; with the exception of Jim Abbott’s no-no, groundouts outnumbered fly outs in all of the games.

The major league careers of the Yankees who’ve thrown no-hitters are remarkably different. Allie Reynolds was the ace of the Yankees’ pitching staff and he threw two no-hitters in the same season, in the prime of his career. He and his teammates would go on to win the 1951 World Series that season. In contrast, Dave Righetti threw his no-hitter two seasons after winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1981. Still new to the majors, his no-hitter came during a period where Righetti was trying to figure out what kind of pitcher he was and what he needed to do to be successful. He had been demoted to the minors the year before after struggling with his command in the beginning of the 1982 season. Righetti would go on to have a successful career, but as a relief pitcher. In 1984 the Yankees moved him to the bullpen to replace Goose Gossage, their closer. Notably, Righetti was Tim Lincecum’s pitching coach when Lincecum threw his no-hitters.

Jim Abbott’s time with the Yankees was marred by George Steinbrenner’s criticism, but his 1993 no-hitter is one of the most remarkable feats any player has ever achieved in baseball. Looking at his numbers on paper, Abbott’s MLB career could be described as middling, although he enjoyed one superb season in 1991. But his 10-year career in the big leagues is a testament to the extraordinary things athletes can accomplish and the incredible challenges they can overcome.

Doc Gooden’s no-hitter also came after navigating difficult challenges—in his case, drug addiction. Gooden was the most dominant pitcher in baseball in the 1980s, but in 1996 he was trying to make a comeback after relapsing and receiving a suspension from MLB for drug use. A lot of unsavory things can be said about George Steinbrenner, but one of his better qualities as an MLB team owner was his willingness to give people second chances.

So, who will be the next Yankee to throw a no-no? How many more will we see this season? It will be interesting to see if the pair of no-hitters thrown last week was a coincidence, or if, with these new baseballs, we are likely to see more in 2021.