Ranking the 10 Most Shocking No-Hitters/Perfect Games in MLB History
Felix Hernandez is the latest pitcher to throw a perfect game. He is one of the best players in the majors right now, so it is not that shocking that he was perfect.
There have been a number of starters that have thrown no-hitters that were certainly shockers, though. Many of these pitchers did not have great careers in the majors. Others were able to throw no-hitters in moments when there was added pressure on them.
Each one of these pitchers is in the same company of pitchers such as Nolan Ryan, Cy Young and Christy Mathewson. This likely the only time that the pitchers on this list can be compared to those Hall of Famers.
10) Len Barker
Len Barker spent 11 season in the major leagues, but there is one night that will always stand out: On May 15, 1981, Barker threw a perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was certainly a shocking night.
Entering that season, Barker was 31-24 with a 4.24 ERA. The 1981 season would be the best year of Barker's career. In addition to his perfect game, he also was an All-Star.
9) Jim Abbott
Jim Abbott is an absolutely incredible story, as he was able to reach the major leagues despite the fact that he was born with a birth defect that left him without a right hand (h/t SABR). Abbott did not let this hold him back, and he had a long major league career. He had 87 wins and a 4.25 ERA over 10 seasons.
On September 4, 1993, Abbott threw a game that pitchers dream about. He joined the distinct group of pitchers that have thrown a no-hitter when he blanked the Cleveland Indians.
8) Dallas Braden
Dallas Braden struggled during his first two seasons in the major leagues, but he began to turn things around in 2009 when he went 8-9 with a 3.89 ERA.
Things would only get better for Braden the following year.
Braden's start on May 9, 2010 against the Tampa Bay Rays occurred on Mother's Day, and it would be an incredible day for him and his family. He recorded out after out, and when the game was over, Braden had a perfect game.
The moment was even more special for Braden, who had lost his mother to cancer when he was in high school (h/t Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle).
7) Don Larsen
Pitching in the World Series certainly increases the amount of pressure on a starter. But Don Larsen was unfazed by the additional weight that pitching in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series carried.
Up to that point in his career, Larsen had a 30-40 record, and he had struggled in his in his two previous World Series starts. But Larsen put in the greatest pitching performance in postseason history and threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5.
6) Phil Humber
In seven season in the major leagues, Phil Humber has been a member of four different teams. He did not even get his chance to start full-time until he joined the Chicago White Sox in 2011.
Humber put together some good numbers in 2011, but no one would expect what Humber would do the next year.
On April 21, 2012 Humber went to the mound to face the Seattle Mariners.
He retired the side in the first and then again in the second. Humber did that another seven times and came away with baseball's 21st perfect game.
This was certainly a shock, as Humber had just 11 wins to his name before he threw the perfect game.
5) Bud Smith
Bud Smith was once considered the 39th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America (via Baseball-Reference). But Smith was not able to put things together when he reached the major leagues, except for one instance.
Smith had seven wins during his major league career, but one of them was a no-hitter. The San Diego Padres were no-hit by Smith on September 3, 2001.
Smith did finish the year fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2001, but he would then struggle mightily in the majors the next year.
4) Mike Warren
Mike Warren had a record of 9-13, a 5.06 ERA and a 75 ERA+ during his three-year career with the Oakland Athletics. Yet he is just one of the few men who have ever thrown a no-hitter.
Everything aligned for Warren on September 29, 1983. This was the last start of Warren's rookie season. Given how he had performed earlier in the season, no one could have seen the no-hitter coming.
3) Charlie Robertson
Charlie Robertson had made four starts before he stepped to the mound on April 30, 1922. He had a 1-1 record prior to that game against the Detroit Tigers.
Even though the Tigers had Ty Cobb and Harry Heilmann, both of whom would eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown, no one was able to get on base against Robertson on that day (h/t Baseball Almanac).
The rest of Robertson's career would not go as well. He would finish his career with a 49-80 record and a 4.44 ERA.
2) Bobo Holloman
There are a lot of emotions going through a pitcher's mind when he makes his first start in the major leagues. He is hoping that he can put together a good start as he begins his career in the majors.
To be fair, Bob Holloman had made four relief appearances prior to his first start, but that does not undermine his accomplishment. Holloman threw a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics to pick up his first career win.
Holloman would go on to win just two more games that season, in what would be the only year he was in the major leagues.
1) Dock Ellis
Dock Ellis had a solid major league career, but there is certainly one outing that stands out more than others: Ellis threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on July 12, 1970.
What makes Ellis' no-hitter so shocking is the fact that he did it while he was high on LSD. Stories from Ellis' performance include the fact that he believed that it was Richard Nixon umpiring the game and calling balls and strikes (h/t Billy Witz of The New York Times).
It is absolutely incredibly that Ellis was able to throw a no-hitter while he was so out of it.