The 10 greatest pitching duels in MLB history

Ed Walsh, left, and Addie Joss produced a pitching gem in 1908. In a true understatment, Walsh said: “Yes, I pitched a fairly good game myself, but [Joss] pitched better.”

There have been many great pitching duels throughout baseball history. In chronological order, here are the 10 best regular season mound battles of all time.

1. Oct. 2, 1908 — Cleveland Naps 1, Chicago White Sox 0
In the midst of a tight, four-team pennant race, Cleveland’s Addie Joss pitched the fourth perfect game in baseball history against Chicago spitballer Big Ed Walsh. Joss threw just 74 pitches in his masterpiece and struck out three batters, the fewest in any perfect game.

Walsh was nearly as good, hurling a four-hitter and fanning 15. Walsh was 40-15 in 1908 with a 1.42 ERA, and led the AL in wins, games, strikeouts and innings pitched in 1908. Joss was 24-11 with a 1.16 ERA.

Using a corkscrew delivery and his famed jump ball, Joss had 160 wins and 45 shutouts in his career. Joss  pitched a second no-hitter against the White Sox in 1910, and also threw seven one-hitters, including his MLB debut against the St. Louis Browns in 1902. Sadly he was just 31 when he died of meningitis in April of 1911.

Joss’ 1.89 career ERA is ranked second all-time behind Walsh (who won 195 games and finished with a 1.82 ERA), while his 0.97 WHIP is the lowest career WHIP in baseball history. Both pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.

2. Sept. 6, 1912 — Boston Red Sox 1, Washington Senators 0
Fenway Park has never been considered a pitcher’s park, but in its inaugural season it hosted one of the great mound battles in baseball history. Dubbed “The War of 1912,” the contest pitted Washington’s all-time great Walter Johnson against Joe Wood, below, a pair of right-handers enjoying two of the top individual seasons of all time.

Earlier in 1912, Johnson strung together a 16-game winning streak, the longest in American League history. When Wood shut out Washington and Johnson, he ran his winning streak to 14 games without a loss. Wood eventually tied Johnson’s record with two more wins.

While Johnson had a spectacular season, Wood closed out the year with an even more impressive mark.  He won 34 and lost only 5, one of the all-time great season records. Johnson finished 33-12 with a 1.39 ERA and 303 strikeouts; Wood had a 1.91 ERA with 258 Ks.

The AL record of 16 straight win has since been tied — by Lefty Grove of Philadelphia in 1931 and Schoolboy Rowe of Detroit in 1934 — but never broken.

3. May 2, 1917 — Cincinnati Reds 1, Chicago Cubs 0, 10 innings
Played nearly 100 years ago, this remains the only game in baseball history where neither team got a hit in the first nine innings of play.

The Reds finally broke through against Chicago’s Jim “Hippo” Vaughn, who  gave up two hits and a run in the top of the 10th. Jim Thorpe — yes the great athlete Jim Thorpe — drove in the only run of the game with an infield single.

Cincinnati’s Fred Toney completed his no-hitter when he retired the Cubs in order in the last of the 10th. Toney, a 6’6″ righthander with 137 career wins, was a two-time 20-game winner, and won 24 games in 1917.

Vaughn, another big rightie at 6’4″, finished with 23 wins that year. A five time 20-game winner, he led the National League in wins, ERA and shutouts in the war-shortened 1918 season en route to 178 career victories.

4. May 1, 1920 — Boston Braves 1, Brooklyn Robins 1, 26 innings
The longest game in baseball history didn’t have a winner, as the Braves and Robins (later the Dodgers) battled 26 innings in a 1-1 tie.

Amazingly, both pitchers, Leon Cadore of Brooklyn and Joe Oescherger of Boston, went all the way, and neither allowed a run in the last 20 innings. Cadore surrendered 15 hits, walked five and struck out seven. Oescherger gave up nine hits, walked four and struck out seven. Lord only knows how many pitches they threw that day.

Each right-hander won 15 games in 1920. But neither ever won more in a single season, and both finished with losing career marks. Cadore was 68-72 and Oescherger was 82-116.

Brooklyn lost the next day in 13 innings to Phillies, and the day after that to Braves in 19 innings — 58 innings of baseball in three days without a win. But the Robins did go on to win the National League pennant that year.

5. July 2, 1933 — New York Giants 1, St. Louis Cardinals 0
On a hot summer afternoon at the Polo Grounds in New York, Carl Hubbell, below, of the Giants and Tex Carleton of the Cardinals hooked up in one of the great duels in baseball history.

Hubbell, New York’s great left-handed screwball artist and Hall of Famer,  pitched 18 innings and didn’t allow a walk. His mound opponent Carleton was almost as good — he threw 16 scoreless innings before being relieved.

Since 1920, only eight pitchers have worked 16 or more scoreless innings in a game, but Carleton and Hubbell are the only ones to accomplish the feat in the same game. No pitcher has ever gone longer without issuing a walk than Hubbell, nor pitched more scoreless innings and lost than Carleton.

The Giants scored the only run of the game on a two-out single by Hughie Critz off Jessie Haines in the bottom of the 18th. The Giants went on to sweep the doubleheader by winning the second game, also 1-0.

Hubbell won the MVP that year with a 23-12 record and 1.66 ERA, the first of five straight 20-win seasons for King Carl, who finished his career 253-154.  Carleton was 17-11 in 1933 with a 3.38 ERA, and compiled a 100-76 career mark.

6. May 26, 1959 — Milwaukee Braves 1, Pittsburgh Pirates 0, 13 innings
Talk about a hard-luck loser. Pirates left-hander Harvey Haddix  threw 12 perfect innings — more than any other pitcher in history — and lost.

Batter after batter, Inning after inning, Haddix set down a powerful Milwaukee Braves lineup that featured Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews. But the Pirates couldn’t score a run.

Finally, the Braves got to Haddix in the 13th. Felix Mantilla led off with a grounder to third baseman Don Hoak who threw it away for an error. After a sacrifice and an intentional pass to Aaron, Joe Adcock came to the plate. He belted a home run to right center, the first hit off Haddix.

However in the excitement, Aaron did not realize the ball had gone out. He veered off the basepath and passed Aaron, nullifying both runs. Mantilla scored to win the game, 1-0.

The unsung hero in this tableau was Lew Burdette, who threw 13 shutout innings and was the winning pitcher. He scattered 12 singles and didn’t walk a batter, and was helped by three double plays.

7. July 2, 1963 — San Francisco Giants 1, Milwaukee Braves 0, 16 innings
Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, below, of San Francisco and Warren Spahn of Milwaukee hooked up in one of the most memorable pitching duels off all time. The two future Hall of Famers battled for nearly 16 scoreless innings before Willie Mays socked a home run over the left-field fence to win the game, 1-0.

Marichal gave up eight hits and struck out 10; and Spahn allowed nine hits while striking out  two batters. Spahn walked just one man in 16 innings, an intentional pass to Mays in the 14th. Marichal gave up four walks. Each hurler threw more than 200 pitches, heresy in this modern era of pitch counts.

A crowd of 15,921 witnessed the classic at chilly Candlestick Park. At one point in extra innings, Giants manager Alvin Dark asked Marichal if he wanted to come out. Marichal looked out at Spahn on the mound and said: “I’m not leaving while that old guy is still on the mound.” Spahn was 42 at the time, enjoying his last great season.

A 13-time 20-game winner and the winningest pitcher of the 50s, Spahn holds the MLB record for most wins by a left-hander — 363.

Marichal, baseball’s winningest pitcher of the 60s, won 20 six times and finished with 243 wins. He became the first Dominican to enter the Hall of Fame. Marichal is quite arguably the best pitcher never to win a Cy Young Award.

In 1963, Juan Marichal was 25-8 with a 2.41 ERA and 248 strikeouts. Spahn was 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA, And neither pitcher won the Cy Young Award. That honor went to Los Angeles left-hander Sandy Koufax. who went 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA and struck out 306 batters.

8. Sept. 9, 1965 — Los Angeles Dodgers 1, Chicago Cubs 0
Sandy Koufax may have had the best five-year stretch in baseball history. From 1962 through 1966, Koufax won a National League MVP and  three Cy Young awards, and pitched four no-hitters.

But Koufax was never better than he was on a September night in 1965 in Los Angeles. Pitching against a Cub lineup that featured Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo, along with five rookies. Koufax pitched a perfect game.

For Koufax, it was his fourth no-hitter in four seasons. On this night Koufax was nearly matched by lanky left-hander Bob Hendley of the Cubs, who allowed just one hit, a seventh inning bloop double by Lou Johnson.  It’s the lowest combined hit total in a single game in baseball history.

The Dodgers scored the only run of the game in the fifth inning without the benefit of a base hit. Johnson walked, was sacrificed to second, stole third and came home on a throwing error.

Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully painted the word picture as Koufax approached perfection — “There are 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies.” Koufax fanned pinch-hitter Harvey Kuenn to finish perfect.

9. Aug. 21, 1972 — Atlanta Braves 2, Philadelphia Phillies 1, 11 innings
On a sweltering August night in Philadelphia, future Hall of Famers Phil Niekro, below, and Steve Carlton battled for 11 innings before the Braves prevailed.

After retiring 19 batters in a row, Carlton put two runners on in the 11th before Mike Lum singled home the winning run and snapped Carlton’s 15-game winning streak. Each pitcher walked three batters and out 10. Carlton allowed seven hits; Niekro nine.

Carlton finished 27-10 that year for the last place Phillies, pitching 346 innings and striking out 310 batters. He was rewarded with the Cy Young Award.

Niekro wound up with 16 wins in 1972. Carlton won 329 games in his career, and Niekro 318.

10. May 28, 2000 —  Boston Red Sox 2, New York Yankees 0
One mistake by Roger Clemens made the difference in this classic pitching duel. Clemens was working on a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts when, with two outs in the ninth, Jeff Frye hit a chopper off the middle that banged off “The Rocket” for a single. Trot Nixon then hit a two-run homer into the right field bleachers at Yankee Stadium.

“He got the ball up over the plate and I got good wood on it,” said Nixon. “His ball was starting to come up. I sensed it was coming up. It was a classic battle and Roger made a mistake.”

Martinez took a three-hitter of his own into the ninth, having retired the last 10 batters. The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs, but Pedro got Tino Martinez to bounce out to end it.

It was a great pitching battle between two pitchers who combined to win 573 games and 10 Cy Young awards, including a record seven by Clemens,


9-0. NP. History repeats for Yankees- Red Sox

 

They say history repeats itself. Well it does sometimes, and it did today.

The Yankees comeback from a 9-0 deficit raised the echoes from a Yankee-Red Sox game, just over 62 years ago.

It was April 18, 1950, Opening Day at Fenway Park. Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Boston pounded Yankee starter Allie Reynolds and, like today, led 9-0 entering the sixth inning following Billy Goodman’s two-run homer.

New York rallied, but still trailed 10-4 going into the top of the eighth. Then the Yankees struck for nine runs. Billy Martin, right, making his major league debut, doubled and singled in the eighth inning and knocked in three runs.

The Yankees added to the carnage in the ninth on an RBI double by Joe DiMaggio and a run-scoring single by Yogi Berra to win 15-10.

Sounds familiar, huh.

And again: The Yankees also rebounded from a 9-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox on June 26, 1987, at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks knocked out reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Roger Clemens with an 11-run third inning. They then won the game 12.11 on a base hit by Wayne Tolleson in the 10th inning that scored Mike Pagliarulo.


CC Has Serious Shot at 300 Wins

When Randy Johnson won his 300th game two years ago, staggering towards the finish line of a brilliant career, there was strong talk that the Big Unit might be baseball’s last 300-game winner, given the limitations and constraints (read that pitch counts) of the modern game. Not so fast.

CC Sabathia already has 167 wins, and he won’t turn 31 until July 21. This is his 11th major league season, and through the first 10 the Yankee southpaw has averaged just under 16 wins a season.

Sabathia is 167-92 for a .645 winning percentage. He’s led the American League in wins the past two years with 19 and 21 victories respectively.

CC already has 10 wins this year, as many as anyone in the majors. He’s durable, having pitched at least 230 innings in every season since 2007.  Never been seriously injured, hardly ever misses a turn, been on the DL just once in his career, that for a strained oblique early in the 2006 season with the Indians. No arm troubles. The very definition of a staff ace, a horse.

Do the math. If Sabathia keeps on his current pace and pitches eight more seasons, he’d reach 300 wins  somewhere around the age of 39.

Recent 300-Game Winners
That would be younger than three of the four pitchers who won their 300th game since 2000 — Roger Clemens (40) in 2003 with the Yankees, Tom Glavine (41) with the Mets in 2007, and Johnson (45) with the Giants.

Only Greg Maddux, who won his 300th at the age of 38 with the Cubs, would be younger. Maddux went on to win 355 games, eighth on the all-time list and one more than Clemens.

Before that, Nolan Ryan in 1990 was the last pitcher to reach 300 wins, at age 43, with the Rangers.

Only four active pitchers have more wins than Sabathia — Tim Wakefield (197), Roy Halladay (179), Tim Hudson (171) and Livan Hernandez (171). Halladay is the youngest of this group at age 34, Wakefield the oldest at 44.

Only 24 pitchers have won 300 games, and of that group only six — Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton, Eddie Plank, Glavine, Johnson and Lefty Grove — are left-handers.

CC Sabathia has a long ways to go, but he has a legitimate shot at becoming the 25th pitcher in baseball history to reach 300 wins.


Top 10: New York State of Mind

 

The SportsLifer couldn’t get through the year without one more top 10 list.

So here they are, the top 10 moments in New York sports, 2008.

1. Catch XLII: Sparked by the unbelievable Eli Manning to David Tyree pass play, the Giants rally to defeat the previously unbeaten Patriots in the Super Bowl.

2. Yankee Money: Failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, Yankees sign free agents C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Texiera.

3. House Cleaning: The Knicks finally manage to get rid of Isiah Thomas, and new coach Mike D’Antoni puts Stephon Marbury out to pasture.

4. Collapse: For the second year in a row, the Mets fall apart in a September swoon and allow the Phillies to steal the NL East championship.

5. Collapse Redux: Brett Favre and the Jets lose four of their final five games and miss the playoffs, forcing the removal of coach Eric Mangini.

6. Final Farewell: Many of the greats return as the Yankees play the final game in the House that Ruth Built and the Mets close Shea Stadium.

7. Giants Among Men: Despite the distraction of the Plaxico Burress shooting, the Giants earn top seed in the NFC heading into the playoffs.

8. He Said, He Said: Disgraced Roger Clemens tries to clear his name of steroid allegations by trainer Brian McNamee.

9. Domination on Ice: The Rangers continue their sudden mastery of the cross-river rival Devils, taking round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs 4 games to 1.

10. Smart Sign: The Mets pull a huge off-season deal, acquiring left-handed pitcher Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins to fortify their pitching staff.


Yankees Could Learn from Gospel of (Gabe) Paul

It’s no secret the Yankees need to rebuild. But let’s not complicate matters.

Hey, this isn’t rocket science. It’s baseball. And more than anything, the Yankees need to get pitching and to get younger, faster and more athletic.

For years now, the Yankees have tried to get away with make-shift pitching staffs and band-aid remedies.

Old broken down aces like Randy Johnson, Rocket Redux (Roger Clemens II), and Kevin Brown. Over-rated youngsters like Javier Vazquez, Jeff Weaver and the double zero twins, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. And never has-beens Darrell Rasner, Jaret Wright and Kei Igawa. Need we mention Karl Pavano.

And they’ve been bogged down by DH-type slowpokes, guys like Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui and Wilson Betemit of recent vintage.

Maybe the Bombers need  a history lesson.

Yankees On the Move
In 1975, New York’s American League entry missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season.  They were a decent team, hung in the pennant race until the dog days, wound up third behind the Red Sox and Orioles.

They Yankees were about to move out of Shea Stadium, their home away from home for two years, into a refurbished Yankee Stadium.

They were desperate for a jump-start, hungry to get back to the playoffs. Enter general manager Gabe Paul, pictured above.

With two brilliant trades, Paul built the foundation for a team that would win an American League pennant in 1976 and the World Series the following two years. Those two deals brought the Yankees starting pitching and youth and speed, and helped fill holes in center field and  second base.

In one deal, the Yankees traded a hobbled Bobby Bonds to California for pitcher Ed Figueroa and center-fielder Mickey Rivers, right. The other trade brought Willie Randolph, Dock Ellis and Ken Brett to the Bronx in exchange for Doc Medich, who was shipped to Pittsburgh.

Bobby Bonds, Barry’s father,  would play for six more years with six teams and never make the playoffs again. He did manage 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases in his one year in pinstripes after being acquired in exchange for Bobby Murcer. Bonds had his fourth and final 30-30 year in 1977 with the Angels, but was clearly on the downhill side of his career when the Yanks sent him out West..

Rivers turned out to be the catalyst, the center fielder and lead-off hitter on those championship Yankee teams of the late ’70s before being traded to Texas for, among others, Oscar Gamble. Mick the Quick hit .312 with 43 stolen bases and finished third in the AL MVP race, and followed that up with a .326 season in 1977.

55 Wins in Three Years for Figgy
Figueroa was 19-10, 16-11 and 20-9 in his first three seasons in New York, a mainstay with 55 wins on a staff that won three straight pennants, before an arm injury stalled his career in 1979.

Medich, whose best year with the Yanks was 19-15 in 1974, never approached those standards with the Pirates and later Texas. He finished with a 124-105 lifetime record and eventually left baseball to become a medical doctor.

Another doc, Dock Ellis, never did go the med school, but he did win 17 games for the Yankees in 1976 while losing only eight. He was traded to the A’s early in the following season for Mike Torrez, who won two games for the Yankees in the 1977 World Series. Torrez signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in 1978, and is perhaps best known as the pitcher who gave up a three-run homer to Bucky Dent in a 1978 play-in loss to the Yankees.

Ken Brett, George’s brother, was quickly  traded to the White Sox one month into the season, along with Rich Coggins, for Carlos May, who helped the Yankees win the AL pennant in 1976.

And Willie Randolph, a Brooklyn native, became a fixture at second base for the Yankees for 13 seasons and one of the most popular Yankees of recent vintage. With the exception of Hall of  Famer Tony Lazzeri, Randolph, right, arguably the best second baseman in Yankee history.

Those weren’t the only big deals for Paul, who also traded for Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, Lou Piniella and Bucky Dent, all who contributed mightily to the Yankees last 70s run.

Gabe Paul was gone following the 1977 season, unable to deal with the daily turmoil of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin, but the creativity he exhibited in 1976 with these two trades helped turn a proud franchise around.

Brian Cashman needs to show some of that same kind of guts and guile if the Yankees are to return to the playoffs next year.

It will take more than signing overpriced superstars to huge free-agent contracts to bring these Yankees back. It will take innovation and ingenuity and grit, traits the Yankees have been lacking lately.

Learn from the Gospel of  (Gabe) Paul, aka The Trader.


Shea Goodbye

Through the years, I saw some great games at Shea Stadium, including a 1972 game that featured both Hank Aaron and Willie Mays (both went hitless and remained tied with 648 career home runs), a 1986 NLCS encounter when Houston’s Mike Scott stopped the Mets, and some memorable Subway Series clashes with the Yankees, most notably Roger Clemens face-off with Mike Piazza in 2002.

However, my most memorable night at Shea Stadium occurred on Friday night, Sept, 22, 1967, during the second game of a twi-night doubleheader against the Astros.

It was banner night at Shea, and between games my buddy Ed and I paraded on the field with a banner that read: “We Got the Fever over Tom Seaver” or  “Murderers Row: Kranepool, Swoboda, Jones” or something like that.

The Mets lost the opener, 8-0, as Houston’s Mike Cuellar pitched a five-hit, complete game shutout.

The Mets were trailing in the second game when midway through the contest Ed started dropping M&Ms out of the upper deck onto the unsuspecting patrons in the box seats below.

It didn’t take long for security to catch on, and we were escorted from the stadium. Ejected from Shea. Banished from the ballpark

Not to be denied, however, we went down a couple of exits and sneaked back into the park. We had prime seats to see Mets shortstop Jerry Buchek hit a three-run homer to tie the game with two outs in the eighth and another three-run homer to win it, 8-5, with two outs in the 10th.

Undoubtedly this was Jerry Buchek’s signature moment, his finest hour, the best of Buchek. He hit just 22 home runs in his career (14 with the Mets that season) and had a .220 career batting average.

Buchek did get a hit in his only at-bat in the 1964 World Series as the Cardinals beat the Yankees in seven games. But for those were there, and even those who shouldn’t have been, he’s most remembered for that clutch performance on a Friday night at Shea in 1967.


Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” — William Shakespeare

Was planning to drive up to Albany real early this morning to see the New York Giants in training camp. All packed, camera in the car, ready to go. But I overslept.

I was dreaming that the Giants beat the undefeated Patriots on a miracle play in the Super Bowl. Then I woke up and realized it was true.

So I started thinking about the strange occurrences we’ve seen in sports in the past year. One year ago, you would have been dreaming if you said:

  • The Giants would be defending World Champions.
  • That Manny Ramirez would be wearing Dodger blue.
  • And Joe Torre would be his manager.
  • That the Boston Celtics would win the NBA title.
  • That the Tampa Bay Rays would be in first place.
  • That Greg Norman, 53 years young, would be leading the British Open with nine holes to play.
  • And that he would be cheered on by his new bride, Chris Evert.
  • That Brett Favre would retire. Or unretire. Or retire….wait a minute, Brett, wake up and make up your mind.
  • That Roger Clemens would make a fool of himself in front of the entire nation.
  • While his former teammate, Mike Mussina, would be pitching like Cy Young.
  • That Appalachian State would beat Michigan. In the Big House. Yeah right.
  • That Marion Jones, the queen of the 2000 Olympics, would be in jail.

Did I just dream all that? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.