The Red Sox franchise leads the American League with 19 no-hitters, second only to the Dodgers’ major league best 20.
Cy Young was a Red Sox and pitched the first perfect game in the modern era.
Among the likes of Roger Clemens, Lefty Grove, Dutch Leonard, Pedro Martinez, Mel Parnell, Babe Ruth, Curt Schilling, Luis Tiant, “Smokey” Joe Wood, and Cy Young, who is the best?
Even more difficult to assess: Which specific pitching performances are the all-time best?
These are the top five.
Although widely regarded as one of the most dominant and efficient pitchers of all time, Pedro Martinez himself has famously said that the Yankees are his “Daddy.” Well, on May 28, 2000, battling former Red Sox Roger Clemens for the division lead, Pedro Martinez was confidence extant.
Derek Jeter went three for four with a double, and Ricky Ledee got a hit, too, but that was it for the Bombers, who were summarily shutout 2-0.
Yet, in rather classic fashion, Martinez did make it interesting in the ninth when he hit Chuck Knoblauch and gave up a single to Jeter to start the inning.
After striking out Paul O’Neill, Martinez induced a deep fly ball from Bernie Williams. Knoblauch tagged up and reached third base.
With runners at the corners, Jeter swiped second, and Martinez hit Jorge Posada to load the bases. Bottom of the ninth, two down, bases loaded, and Pedro Martinez on the mound.
Tino Martinez steps to the plate. Martinez versus Martinez. Grounder to second, and that’s the ballgame.
It wasn’t the ALCS, but the stakes were high, and Pedro Martinez delivered in the face of Roger Clemens and a Yankee team that would win the World Series that October.
Setting aside an ignominious fall from grace since his departure from Boston, when he fanned 20 Mariners before 13,414 faithful the night of April 29, 1986, Roger Clemens guaranteed himself Red Sox immortality.
Although it was only the young season’s 18th game, Clemens’ performance that Tuesday night set the tone for what would become a World Series year in ring-starved New England.
After striking out the side in the first, the young Rocket blew away two more in the second.
Starting the ninth with a two-run lead, Clemens sat at 18 strikeouts. Shortstop Spike Owen, who would join the Red Sox later in the season, was No. 19. On deck was outfielder Phil Bradley, who would lend a hand at history and become No. 20.
Roger Clemens fanned 20 once again ten years later in Detroit, but by then… Well, let’s just say that Bradley was the only thing lending a hand in 1986.
The only other pitcher to ever strikeout 20 was Chicago Cub Kerry Wood. In that sense, this feat is more rare than a perfect game.
In Game One of the 2004 ALDS, Curt Schilling kicked off another Red Sox playoff run by beating the Angels 9-3. Schilling also injured the sheath protecting a tendon in his right ankle while scrambling to cover first in the seventh inning of that game.
Although the injury initially seemed innocuous, within a few days the sports media was reporting that surgery was the only option to heal the ankle. Schilling, who had waltzed into Boston nearly one year earlier promising a World Championship, was apparently done for the season, unavailable for the ALCS or a potential World Series.
However, Schilling had promised a championship, so after an awful three-inning outing in Game Two in which he tried to rally on Marcaine injections, Schilling quipped that “the bell rang, and I couldn’t answer it.”
Rather than protecting his ankle, Schilling had the sheath temporarily sutured in place, so he could take the mound again in Game Six, now known famously and infamously as the “Bloody Sock” game.
Allowing just one run on four hits scattered over seven strong innings, Schilling delivered a Bronx performance that would keep the Sox alive en route to their first World Championship in 86 years.
As commentator Joe Buck said when Schilling and his blood-soaked sock limped off the mound, what Schilling did that night would “long live in New England baseball lore.”
Ernie Shore threw a perfect game on June 23, 1917, but you’ll find it listed only as a no-hitter in the baseball history books. Although technically not a perfect game, as Shore started the game with a runner on first, that fact cannot belie what Shore did that day.
Obviously, this near perfect no-hitter was a relief appearance.
Babe Ruth toed the rubber to start the first, but he didn’t last long. After walking the Washington Senators’ second baseman Ray Morgan to lead off the first, the notoriously temperamental Ruth was ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Brick Owens.
Before leaving the field and the game in Ernie Shore’s hands, Ruth punched Owens in the jaw. One can imagine that left Shore in a not so friendly position when he took the mound.
Despite being allowed only a few warm-up pitches, and despite an understandably biased home plate judge calling the game, Shore never allowed another runner to reach base.
In fact, catcher Sam Agnew, who had also just come into the game, gunned down Morgan attempting to steal second. Really, Ernie Shore was on the mound for 27 consecutive outs and the victory.
The greatest relief appearance in history, and it’s perfect in my book.
*Many sources differ on the categorization of this game.
**The above photo: Babe Ruth (left); Ernie Shore (right).
According to the Baseball Almanac, Cy Young once said, “All us Youngs could throw. I used to kill squirrels with a stone when I was a kid, and my granddad once killed a turkey buzzard on the fly with a rock.”
As overused as the word is, Denton True Young was “nasty.”
En route to 511 career wins, this Hall of Famer dealt the American League’s first perfect game at the old Huntington Avenue Grounds on May 5, 1904. Tossing what Philadelphia Manager Connie Mack called “the most impressive game ever pitched,” Cyclone Young needed just one hour and twenty-three minutes to retire the 27 Athletics he faced.
Inducing only softly hit balls and scattering eight strikeouts, Young was helped to a 3-0 victory over Rube Waddell by catcher Lou Criger’s RBI double and right fielder Buck Freeman’s RBI triple.
As it turned out, this first perfect game of the modern era was the crowning achievement in a 1904 season in which Boston’s World Championship reign went uncontested by the National League-winning New York Giants.
Yeah, there’s a reason it’s the Cy Young Award. Red Sox fans, that’s one thing the Yankee’s will never have. It’s all yours.