When a pitcher throws a no-hitter, it doesn’t get any better.
I witnessed four of them in 27 years of covering baseball for the Sun-Times, from 1973-2000, with the White Sox winning one and losing three. Each was a nail-biter to the final out.
Wilson Alvarez was only a 21-year-old White Sox rookie when he no-hit the Yankees in 1991.
Throwing no-hitters against the Sox were Mike Warren for Oakland in ’83, Jack Morris for Detroit in ’84 at Comiskey Park and Bret Saberhagen for Kansas City in ’91.
Those gems came to mind last weekend when San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum no-hit San Diego on Saturday. The 148-pitch feat was one of many exciting moments for baseball in the first half of this season, including an earlier no-hitter by Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey.
The quirkiness of Lincecum’s performance followed a familiar pattern of expect to see the unexpected.
Alvarez’s 1991 White Sox gem at Yankee Stadium was a surprise because he didn’t become a regular starter until two years later. Outfielder Lance Johnson helped preserve the no-hitter with a great running catch in center field.
“I didn’t know it was that good until I was having dinner with friends that night in Washington and we saw the replay on TV,” Johnson said.
Alvarez missed the team bus the next day in New York, so we took the subway to the park. No one recognized him as the kid who had just thrown a no-hitter.
Warren’s 1983 no-hitter stunned the White Sox, who were on their way to the division championship. It was a lucky break for me, however, when the A’s radio host invited me into a utility closet where he taped his postgame show. The room contained rakes, brooms, mops, sand buckets — and Warren.
There I was able to ask Warren my own questions and return to the press box in time to send the story and catch the team’s flight to Seattle.
Sun-Times columnist Ron Rapoport called my hotel room the next morning to ask how I got all those quotes when the other Chicago reporters didn’t have any.
Just lucky, I guess.
Saberhagen’s 1991 no-hitter came against a Sox lineup that included a combined 101 home runs from Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura, Carlton Fisk, Dan Pasqua and Sammy Sosa.
It’s tradition in baseball for players who have been no-hit to sign a lineup card for the pitcher to keep as a souvenir, but shortstop Ozzie Guillen refused.
“Why doesn’t he come in here and sign ours?” Guillen said.