Near jinx couldn't stop Righetti's no-no
Lefty tossed gem 25 years ago on Independence Day for Yanks
SAN FRANCISCO -- When he pitched on hot days, Dave Righetti liked to go to the clubhouse between innings to cool off. On July 4, 1983, 25 years ago Friday, Righetti was following his normal routine.
Only it wasn't a normal day. Against the Red Sox in 94-degree heat, the then-Yankees hurler was tossing a no-hitter.
He stepped into the clubhouse toward the end of the game and heard the words that jinx-conscious pitchers never want to hear. The Yankees' television announcer, Fran Healy, mentioned the possibility of the no-no on air.
"I said, 'Oh, Jesus,'" said Righetti, currently the Giants' pitching coach.
But no crisis ensued.
With a few key plays down the stretch, Righetti finished the gem, winning 4-0 in front of 41,077 fans.
Right fielder Steve Kemp helped in the eighth with a stellar catch on a fly ball by Dwight Evans.
Then Righetti's teammate, current Cubs manager Lou Piniella, factored in when he acted out of character. Normally a fiery player, Piniella had a beef in the eighth inning when he was called out on a foul popup.
Piniella thought Red Sox catcher Jeff Newman dropped the ball, but the home-plate umpire, Steve Palermo, disagreed. Instead of arguing, Piniella held his tongue so as not to disrupt Righetti's work.
"Dave had some overpowering stuff that day," Piniella said. "What a competitor he was and what a game he pitched. What a good teammate."
In the final frame, Righetti did the heavy lifting himself. With two outs, Wade Boggs stepped into the box. The lefty finished that season with a .361 batting average, 92 walks and just 36 strikeouts.
Righetti said he was afraid of leaving a slider on the outside of the plate that Boggs might slap between the mound and first baseman Don Mattingly for a hit.
With two strikes, Righetti threw his slider. But Boggs whiffed at it and cemented Righetti's place in baseball -- and Yankees-Red Sox -- history.
"The last slider I ended up throwing, he happened to miss it," Righetti said. "Thank goodness."
Righetti's night was far from over. He said he never made it back to the clubhouse for postgame festivities. He celebrated on the field with teammates, did a radio interview and a television interview, and then was off to Atlantic City, N.J.
The All-Star break began that weekend, and Righetti thought he had deserved a spot on the roster. He was snubbed, though, so he and teammate Graig Nettles had planned a quick trip to relax during the break.
Nettles, the only player who talked to Righetti during his performance, had pink eye, but made the drive anyway.
On their way, the native Californians ran into some trouble.
"We actually got pulled over," Righetti said. "A New Jersey state trooper pulled us over."
So, the night was over, right?
Not so fast. Apparently, the cops had been watching the game.
"We got a police escort to Atlantic City after that."
When the hullabaloo had worn off, Righetti returned to find most of his stuff from the game was missing. He said he got a ball from the game, but said his shoes, hat and glove were gone.
"My locker seemed a little thin by the time I got back," Righetti said.
He did, though, receive a note from former President Richard Nixon, who was in attendance for the performance. Righetti also got plenty of letters from Yankees lovers around the world who appreciated his effort.
To this day, fans still haven't forgotten Righetti's no-hit performance.
"Almost every day I'm involved in a game I get asked about it or somebody brings it up," Righetti said. "To me, it's special. Obviously, I covet it even more now."
Especially since 1983 was his last as a full-time starter. In his first four years, he made 76 starts, including 31 in '83. He had a 33-23 record and maintained a sub-3.80 ERA each season.
But for the rest of his 16-year career, Righetti was a reliever. He ended his playing days with a 3.46 ERA and 252 saves.
To this day, Righetti said he has no regrets about the move. He thought he might "have another shot" at the rotation in later seasons, but the call never came.
"Being with the Yankees, somebody's job was on the line with the decision, and my job was to go out and pitch," Righetti said.
Certainly, he did a good job of that. With his no-hitter, he accomplished something Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Steve Carlton and Roger Clemens never have.
"I'm sure people around me who have to hear about it from fans saying they were there or saw it [are tired of it]," Righetti said. "It was almost like it never goes away."
David Biderman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.