Francisco Liriano earns place in Major League history
by Howard Lestrud
ECM Online Managing Editor
All Major League baseball players have as their ultimate goal to make the Baseball Hall of Fame, one of professional sports’ greatest ranking sources. The Minnesota Twins have three players in the HOF now in Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett. Pitcher Bert Blyleven has also been elected and will be enshrined in Cooperstown, NY in July.
Another way to gain entry into the Hall of Fame is by contributing a moment in baseball that is just that. . . a moment that not many others have accomplished.
Minnesota Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano accomplished that special moment last week (May 3) when he tossed a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. Sure, he walked six batters but he won the game, 1-0. He is only one of eight Major League pitchers in the history of the game that has won a 1-0 no-hit game.
Bert Blyleven, himself an owner of a Major League no-hit game while pitching for the Texas Rangers, heaped praise on Liriano and said it was quite an accomplishment to throw a 1-0 shutout. What made this accomplishment even more doubly important was that the no-hit victory represented his first complete game.
One of our ECM associate’s daughters lives and works in the Chicago area and happened to be at the historic game last week. Wendy Gruhl, daughter of Sharon Gruhl of our ECM corporate accounting department, said she was one of the noisier fans at the White Sox park on this cool evening which proved to be one of Liriano’s best-ever games pitched for the Twins. Wendy works for the Illinois State Police as a forensic scientist.
Four days following Liriano’s no-hitter on May 3, Detroit Tiger flame thrower Justin Verlander threw a 9-0 no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. Those two no-hitters are the only ones thrown in the Major Leagues during the 2011 season thus far. Last year, two American League pitchers tossed no-hitters and four National League hurdlers turned the trick. Oakland’s Dallas Braden and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay each threw a perfect game last year.
Check out all the no-hitters thrown in Major League Baseball since 1876 by going to http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/rare_feats/index.jsp?feature=no_hitter
Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan holds the record for throwing the most no-hitters in MLB history, seven. He threw two no-hitters as a member of the Texas Rangers, four as a California Angel and one as a Houston Astro. He was over 40 years old when he collected his final Major League no-hitter.
The Minnesota Twins/Washington Senators have seven no-hitters attached to their franchise. Find out more about Twins no-hitters by going to Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Minnesota_Twins_no-hitters
Walter Johnson threw the first no-hitter in Twins history on July 1, 1920. Four left-handed pitchers have thrown no-hitters in franchise history while three were by right-handers.
The longest interval between no-hitters was between the games pitched by Bobby Burke and Jack Kralick, encompassing 31 years and 8 days from Aug. 8, 1931 to August 26, 1962. Conversely, the shortest interval between no-hitters was between the games pitched by Kralick and Dean Chance, encompassing 4 years and 364 days from Aug. 26, 1962 to Aug. 25, 1967.
Twins pitchers no-hit the Boston Red Sox the most, which occurred twice, which were no-hit by Johnson in 1920 and Burke in 1931.
There is one no-hitter in which the team allowed at least a run, thrown by Chance in 1967. The most baserunners allowed in a no-hitter were by Chance (in 1967) and Liriano (in 2011), who each allowed six.
Four no-hitters were thrown at home, and three were thrown on the road. Twins pitchers threw one in April, one in May, one in July, three in August, and one in September.
Of the seven no-hitters, three have been won by a score of 1–0, more common than any other results. The largest margin of victory in a no-hitter was a 7–0 win by Eric Milton in 1999. The smallest margin of victory in a Twins no-hitter came in 1–0 wins – by Johnson in 1920, Kralick in 1962, and Liriano in 2011 – and a 2–1 win by Chance in 1967.
The umpire is also an integral part of any no-hitter. The task of the umpire in a baseball game is to make any decision “which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out… [the umpire’s judgment on such matters] is final.”
Part of the duties of the umpire making calls at home plate includes defining the strike zone, which “is defined as that area over homeplate (sic) the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap.” These calls define every baseball game and are therefore integral to the completion of any no-hitter. A different umpire presided over each of the franchise’s seven no-hitters.
No-hitters are generally highlighted by some phenomenal plays that preserved the no-hit game. In Liriano’s most recent gem, he can thank third baseman Danny Valencia and centerfielder Denard Span for making two outstanding plays that saved his no-hit game. Valencia actually fielded a sharp fair ball grounder that landed in foul territory. He fielded the ball behind third base and threw on the fly to first baseman Justin Morneau. Span caught a slicing liner as he crossed from center to left field.
Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven has thrown one no-hitter in his career, that coming as he pitched for the Texas Rangers. He was in Cooperstown, NY last week on the night Liriano threw his no-no. Typically, Blyleven would have been providing color analysis for the Fox Sports Network. He said Hall of Fame officials were already requesting Liriano’s jersey worn in the no-hit game.
The ultimate in no-hit games comes in a Perfect Game, meaning the pitcher faced only 27 batters and allowed no hits and no runs. Go to Wikipedia and see the history of the Perfect Game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_game
Over the 135 years of Major League Baseball history, there have been only 20 official perfect games by the current definition. More people have orbited the moon than have pitched a MLB perfect game.