No-hitters are weird.
They can be thrown by one person. Or several.
They can be thrown against dynamic, record-setting offenses. Or against schmucks that more closely resemble a Triple-A squad.
They can be dominant masterworks or unreal “How-did-he-do-that?” puzzlers.
They have more superstitions and nonsense tied to them than horseshoes, black cats, and four-leaf clovers combined.
And, yet, they are also amazing.
There have been 285 recognized* no-hitters in the history of professional baseball. This includes the American League, the National League, and a few of their short-lived cousins: the Federal League, the American Association, the Union Association, and the Players’ League. The vast majority of these existed pre-1900; there have been 242 no-nos tossed since the start of the 20th century.
*Joe Borden, a little known pitcher for the 1875 Philadelphia White Stockings, threw the first no-hitter, on July 28, 1875 against the Chicago White Stockings**. His feat is not considered an official no-hitter because the National Association (1871-1875) is not recognized as a “major” league by Major League Baseball.
** Those Chicago White Stockings would eventually get renamed as the Chicago Cubs, the team that still hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. The other Chicago White Stockings, or White Sox, would be a part of the initial American League in 1901.
Anyway, back to my original point: no-hitters are weird.
Which is why it’s fitting that a guy known as “The Freak” is just the second pitcher to ever no-hit the same team twice.
On Wednesday, in front of a whole mess of hometown fans, Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants, pitched a no-hitter against the comically bad offense of the San Diego Padres.
It’s Lincecum’s second career no-hitter, his first coming on July 13th of last year at Petco Park against the Padres. The only other hurler in history to no-hit the same team twice?
No, not Johnny Vander Meer, who is still the only pitcher to throw no-nos in back-to-back starts*. Vander Meer’s gems came in 1938 against the Boston Bees and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
*Pending the results of Lincecum’s next start, of course.
The answer (bar trivia night stuff here, folks) is Addie Joss, a right-handed starter for the Cleveland Indians back the early part of the 1900s, when the Indians were still called the inoffensive “Naps”, in honor of player/manager Napoleon Lajoie. Joss, who died of meningitis at the age of 31 in 1911, no-hit the Chicago White Sox* on October 2, 1908 and again on April 20, 1910.
* The real White Sox.
Lincecum needed just 113 pitches to finish off the Padres this time, compared to a career-high 148 pitches last time.
It’s interesting to note that the two no-nos have come during two of “The Freak’s” worst seasons. Of course, when Lincecum debuted in 2007, no one really knew what he would be. Most of us probably saw a tiny guy that threw hard, but looked ridiculous doing so.
That wiry, almost anemic frame. The boyish charm. The happy-go-lucky-hippie attitude. The long, brown locks that jutted out of the back of his Giants cap.
That was Lincecum off the mound.
But on the mound, he was different. He was a beast. A monster. An eater of bats and devourer of hitting prowess.
He was, well, a freak.
During his first five seasons with the Giants (2007-2011), Lincecum was nigh untouchable*. He posted a 69-41 record with 1,127 strikeouts in 1,028 innings of work. He struck out nearly three batters per each one that he walked.
He won two Cy Young awards in that span, going back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. The Giants benefitted greatly from his success too, winning the World Series in 2010, and again in 2012, where Lincecum was a dominant reliever.
*Can’t really say “unhittable” here, now can I?
Lincecum probably should be a reliever full time. His stuff as a starter does not hold up as well as it used to. Since the start of the 2012 season, Lincecum, the once-feared “Freak,” has posted a 4.79 ERA in 466 ⅓ innings.
The wear-and-tear of four consecutive 200-inning season on a 5-11, 170-pound pitcher cannot be understated. While it is silly to claim that Lincecum was in any way mishandled by the Giants, he probably has seen his best days as a top-shelf arm.
But, for now, let’s celebrate “The Freak” in all of his greatness.
Lincecum made history on Wednesday and that’s pretty amazing.
Even if it is also a little weird.