Baseball is just a funny game, plain and simple. It's the level of unpredictability that keeps us on our toes, the edges of our seat, or just flat out guessing. Of its most incredible feats, forecasting a no-hitter is certainly the most difficult.
Throughout the game's history, we've seen Hall of Fame pitchers hurl their way into greatness, surprising no one and leaving us saying, "Well, it was only a matter of time." Then again, we've seen journeymen, scrubs, throw nothing but zeroes up in the hit column, leaving us to wonder how they did it.
That's why baseball is such a funny game. Elite talents have never achieved the accomplishment, and yet, guys barely making it by at the Major League level have achieved baseball immortality. Nolan Ryan had some of the nastiest "stuff" in baseball, and his no-hitters came with frequency. But who would have expected Armando Galarraga to toss a perfect game? (Which he did, by the way)
With that in mind, let's take a look back at the most improbable no-hitter in every team's history. Let's take a look at the unexpected, the unlikely. Of course, those teams that have never thrown no-hitters (I'm looking at you, the New York Mets and San Diego Padres) will not be included.
There were a couple of interesting selections here, but you have to go with the intangibles that stacked the odds against Ervin Santana when he no-hit the Cleveland Indians earlier this season.
While the Los Angeles Angels had always had high hopes for his top of the rotation potential, Santana has struggled over each of the last few seasons before finally putting things back together in 2011.
As the Angels made their way to Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, a place where a no-hitter had never before been recorded, just getting a win was on the mind of the day's starter, Santana. Entering play, he was 0-6 in his career against the Tribe, as he looked to simply reverse his fortunes.
The right hander would go on to throw 105 pitches, striking out 10 and walking just one. It was the ninth no-hitter in the history of the franchise, and the first where a run was allowed to score. Not only did Santana record his first win against the Indians, but his first no-hitter as well.
Honorable Mention: Mike Witt's perfect game.
Despite being one of the newest franchises around the game, the Houston Astros have seen their share of no-hitters—10, to be exact. A couple of games would have been good choices, but throwing a no-hitter in a game where your ace leaves in the second inning is certainly highly improbable.
The date was June 11, 2003, and the Astros sent Roy Oswalt to the mound to oppose the New York Yankees, in New York. Oswalt, after cruising through the first inning, left with an injury in the second, despite not allowing a hit.
The Astros turned the game over to the bullpen far earlier than they had expected, calling Peter Munro to face the Yanks. He would throw 2.2 scoreless, hitless innings before giving way to another unlikely participant, Kirk Saarloos. With the pair having combined to throw four hitless innings, they made way for a bevy of potent bullpen arms.
In the sixth inning, fireballing right hander Brad Lidge took the mound. He threw two no-hit innings before turning things over to another hard thrower: right handed reliever, Octavio Dotel. He would throw an inning of no-hit ball before turning things over to the closer, Billy Wagner, who saved the game and the no-hit bid.
The combined work of Oswalt, Munro, Saarloos, Lidge, Dotel and Wagner would be the most pitchers to ever combine to throw a no-hitter, and it was the first no-hitter thrown by the away team in an interleague series.
As one of the more storied franchises in the MLB today, the Oakland A's had no shortage of possible selections here. However, the subplots and stories behind Dallas Braden's perfect game in 2010 help to make the most improbable in the history of this franchise.
Let's face it—Braden has always been a solid prospect. Not elite, but not bad. He's always been the kind of guy you'd love to slide into the middle of your rotation, but before his gem, would have never gambled on throwing a perfect game.
Setting the scene, it's Mother's Day. Braden, who's mother died of cancer when he was in high school, was on the mound with his grandmother, who raised him after his mother had passed away, in the stands. With rookie catcher Landon Powell behind the plate, a pitcher who's never had a winning season set down all 27 Tampa Bay Rays who opposed him, throwing the 20th perfect game in the history of baseball.
Honorable Mention: Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers combine to throw no-hitter.
Not much of a decision here. With just one no-hitter in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise, Dave Stieb takes the cake.
Arguably the greatest Blue Jay to ever take the hill, if there was going to be one pitcher from this organization to throw a no-hitter outside of Roy Halladay, this was the guy that was going to do it.
Regardless of the fact that it was the only no-hitter ever thrown for the Jays, it was still quite improbable. Stieb allowed four baserunners on that historic day in 1990, and not a single member of the organization has thrown a no-hitter since.
The Braves organization has been all over the map, but for the most improbable no-hitter in the history of this historic franchise, we'll have to go back to 1916, when the team was called the Boston Braves. Back then, the franchise's all-time leader in WHIP, Tom Hughes was around, helping the Braves to a World Series title a few years prior.
In 1916, he took the mound to oppose the Pittsburgh Pirates, and history ensued. Despite allowing an incredible seven base runners, Hughes would go on to no-hit the Buccos. The seven runners allowed were the most for a no-hitter in the franchise's history, and to this day, that remains the same.
Honorable Mention: Kent Mercker, Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena combine to throw no-hitter.
The Milwaukee Brewers have but one no-hitter in the history of the franchise, and boy, was it improbable. The date was April 15, 1987, and the Brewers sent second-year left hander Juan Nieves to the mound to face the Balitmore Orioles for a road game.
Despite allowing five base runners, Nieves shocked the baseball world by no-hitting the O's. He would go on to pitch in the Major League for just three seasons, recording a career ERA of 4.71. To this day, however, he is the only Brewer to have ever thrown a no-hitter.
During the 1968 season, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants squared off on the west coast for one of the most interesting series of all time. One day prior to making his historic start, Ray Washburn watched from the dugout as Gaylord Perry threw a no-hitter against the Cardinals. A day later, Washburn took the mound with revenge on his mind.
Despite allowing five base runners, Washburn returned the favor, no-hitting the Giants just a day after Perry had no-hit the Cards.
Honorable Mention: Ted Breitenstein throws a no-hitter for first career start.
Carlos Zambrano may have just short tempered himself out of baseball. He destroyed his public image along the way, distracting baseball fans from the talent that could have been, had he been able to hone his energy into something more productive, like, being successful. Whether or not he has really retired or not, we will have to wait and see, but if he does, at least he owns a part of history: One of the game's most improbable no-hitters.
The year is 2008, and the Chicago Cubs are on the road, facing the Houston Astros... in Milwaukee. To make a long story short, Hurricane Ike had been wreaking havoc on the south, and the Astros were forced to play a couple of home games away from home: at Miller Park, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Nothing was right for a no-hitter. The Cubs and Astros were playing in Milwaukee, the former being on the road with a hot-headed pitcher on the mound. That didn't stop Zambrano from no-hitting the Astros, however, who had just two base runners.
It was the first and only no-hitter thrown at a neutral site.
Honorable Mention: Ken Holtzman throws a no-hitter without striking out a single batter.
To this day, I'm stunned that the Tampa Bay Rays couldn't manage just one hit off of Edwin Jackson. I supposed that he was what you would call "effectively wild" during his no-hitter, if of course, effectively wild is throwing 149 pitches to get 27 outs.
Formerly of the Rays, Jackson returned to Tropicana Field as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks to square off in an interleague matchup. On his way to throwing the second no-hitter in the history of the franchise, he walked eight batters and hit one more, allowing ten base runners overall.
It was the exact opposite of Randy Johnson's crisp, clean perfect game.
I was expecting the Los Angeles Dodgers to have a lot of no-hitters, being such a historic franchise, and they do, with 23. I was also expecting to find one game that was highly improbable, but even after doing a bit of digging, all of these no-no's were just well pitched games, thanks to legendary names like Sandy Koufax.
Sure, there were a few by relatively unknown players who would go on to have mediocre careers, but it only takes one day. If a Major League pitcher brings his best stuff on one day, he has the opportunity to throw a no-hitter.
So with that in mind, I went with the most recent Dodgers' no-hitter, thrown by Hideo Nomo. Nomo came to the United States and thrilled fans with his crazy delivery, but his career was a lot less spectacular than expected.
One of his greatest accomplishments was no-hitting the Colorado Rockies on the road, at Coors Field. Way before the Humidor was installed, Coors Field was a launching pad that pitchers hated pitching in. Despite that, Nomo allowed just four base runners, none via the hit, throwing the first no-hitter at Coors Field.
Like the Los Angeles Dodgers before them, despite having their fair share of no-hitters, the San Francisco Giants haven't had many "improbable" games. A lot of the no-hitters thrown by this franchise have been by talented pitchers, executing properly.
For the most improbable of the bunch, I'll take you back to July 4, 1908, when Hooks Wiltse took the mound to oppose the Philadelphia Phillies. Through nine innings, Wiltse had not allowed a hit. The only problem was that the Phillies hadn't allowed a run either. In the top of the 10th inning, the Giants scored a run, and Wiltse trotted back out to throw a scoreless, no-hit bottom of the 10th.
He was the first left handed pitcher to throw a no-hitter in franchise history, and just the second pitcher to have ever throw one while pitching in extra innings.
Bob Feller is one of the greatest pitchers of all time and has three career no-hitters to his name, so it's certainly not a surprise to see him on this list. Of his three no-hitters, however, one came in surprising fashion, and to this day, has never been replicated.
The date was April 16, 1940, and the Cleveland Indians were set to open a series with the Chicago White Sox. In fact, the Indians were set to open the season with the White Sox, sending their ace, Feller, to the mound on Opening Day.
Despite allowing six base runners, Feller did not give up a single hit to the White Sox on that day, throwing the only no-hitter on Opening Day in the history of baseball.
Honorable Mention: Wes Ferrell slugs a home run, throws a no-hitter.
Chris Bosio is the classic case of a mediocre pitcher bringing his A-game to the field and throwing a no-hitter. In 11 seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers, Bosio recorded a record of 94-93, with an ERA that hovered right around four. He wasn't a strikeout pitcher, and really, flew under the radar forever.
Until he threw his no-hitter, that is.
Facing the Boston Red Sox, Bosio allowed just two base runners in nine, no-hit innings.
Even when he's good, he's bad.
I'm kidding (kind of). Earlier in the slideshow, I noted how I thought that Edwin Jackson's no-hitter had to be the ugliest of all time, but I had forgotten just how bad Burnett's was. In a game against the San Diego Padres, Burnett took to the mound to make history in an odd fashion.
Looking at the box score, things look good. He threw a complete game and allowed zero hits. A further look is almost troubling. Despite striking out seven, Burnett also allowed nine walks and 10 base runners overall.
Forget about being the Washington Nationals. When Bill Stoneman threw his no-hitter, the team was barely called the Montreal Expos. Just nine games into the franchise's history, and the fifth start of his Major League career, Stoneman took to the mound to face the Philadelphia Phillies baffling the National League rivals.
He allowed five base runners, but was backed by seven runs en route to no-hitting the Phils. A couple of years later, he would throw a second no-hitter against the New York Mets, a franchise that to this date has never thrown a no-hitter.
Honorable Mention: Stoneman's no-hitter against the Mets was also the first no-hitter ever thrown in Canada.
In the history of the Baltimore Orioles franchise, there have been a total of nine no-hitters, and more than a few of them have been improbable, including four pitchers combining for one, Hall of Fame reliever Hoyt Wilhelm throwing one in one of his 52 career starts, and one thrown by Jim Palmer just four days after coming off of the disabled list. However, if there is one that takes the cake, it was a combined effort by Steve Barber and Stu Miller.
The date was April 30, 1967, and Barber was slated to start the first game of a doubleheader. The game that followed would put the sloppy no-hitters of Edwin Jackson and AJ Burnett to shame. Through 8 2/3 innings, Barber had not allowed a single hit—but allowed 14 base runners, giving up two runs.
Unable to record the final out, the Orioles turned to reliever Stu Miller, who recorded the final out and ended the game, combining with Barber to throw a no-hitter. There was just one problem, however, the O's lost.
With the offense able to squeak out just one run, the Orioles lost to the Tigers 2-1, despite not allowing a single hit.
The Philadelphia Phillies are another organization with a lot of interesting options, but if there was ever a time where a no-hitter was improbable, let's go with history.
As he took the mound for his first ever postseason start, Roy Halladay had already all but sealed his bid for the National League's Cy Young Award. In the regular season, he collected 21 wins, including a perfect game thrown against the Florida Marlins. That was the regular season, however.
Fast forward to October and Halladay was all set to take on one of the game's most potent offenses: the Cincinnati Reds. As the game progressed, the level of excitement grew, and as Carlos Ruiz threw out Brandon Phillips at first base, Doc had made history.
It was his second no-hitter of the season, and just the second no-hitter of all time in the postseason, the first since Don Larsen's perfect game in the World Series. It was the first no-hitter at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, and the gap between Halladay's perfect game and postseason no-hitter is the shortest gap between no-hitters in franchise history.
Honorable Mention: Rick Wise no-hits the Reds and hits two home runs.
The last 20 years have been absolutely miserable for the Pittsburgh Pirates, with few bright spots. In fact, of the franchise's six no-hitters, only one was recorded within that span of time, but boy, was it improbable.
On July 12, 1997, the Buccos sent Francisco Cordova to the hill to oppose the Houston Astros. Signed as an amateur free agent, the Pirates had high hopes for Cordova, but as was the theme over the last two decades, he was just one of numerous Pirates' pitchers that would go on to fizzle out, throwing in just five seasons.
Of his 42 career wins, however, one stood out above all others. As he recorded the 27th out of his no-hitter against the Astros, it was clear that Cordova was going to need a bit of help. The game was tied at zero heading into the Pirates' half of the ninth.
They wouldn't score.
With Cordova's day finished, the Pirates sent Juan Rincon to the mound. He would get the job done with ease, not allowing a hit in the top of the 10th inning. Now with two pitchers having combined for 10 hitless innings, the Bucs went to bat in the bottom of the 10th.
With two runners on, they would send a pinch hitter—Mark Smith—to the plate, needing to drive in just one run to secure the no-hitter and the win. One run wasn't enough for Smith though, who launched a pinch hit, three-run homer to win the game and get Cordova (and Rincon) the no-no.
Honorable Mention: Doc Ellis also threw a no-hitter for the Pirates in 1970, and according to himself, he did so on LSD.
In the prime of his career, any game that Nolan Ryan started had the chance to become a no-hitter. When he retired following the 1993 season, he had recorded a record seven no-no's, shattering Sandy Koufax's record. Let's face it though, when Ryan tossed his seventh no-hitter, he was 44-years-old.
Opposing the Toronto Blue Jays, Ryan allowed just two base runners, retiring 27 Jays en route to his seventh no-hitter, becoming the oldest pitcher to ever throw one. Ryan's age became most apparent when he struck out Roberto Alomar for the final out. For Ryan's first two no-no's, Roberto's father—Sandy Alomar Sr.—played second base behind the pitcher.
With just one no-hitter in franchise history, I'm sure that you guessed Matt Garza would make an appearance on this list, but that doesn't make it any less improbable. With season ERAs hovering right around four in each year of his career, Garza was an unlikely candidate for a no-no, though the talent was certainly there.
Allowing just one baserunner in the process, the Tampa Bay Rays' ace-by-proxy, Matt Garza, became the first and only Ray to throw a no-hitter in 2010—just a couple of months before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs.
We all know the story by now—long before he was regarded as the greatest slugger of all time for the New York Yankees, Babe Ruth was a member of the Boston Red Sox, and he did a little pitching as well. As the Red Sox prepared to take on the Washington Senators on June 23, 1917, they sent Ruth to the mound.
Even early in his career, Ruth was an interesting player, and had a bit of a temper that would surface later on. After walking the first batter of the game, Ruth and his catcher, Pinch Thomas, were ejected for arguing balls and strikes. After facing just that one hitter, Ruth was forced to hit the showers, recording not a single out.
Manager Jack Berry would put Sam Agnew into the game behind the plate, and on to pitch came Ernie Shore. The Battery left the baserunner allowed by Ruth and Thomas stranded, getting the Senators to go down in order.
In fact, Shore would not allow another hit or base runner, retiring all 26 batters he faced to record the no-hitter. It was the first combined no-hitter in baseball history.
When his career was all said and done, the results were average for Johnny Vander Meer. His career ERA hovered right around 3.50, and his record was worse than .500. When it comes to Vander Meer, however, that means very little. He completed one of the greatest feats of all time, and for that, will be remembered forever.
On June 11, 1938, Vander Meer made history by no-hitting the Boston Braves, but surprisingly, that isn't the improbable no-no that lands him on the list, for just four days later and his next start, he threw his second career no-hitter, blanking the Brooklyn Dodgers.
To this date, it is the only time in history where a pitcher has thrown a no-hitter in back to back starts, a feat that is unlikely to ever be accomplished again.
Honorable Mention: After failing to finish a no-hitter three times, it seemed like fate wanted to keep Tom Seaver from throwing a no-hitter, until of course, he no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals in 1978.
Before he became the prized acquisition of the Cleveland Indians at this year's trade deadline, Ubaldo Jimenez was an interesting story for the Colorado Rockies. He had one of the greatest first halfs in recent memory during the 2010 season, followed by a long lull that had critics questioning his potential. Among those great starts from the first half of 2010 was a no-hitter, the only in the history of the Rockies.
He allowed six walks and needed a little help from Dexter Fowler to save the bid, but when all was said and done, Jimenez had no-hit the Atlanta Braves, a team with a lot of good offensive weapons. After struggling to find his control out of the windup, Jimenez would move into the stretch and stay there, baffling the Braves' lineup all night long.
The Kansas City Royals are one of those organizations that didn't provide many options. With just four no-hitters in the history of the franchise, none of them were very "improbable." With that in mind, I'll go with the second no-hitter thrown by Steve Busby.
In 1973, Busby tossed his first career no-hitter as a rookie, and the following year, he added another no-hitter to his resume. He would last just eight seasons in the Major League, leaving us to wonder what could have been.
Say what you want about Armando Galarraga. Technically, he may have been denied history, but in my mind, he threw a perfect game. That said, how many of us expected him to even come close to throwing a perfect game? Easily one of the most improbable showings of all time.
Now toiling in the Minor Leagues, Galarraga took the mound for the Detroit Tigers as nothing more than a back of the rotation starter, and when all was said and done, was involved in one of the most controversial calls of all time.
After having his perfect game saved by a great catch from Austin Jackson, it was destroyed by a terrible call from first base umpire Jim Joyce.
Once again, not a lot of great options here, but let's go with Eric Milton's no-hitter.
Throughout his career, he was never an overpowering pitcher. He didn't get many strikeouts and relied on guys making contact to go deep into ball games. For that reason alone, a no-hitter seemed unlikely for Milton. However, in 1999, he blanked the Anaheim Angels for the only no-hitter of his career.
Of course, he would later take a no-hitter into the ninth inning with the Philadelphia Phillies, but the Chicago Cubs would land three hits before the game ended.
Once upon a time, the Chicago White Sox had high hopes for Joe Cowley. Acquired from the New York Yankees, he moved into the rotation and became a quality starter. In 1986, his only season with the White Sox, he tossed a no-hitter, and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason where he would go 0-4.
As it turned out, his no-hitter with the White Sox would be the last win of his professional career; a career that lasted just five seasons.
Sad Sam Jones got his nickname by wearing his hat low over his eyes, trying to stay out of the limelight when the reporters came knocking, but on September 4, 1923, Sad Sam tossed a no-hitter and became one of the happiest pitchers on earth.
Jones throwing a no-hitter wasn't exactly improbable. After all, he had a solid fastball and a sharp curve that garnered him another nickname—"Horsewhips Sam." It was the way that he went about retiring the Philadelphia Athletics on that day.
Known for being a contact pitcher, Jones didn't record a single strikeout during his no-hitter, getting every out that he could by means of contact, be it a fly out, ground out, or line out.
Sad Sam Jones had a little bit of luck on his side, but throwing a no-hitter takes skill, and Jones certainly had that.
Honorable Mention: After his perfect game, David Wells had claimed that he was pitching hungover, but I'm not buying it.