COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – He had already accomplished just about everything a pitcher can in the major leagues, putting him well on his way to Cooperstown. A no-hitter, however, always seemed to elude Tom Seaver.
But 32 years ago this week, the stars aligned for Tom Terrific.
Seaver, already the owner of three Cy Young Awards, five strikeout titles and a World Series championship, led the Cincinnati Reds past the St Louis Cardinals 4-0 on June 16, 1978, on no hits. Only three Cardinals’ batters reached base – all on walks. Two came in the second inning, when Seaver pitched out of a first-and-third jam.
But Seaver was perfect the next six innings, retiring 18 St. Louis batters in a row from the third through the eighth. Jerry Mumphrey walked to lead off the ninth, but Seaver quickly set down Lou Brock, Garry Templeton and George Hendrick to end the game.
For Seaver, it was no-hitter redemption following several near-misses, including the infamous July 9, 1969, game where Seaver, then with the Mets, recorded 25 straight outs before Jimmy Qualls broke up his bid for a perfect game.
“My wife, Nancy, came on the field after that game in 1969 and said: ‘You lost your perfect game,’” Seaver said. “But I said: ‘Hey, I just threw a one-hitter and we won the game 4-0.
“I think I had better stuff in the one-hitter than in the no-hitter.”
Still, Seaver’s performance against the Cardinals that night at Riverfront Stadium was stunningly efficient. He struck out just three batters, but retired the side in order in seven of the nine innings. He recorded 15 ground-ball outs and nine fly outs to go along with his three strikeouts, and the Reds’ only error came when catcher Don Werner was charged with a bad throw on Keith Hernandez’s steal of second base in the second inning.
But Werner redeemed himself by singling in the fifth inning and eventually scoring with Cesar Geronimo on Pete Rose’s double – giving Seaver the only runs he would need.
The victory marked the 211th of Seaver’s big league career – leaving an amazing 100 still to come. He retired following the 1986 season, and in 1992 he was elected to the Hall of Fame with 98.84 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote – still the highest percentage ever recorded in a BBWAA election.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum