Baseball can be a wondrous and cruel game, all at the same time.
Last Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, veteran 37-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers starter Rich Hill carried a no-hitter into the 10th inning. He would have had a perfect game in nine innings, if not for an error to 2B Logan Forsythe and a lack of run-scoring offence from his NL West leading team.
The no-no dream, then, ended in the bottom of the 10th inning, when Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison ripped a walk-off homer to spoil Hill’s momentous night. As it was, Hill tossed a gem, throwing just 99 pitches over his nine-plus innings while striking out 10.
He is far from the first pitcher to ever see a no-hitter turned into a one-hitter and in his case a gut-wrenching loss.
There have been many great pitchers who have thrown no-hitters, along with many one-hitters, which is still a gold standard in baseball despite the “nice try” connotation attached to them.
Here are 15 great pitchers who have thrown multiple one-hitters in their illustrious careers.
15. Steve Rogers – 4
In the history of the Montreal Expos, the name Steve Rogers stands out. The Missouri native pitched for 13 years, all with the Montreal Expos, his first in 1973 and last in 1985. And he was one of the most hard luck hurlers ever, twice leading the National League in losses, despite being a dominant starter. He lost 22 in 1974 and 17 in 1976 but had 11 complete games in ’74 and eight in ’76. In all, Rogers went 158-152 in 393 starts, with a 3.17 ERA, 129 complete games and 37 shutouts. He never did toss a no-hitter, but did have four career one-hitters to his name. His best one-hit effort had to be the 10-strikeout gem he tossed at the St. Louis Cardinals on June 3, 1977.
14. Mike Cuellar – 4
Miguel Angel “Mike” Cuellar Santana was one of the more dominant pitchers of the late 1960s and 1970s, winning a Cy Young with the Baltimore Orioles in 1969. He went 23-11 that year, then followed it up with 24-8 and 20-9 campaigns in 1970 and 1971. The Cuban native helped lead the O’s to five AL East pennants and three World Series, winning it all with them in 1970. Cuellar never had the distinction of pitching a no-hitter, but was able to toss four one-hitters in his 15-year career. On July 26, 1975, at the age of 38, Cuellar worked his masterpiece one-hitter in a 4-0 victory over Milwaukee. He limited a Brewers team that featured Hank Aaron to just a single off the bat of George Scott and struck out 10, including promising young players Robin Yount and Gorman Thomas twice each. In his 379 big league starts, Cuellar won 185 games, and had an incredible 172 complete games (36 by shutout).
13. Mike Mussina – 4
If ever there was a case for a pitcher to be in the Hall of Fame, it could be made for Mike Mussina. Sure, he never won a Cy Young, but he did finish his 18-year career ranked 33rd in wins (270), 66th in innings pitched (3,562.2), 19th in strikeouts (2,813) and 23rd all-time in pitching WAR at 82.9. As well, he won at least 11 games in 17 consecutive seasons, which is an American League record. Of his 536 big league starts, Mussina had 57 complete games, 23 of them shutouts. Like several pitchers on this list, Mussina never had the pleasure of tossing a no-no, however, he did have four one-hitters, one of them commemorated as a footnote in a book about perfect games. He was with the New York Yankees in 2001, when he spun a one-hit shutout against the Boston Red Sox. He was perfect through eight and a third, before giving up a bloop single to Carl Everett. He struck out 13 in that game and coincidentally beat the last guy to have tossed a perfect game (at that time), David Cone.
12. Pedro Martinez – 4
If Rich Hill needs to seek solace in the fact he was close to being perfect, he can look at the career of Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. The Dominican ace had a game much like Hill did on Wednesday night, when he was with the Montreal Expos in 1995. He retired the first 27 San Diego Padres in a game, but the game was scoreless and went to extras. The Expos scored a run in the top of the 10th to tie, but in the bottom of the inning, Martinez gave up a lead-off double and was yanked in favor of a reliever. Even with that remarkable effort, the three-time Cy Young award winner had one better, when he one-hit the New York Yankees on September 10, 1999 when he was with Boston. In what would be a Cy Young year, Martinez retired 17 Yankees on strikeouts and issued no walks, while giving up just a solo homer to Chili Davis in a 3-1 win. Legendary Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell called it the greatest game ever pitched at Yankee Stadium.
11. Grover Cleveland Alexander – 4
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander is to this day one the greatest all-time. The Hall of Fame hurler is tied with Christy Mathewson for most NL wins at 373 and his 90 shutouts also remain a record on the senior circuit. Alexander won three Triple Crowns, led the league in wins and strikeouts six times and in 696 starts had an amazing 436 complete games. In 1915, he would become the second and final pitcher to toss four one-hitters in a season. Now that’s hard luck if we’ve ever seen it. In 1915, the Phillies Alexander would establish that string of luckless-ness, including two near identical one-hitters in three starts. On June 26 against the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spun a one-hit shutout with no walks and six strikeouts. Two starts later on July 5, he one-hit the New York Giants in Philadelphia’s 1-0 victory, including another six strikeouts and no bases on balls.
10. Jim Maloney – 5
For a brief time in the mid-1960s, little known Jim Maloney was one of the better pitchers in the National League. The Fresno, CA native played all 12 of his big league seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, winning 134 games, included 74 complete game efforts and 30 shutouts. He is the first pitcher on our list who actually did record a no-hitter, actually two of them four years apart in 1965 and 1969. But that success didn’t come without some bad luck, as he also registered five one-hitters. One of his strongest one-hitters came early in his career. Maloney, then 23, and the Reds were facing Ernie Banks and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 23, 1963 when he allowed the hosts just one single, in the first inning. That same inning, he struck out the side, including Lou Brock, Billy Williams and Ron Santo, en route to fanning 13 and walking three batters in a 1-0 victory.
9. Dave Stieb – 5
For while in the 1980s, Toronto Blue Jays starter Dave Stieb had a big, black cloud hanging over his head. One of the winningest pitchers of the decade (his 140 wins were second only to Jack Morris) was also its unluckiest. For starters, until he pitched an elusive no-hitter in 1990 against Cleveland, Stieb lost no-hitters in consecutive starts at home in September 1988, both with two outs and two strikes on the batter. In that first one-hitter on Sept. 24 against Cleveland, it was Julio Franco who spoiled his two-walk, eight-strikeout effort. In the second one on Sept. 24 with Baltimore in town, pinch-hitter Jim Traber did the trick against him. Added to those two great efforts was a third one-hitter that year (making him one of two in MLB history to do so) against Milwaukee on May 31. In that game, won 9-0 by the Jays, Stieb allowed just a single to the Brewers B.J. Surhoff in the fourth inning.
8. Bert Blyleven – 5
Before Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven tossed his one and only no-hitter in 1977, he, like Dave Stieb, had to forget about a few close calls. In fact, in 1973 when he had his only 20-game winning season (20-17) and was an All-Star for the first time with the Minnesota Twins, Blyleven had two one-hitters among his league leading nine complete-game shutouts that year. On May 24, 1973 against Kansas City, Blyleven struck out seven and allowed just two walks and a fifth-inning bunt single to Ed Kirkpatrick in a 2-0 triumph. In his second last start of the 1973 campaign, Blyleven’s bid at a perfect game was broken up when Oakland’s Reggie Jackson reached on an error to Twins’ centerfielder Steve Brye. He later scored an unearned run on a single by Angel Mangual in a game the Twins would win 4-1. Blyleven struck out eight and walked just one in that masterful outing. Along with that no-no in 1997, Blyleven had three other one-hitters in his 685 starts.
7. Jim Palmer – 5
Few pitchers in the 1970s enjoyed the unbridled success that Baltimore Orioles ace Jim Palmer had. The lanky righthander pitched all 19 of his big league seasons in Baltimore and won 20 or more games and three AL Cy Young awards between 1970 and 1978. Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, Palmer tossed just one no-hitter in 521 starts, an 8-0 whitewash of the Oakland A’s in 1969. Otherwise, the three-time World Series winner would see five no-hitters/perfect games evaporate into one-hitters over his long career. In 1975, Palmer led the American League in complete game shutouts with 10 and included in those superb starts was one of his five one-hitters. In that May 8 game against George Brett and the Kansas City Royals, Palmer outdueled K.C.’s Steve Busby, who also tossed a complete game in a narrow 1-0 loss (he gave up just four hits in eight innings). On the other side, Palmer gave up just a single to Hal McCrae and scattered three walks.
6. Tom Seaver – 5
Hall of Fame hurler Tom Seaver checked a lot of the greatness boxes before he threw his first no-hitter in is 12th season. He won Rookie of the Year in 1967 with the New York Mets and all three of his Cy Young awards with the Mets also. He was strikeout leader five times, ERA leader on three occasions and threw five one-hitters (including two no-hitters that were broken up in the ninth inning) in a Mets pinstripes. It took a trade to the Cincinnati Reds, known then as the “Midnight Massacre”, for him to finally toss his no-no. His last one-hitter came in 1977, when Seaver was tops in the National League in complete game shutouts with seven. He limited the Cubs to four walks and a single to Steve Ontiveros in the fifth inning, while striking out six in a 3-0 victory on April 17, 1977.
5. Randy Johnson -5
Considering the number of games he started (603) and the number of wins (303) and complete game shutouts (37), it’s surprising that Hall of Famer and five time Cy Young award winner Randy Johnson didn’t have more no-hitters or even one-hitters. Johnson did fire a no-hitter for Seattle in just his second full big league season, 2-0 whitewash of Detroit that saw him strike out eight, and true to form then, walk six. Johnson also fashioned a perfect game for the Arizona Diamondback in 2004, striking out 13 Atlanta Braves in a 2-0 victory. One of the Big Unit’s better near no-hit efforts came in his rollercoaster of a season for Seattle in 1991. On Aug. 14, he limited Oakland to a single hit in the ninth, while walking three and striking out 12. This was only four starts after throwing 10 bases on balls in a single game, giving up just one hit and four earned runs in four innings during a 6-1 loss.
4. Don Sutton – 6
Now we get into the ranks of the truly unlucky among pitchers seeking no-hitters. Don Sutton, who never did win a Cy Young in 23 years, despite winning 324 games, was one of those steady no-nonsense guys who gave his teams over 200 innings of work 20 times and winning at least 11 games in 19 of those seasons. Sutton was so unfortunate, his team actually lost a game where he gave up just one hit in 10 innings of work, and in all he recorded six one-hitters. That particular contest came when Sutton was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1972. The Dodgers were visiting the Montreal Expos and Sutton put in his usual workmanlike effort. He struck out three and walked four, allowing just a seventh inning single to the Expos Bob Bailey. The Dodgers, though, would allow the Expos to load the bases in the bottom of the 13th and win on a walk-off ground ball error, 1-0.
3. Steve Carlton – 6
Steve Carlton and list-mate Don Sutton had careers that started around the same time and mirrored each other in games pitched (741 t0 774), wins (329 to 324) and one-hitters (6). But, “Lefty” Carlton had more personal success, winning four Cy Young awards, a triple crown, leading the NL in strikeouts five times and wins four times. However, Carlton, like Sutton, never did throw a no-hitter, even though he was so dominant for much of his 24-year career. A member of the Philadelphia Phillies for most of his career, Carlton’s six one-hitters included a very interesting one during his Triple Crown season in 1972. On April 25, he allowed a lead-off single to the San Francisco Giants’ Chris Speier, then proceeded to set down 27 of the next 28 batters (he had one walk), striking out 14 in a 3-0 victory.
2. Bob Feller – 12
No pitcher of his era dominated like the “Heater from Van Meter.” We can only imagine what might have been for Bob Feller, had he not had to interrupt his Hall of Fame career to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II, forcing him to miss three complete seasons. An eight time all-star, Feller was a hard thrower who won a Triple Crown in 1940 and led the American League in wins six times and all of baseball in strikeouts seven times. Feller did have the good fortune to toss three no-hitters, but also the misfortune of seeing some slip away in a record 12 one-hitters. Of his no-hitters, he was the only hurler ever to record one on opening day, that one coming in 1940. Of all his one-hitters, the one that probably stung most was in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Browns on April 23, 1952. He allowed a triple in the first inning to the Browns Bobby Young, who scored on an error. Adding to his misery was the fact that Browns’ starter Bob Cain also fashioned a one-hitter in the win.
1. Nolan Ryan – 12
Like Feller, the “Ryan Express” was perhaps the most dominant pitcher of his era, in a career that started in 1966 and ended when was 46 in 1993. Curiously, for a guy tossed a record seven no-hitters, 12 one-hitters and led the American and National Leagues in strikeouts on 11 different occasions, Ryan never one a Cy Young award. The Hall of Famer was a fitness freak who recorded his record seventh no-no in May of 1991, when he was 44 years old and pitching for the Texas Rangers. In that game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Ryan walked just two batters and struck out an amazing 16 batters. Though his career winning percentage was just a notch above .500 (324-292, .526), Ryan tossed 222 complete games, 61 of which were shutouts. He tied Bob Feller for career one-hitters with his 12th on April 26, 1990, when he allowed two walks and struck out 16 in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.