Home not always sweet for no-hitters
Tigers end long drought with excellence in front of home crowd
Now that Justin Verlander has just thrown the first no-hitter by a Tigers pitcher at home since 1952, the longest such drought in Major League Baseball is over and the Mets become the team that has made its fans wait the longest.
Verlander's gem Tuesday night against the Brewers at Comerica Park was the first one at home by a Detroit hurler since Virgil Trucks threw one against Washington at old Briggs Stadium. That one was a 1-0 victory over the Senators on May 15, and it would be 55 long years before it ever happened again in Motown by the home team.
Talk about a contrast. Comerica was full with a now-routine level of high intensity for a contender. Briggs Stadium was virtually empty for Trucks' magical performance. Just consider the difference between these two gems:
There were only a reported 2,000 fans in attendance that day to watch "Fire" Trucks shockingly throw his first of two no-nos that season. It was a truly horrible Detroit club that lost 104 games over a 152-game season, Trucks was working on a 19-loss season by himself, and his luck was so weird that year that he cracked his skull on the top of the dugout when Vic Wertz provided that only run on a walk-off homer (before they used the term "walk-off") in the bottom of the ninth.
The bigger reason that Briggs Stadium was so empty that day was because the city of Detroit was holding a parade for General Douglas MacArthur, who was home from Korea. Just think what that was like. MacArthur had uttered the famous words, "I shall return!" And he did on that very day of the last Tigers home no-hitter.
Verlander did not have to compete with a returning military hero. What he did have was a full house in an excited city where the Tigers whipped everyone into a frenzy last fall with their first World Series appearance since 1984 -- and where there are enormously high hopes of going a step beyond this year.
Verlander is certain to have a better overall season than Trucks did in 1952. But it remains to be seen whether Verlander can throw two no-hitters in the same season, something Trucks did -- just as shockingly -- that season. He also tossed a 1-0 no-hitter that August at Yankee Stadium.
There have been two no-hitters thrown by Tigers pitchers since Trucks threw those, and they were both on the road: Jim Bunning against the Red Sox in Boston on July 20, 1958; and Jack Morris against the White Sox in Chicago on April 7, 1984. Yes, that was the last glory year for the Tigers, something their fans must hope to be an omen now.
Going 55 years without seeing a no-hitter in person by your own team at home is a pretty long time. That was a decade longer than the team that now takes over the claim for making its fan base wait the longest to see one by the good guys throw a no-no in person. The Mets joined the Majors in 1962, and they never even have thrown a no-hitter on the road, much less at home. Same with the Padres, who joined The Show in 1969. The Brewers were also in that '69 expansion class, and they never have thrown a no-hitter at home, but at least can claim one on the road in 1987 by Juan Nieves.
After those three clubs comes Baltimore, which never has given its fans a home no-hitter since the beautiful Camden Yards was built. You have to go way back to Jim Palmer's 1969 masterpiece against the A's to find the last one in that city (at Memorial Stadium). Here's what's even more interesting: The Orioles threw one no-hitter in three consecutive seasons before that drought began. Steve Barber and Stu Miller combined for a no-hitter in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers on April 30, 1967; Tom Phoebus no-hit the Red Sox, 6-0, the following April; and then came Palmer's beauty in an 8-0 rout of Oakland on Aug. 13 of the '69 season that would see them fall to the Miracle Mets in October.
Can't leave Cubs fans out of the conversation anytime you talk about the word "drought" -- including home-team no-hitters. It was 1972, and it happened twice that season: April 16 by Burt Hooton against the Phillies, and Sept. 2 by Milt Pappas against the Padres. The Friendly Confines have not been so friendly for Cubs pitchers milking no-hitters. It stands to reason, then, that there never has been a Cubs no-hitter under lights at Wrigley.
Without Nolan Ryan around, the home team's no-hitter has gone missing for Angels fans. He pitched one of his record seven in June 1975 against the Orioles. Mike Witt threw a perfect game in 1984, but that was at Texas.
That same season that Ryan threw the Angels' last home no-no, Oakland fans experienced their last one as well. It was at the tail end of those heady days of the Charlie Finley era, and on Sept. 28, as if to add a little extra luster at the end, four Oakland pitchers combined to no-hit that same Angels team. Vida Blue went five innings and was relieved by Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and the great Rollie Fingers.
Remember Count Montefusco? He no-hit the Braves on Sept. 29, 1976, at old Candlestick Park. Giants fans haven't seen their team throw a no-hitter at home in more than three decades since then. Of course, they would rather see the first world championship by a Giants team since it moved West a half-century ago.
Indians fans have waited a while since Len Barker threw that perfect game against Toronto in 1981. That one had to be good enough to last.
It's starting to feel like a while for Royals fans since Bret Saberghagen dominated the White Sox in 1991. That was the same year for Atlanta fans, who saw Kent Mercker, Mark Wohlers and Alejandro Pena combine for one in that magical season that started it all in Tomahawk Nation.
Although Brewers fans have remained frustrated all this time, at least some old-time Milwaukee baseball fans can say they saw the home team accomplish the feat. The last time it happened there was in 1961, when Warren Spahn did it for the Milwaukee Braves against the Giants. He also did it the previous season against the Phillies, just a month after Lew Burdette did it against the same Phils. Talk about feast or famine -- even moreso than what Baltimore fans have gone through.
Washington Nationals fans obviously never have seen it happen because the club just relocated from Montreal for the 2006 season. And if you want to include Canada, then go back to 1981 and Charlie Lea's gem against the Giants on May 10.
Cincinnati fans still celebrate Tom Browning's 1988 perfect game to this day, and surely they will celebrate the 20th anniversary next year. It's no wonder, considering that the Reds haven't thrown a no-hitter in front of the home crowd (or anywhere) since that one against Tommy Lasorda's eventual champion Dodgers.
It's never happened for Diamondbacks, Devil Rays or Rockies fans, all fairly young as MLB clubs go. Of those three, only one, Arizona, has a perfect game to its credit -- pitched by Randy Johnson at Turner Field in 2004.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.