It was 20 years ago today that I witnessed a piece of baseball history. On a chilly Sunday afternoon, Beanie Baby day at Yankee Stadium, Yankees southpaw David Wells carved out a slice of baseball immortality by pitching a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins.
My sister Aimee came up with four tickets in the lower stands in right field, and my son Dan, then 12, nephew Sean, 7,and brother-in-law Jack saw a game for the ages.
That day, Wells threw the first perfect game for the Yankees in nearly 42 years, going back to Don Larsen’s masterpiece against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series. Amazingly, Wells and Larsen graduated from the same high school, Point Loma, near San Diego.
There were several interesting sidelights to that game. For one, I just missed catching a home run ball by Bernie Williams in the fifth inning. If you go back and look at the videotape, I’m the guy in the orange windbreaker who gets shoved out of the way on Bernie’s blast.
A father sitting in the row in front of us kept getting up to buy food for his kids. Then after seven innings he announced he was leaving. My brother-in-law and I were incredulous. We both asked him if he knew what was going. He realized a no-hitter was in progress, but responded that he wanted to beat the traffic. Jack and I just shook our heads and laughed.
Lastly as we left the Stadium, I turned to Sean, who had just seen the second major league game in his life. I told him he could go to a game every day for the rest of his years and never see another perfect game.
When Philip Humber pitched the 21st perfect game in major league history last week, he became the seventh pitcher to throw a no-hitter after wearing a Met uniform. Humber joins Nolan Ryan, right, Tom Seaver, Mike Scott, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Hideo Nomo on that list
Of note, Ryan threw a record seven no-hitters. Gooden and Cone each pitched no-hitters for the Yankees; Cone’s was a perfect game. Nomo had no-hitters both before (Dodgers) and after (Red Sox) joining the Mets.
Eight other pitchers recorded no-hitters before joining the Mets. Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, and Don Cardwell, Dean Chance, Dock Ellis, John Candelaria, Bret Saberhagen, Scott Erickson, and Kenny Rogers (perfect game) are members of that club.
(Of note, former Met Alejandro Pena was part of a three-man no-hitter for Atlanta in 1991 after pitching for the Mets. And Billy Wagner (Houston) and Ricardo Rincon (Pittsburgh) were part of multi-pitcher no-hitters before they joined the Mets.)
Related Blog: SportsLifer first blogged about the Mets no-hit history (or lack thereof) in 2008 with a piece headlined “Yes, That’s Correct, No No-Nos for Mets.”
This is the second of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.
Overall, there will be three categories — anything but baseball, baseball regular season, and baseball post-season.
This is the regular season baseball category….we’ll follow up soon with a top 10 devoted to World Series and post-season play at the Stadium.
Remember you read it first in the SportsLifer.
Top 10 regular season baseball moments at Yankee Stadium (chronological order)
Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, April 18, 1923
1. The Stadium opens with pomp and circumstance and Babe Ruth’s home run beats Boston, 4-1. 1923
2. Babe Ruth hits one over the right-field fence and becomes the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season, 1927
3. Dying Yankee captain Lou Gehrig, at left, being hugged by Babe Ruth, tells a crowd of more than 60,000 “Today I consider myself the “luckiest man on the face of the earth,” 1939
4. Joe DiMaggio begins his immortal 56-game hitting streak by going 1-for-4 against the White Sox, 1941
5. The Yankees edge the Red Sox in the final two games of the season to win the pennant by a game, 1949
6. Roger Maris breaks Babe Ruth’s record with his 61st home run on the final day of the season, 1961
7. Mickey Mantle just misses hitting a ball out of the Stadium when he homers off the right field facade, 1963
8. Ron Guidry strikes out 18 batters to silence the Angels in a team record-setting performance, 1978
9. On the day they buried their captain, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer’s 5 RBIs give the Yankees a dramatic win, 1979
10. Double Perfect: David Wells, right, and David Cone pitch perfect games a year apart, 1998 and 1999
Other Yankee No-Hitters: Monte Pearson (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Dave Righetti (1983), Jim Abbott (1993) and Doc Gooden (1996).
Opposing No-Hitters: Bob Feller (1946), Virgil Trucks (1952) and an army Houston Astros pitchers (2003).
Babe Ruth’s final appearance in The House That Ruth Built, 1948
Umps over-rule George Brett’s homer in the “Pine Tar” game, 1983
Tom Seaver gets 300th win as White Sox beat Yankees on Phil Rizzuto Day, 1985
Roger Clemens wins 300th game; reaches 4,000 K’s, 2003
Derek Jeter dives into the stands against the Red Sox, 2004
Nolan Ryan. Tom Seaver. Dwight Gooden. David Cone. Al Leiter. Warren Spahn. Hideo Nomo. What do all these men have in common?
All of them have thrown no-hitters. Some have thrown multiple no-hitters. Nolan Ryan holds the major-league record with seven.
None of them ever pitched a no-hitter for the New York Mets. In all, 14 pitchers who wore a Met uniform threw no-hitters — none of them while they were pitching for the Mets.
As amazing as it seems, since the franchise was founded in 1962, no Met has ever pitched a no-hitter. During that span, Mets’ pitchers have thrown 30 one-hitters, including five by Tom Seaver, three of which were no-hitters broken up in the ninth inning.
In the summer of ’69, Seaver had a perfect game going with one out in the ninth when Jimmy Qualls lined the only hit of the game for the Cubs.
Seaver, a 300-game winner, pitched his only career no-hitter for the Reds.
Two former Mets threw no-hitters for the Yankees, Doc Gooden in 1996 and David Cone, who pitched a perfect game in 1999.
The Mets have been no-hit, six times in their history, most notably by Sandy Koufax in 1962 and Jim Bunning, who pitched a perfect game at Shea Stadium in its inaugural season, 1964. Bob Moose in 1969, Bill Stoneman in 1972, Ed Halicki in 1975 and Darryl Kile in 1993 all pitched no-hitters against the Metropolitans.
Four teams in baseball history have never had a pitcher toss a no-hitter — Tampa Bay Rays (1998), Colorado Rockies (1993), San Diego Padres (1969) and the Mets (1962).
Update: Ubaldo Jiminez of the Rockies and Matt Garza of Tampa Bay both pitched no-hitters in 2010. That left the Mets and the Padres as the only teams without a no-hitter.