In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James writes about the wonder of it all during the first 30 years of professional baseball — no hitters were hardly remarked upon.
From our vantage point, the question seems to be not how it developed, but how it could have taken so long to develop. It’s such a perfect diversion for the early innings of a game. Although I have been to hundreds of games and have never seen a no-hitter, I still think about it almost every time I’ve at the park. I think about when the first batter gets out or when he gets a hit. I think about it when either side goes in order in the first, and I think about it whenever I look up at the scoreboard and see that 0 0 0. Each day the pitcher plays Russian Roulette with sudden immortality, and each day he loses, and after the fourth inning it is all forgotten.
No Padres pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter, and I never give up hope. At the start of every Padres game, whether I’m in the ballpark, watching on teevee, listening on the crystal box or following the game over ESPN.com, I’m thinking no-no until the other guys get the first whack. And I never fail to notice when the enemy’s pitcher has held the Padres hitless past the first batter, the second and third … on up until the scoreboard reads at least 0 1 0.
But I do have something up on James, as amazing as that sounds. I was there the night Doc Ellis threw his no hitter. The night was particular remarkable because it was a double header and we were treated to a fireworks show between games. I remember this because the PA announcer promised more fireworks after the second game if Padres pitcher Danny Combs managed to redeem the team by throwing his own no-hitter. Roberto Clamente dashed our hopes with two-out in the first inning.
I was also there the night Pedro Martinez threw 9 perfect innings against the Padres, only to give up a double to Bip Roberts in the 10th. Montreal won that game 1-0 in 10 innings.
UPDATE: I should add — it’s funny how you can disremember things over the years … for years I’ve told my Doc Ellis story and said that Steve Arlin pitched the second game. Also, on the Pedro story, I’ve always said the Padres won that game. But thanks to the power of the net, I can get the true facts and discover I’ve lied (under the new Democratic meaning of “lied”) for all these years.