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Game 158

September 26, 1973 – Gaylord Perry Complete Game Shutout to Win His Final Four Starts

Gaylord Perry spitballed his way to the 1972 Cy Young Award –the first for an Indians pitcher–by posting a 24-16 record for the worst team in the American League. 

In 1973, he continued to baffle hitters both with legal sliders and forkballs along with the occasional illicit greaseball. Gaylord came into this game with an 18-19 record. He was the hard-luck loser much more often in the 1973 season. The Tribe had long been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs–their 69-89 record had them 26 ½ games off the pace in the AL East–but Gaylord Perry never stopped trying to fool the opposition. 

He retired the Red Sox side in the top of the first. Bill Lee likewise threw a 1-2-3 inning for the Sox in the bottom of the frame. 

Perry gave up a hit to Carl Yastrzemski to lead off the top of the second, but Yaz was quickly erased by a 6-4-3 double play ball off the bat of Orlando Cepeda. 

Tribe DH John Ellis smashed a homer to lead off the bottom of the second, thrilling the 1,453 fans on hand at Municipal Stadium. 

Perry was challenged with Red Sox in scoring position in the top of the fifth after Frank Duffy got aboard on a bunt and was advanced to second by a Walt Williams single. In the sixth, the Sox had runners at second and third when Orlando Cepeda came to the plate. Perry struck Cepeda out looking to end the inning That was the last time a Red Sox hitter would reach base this evening. 

Sox pitcher Bill Lee did his part as well. He gave up only the one run on seven hits and no walks. 

In the top of the ninth, Perry faced the heart of the Sox order. He got Reggie Smith to fly out.  Yastrzemski grounded out to second. Orlando Cepeda struck out to end the game. It was Perry’s fourth win in a row, and brought his record to 19-19 for the season. For the second year in a row, Perry had a league-leading 29 complete games. 

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Game 130

August 29, 1977 – Duane Kuiper’s Only Home Run in 3,379 At Bats

Tribe pitcher Rick Waits was facing future Cy Young winner and South Euclid native Steve Stone and the White Sox. Just over 6,000 fans were present in Municipal Stadium for this Monday night contest. The White Sox were still battling for the division lead, and so ABC had decided to show the game regionally as part of Monday NIght Baseball. The start time was moved from 7:30PM to 8:40, and then up to 8:30. 

Indians second baseman Duane Kuiper was in his third year in the majors. Kuiper was a solid second baseman, with a .281 batting average. However, he did not hit for power. 

Waits retired the Sox in order to start the game. Then, in the bottom of the first, Stone struck out the leadoff hitter Paul Dade. Kuiper stepped in and sent Stone’s pitch into the empty Municipal Stadium seats in right field.

Kuiper later remembered, “I hit it, and I saw Wayne Nordhagen, the right fielder, running after it, and I saw his number. And I never saw a right fielder’s number. I saw him running back, and I said, ‘You know what? This is going to go out.’”

The ball bounced off the empty seat and back into the outfield. Nordhagen picked it up and fired it back to the Indians dugout. This was Kuiper’s first home run in 1,381 at bats. 

Two batters later, Andre Thornton laced a ball into left field which bounced past the charging left fielder Ritchie Zisk. By the time Zisk tracked it down, Thornton had an inside-the-park home run. Bruce Bochte followed with a powerful homer to deep left field to put the Tribe up 3-0.

Stone complained, “I was told the game was going to start 8:40 local time, and it started 10 minutes early.  I couldn’t believe it. I need about 25 minutes to warm up…I wasn’t ready to pitch. I had nothing in the first inning.”

Waits went on to pitch a complete game. He gave up only two runs on six hits while striking out eight White Sox. 

Kuiper ended his night 2 for 5 with his 45th RBI of the season. Kuiper would go on to play twelve seasons in the majors. His home run in Game 130 of 1977 is his only major league homer in 3,379 at-bats. 

Since World War II (post-deadball era), no one is within 1,000 at bats of Kuiper with only one recorded home run. Woody Woodward had only one in 2,187 at-bats for the Braves and Reds. Al Newman had one homer in 2,107 at bats for the Expos, Twins, and Rangers. Which leaves Duane Kuiper as the undisputed king of not hitting home runs. 

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Honorable Mention: August 31, 2017 – Zach McAllister’s Kick-Save

Still one of the most unlikely and amazing put-outs I have ever seen. The Indians would go on to beat the Twins in 10 innings. 

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Game 91

July 19, 1974 – Dick Bosman’s No Hitter – Only Pitcher to Miss a Perfect Game Due to His Own Error

The Oakland As were two-time World Series champions coming into the 1974 season. The largest Municipal Stadium crowd of the season so far–over 48,000 filed in to watch the opening matchup of the series–a pitching duel between perennial Cy Young candidates Catfish Hunter and Gaylord Perry. The Tribe dropped that game 3-2. 

On the next evening, Dick Bosman started for the Indians against Oakland’s Dave Hamilton. These two carried over the pitching duel from the previous evening. Hamilton retired the first six batters he faced,  while Bosman was perfect through three innings. 

In the bottom of the third, Indians first baseman Tommy McCraw led things off with a single to right field. Joe Lis homered to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. 

In the top of the fourth, Bosman struck out Bill North and Bert Campenaris grounded out to third. As third baseman Sal Bando hit a slow roller between the mound and third base on a checked swing. Bosman hustled over to field the ball, turned and threw quickly to first. The ball skipped off the end of McCraw’s glove and Bando ended up at second. Bosman was charged with an error. He later said, “I had enough time, but because I had to go a long way to get the ball, I thought I had to hurry. My throw just sailed away from McGraw.” Reggie Jackson struck out to end the inning. 

Buddy Bell drove in John Ellis on a double to left which chased Hamilton from the game in the bottom of the fourth. McCraw then grounded to short off Blue Moon Odom, allowing Bell to score from third. After four innings, the Tribe was up 4-0. 

Shortstop Frank Duffy kept the no hitter alive in the top of the fifth with an incredible throw from deep in the hole to put the speedy Joe Rudi out at first. Bosman continued to mow through the Athletics order, and the Indians could barely touch Odom as well. 

Bosman had pitched four one-hitters in his career, including a no-hit bid against the Yankees that lasted into the eighth inning. “After the fifth, after the sixth, my feeling was that I wasn’t going to screw this one up,” Bosman said. “I was confident in myself that day that I wasn’t going to make a physical mistake.”

In the ninth, Dick Green grounded out to third. Jesus Alou (uncle to Moises) grounded out to second. Bosman stuck Bill North out swinging for the 27th out. He used only 72 pitches. 

There have been 301 recognized No-Hitters in MLB history. Bosman’s remains the only one that would have been a Perfect Game, if not for his own error.  The A’s went on to win their third consecutive World Series that fall, making Bosman’s no-no an interesting blip in the history of one of baseball’s great dynasties. 

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Honorable Mention: July 19, 1964 – Luis Tiant Shuts Out Yankees in First MLB Start

In his first Major League start, Tiant faced 13-year veteran, and Cy Young winner Whitey Ford. Tiant struck out 11, and gave up only four hits.

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Game 69

July 6, 1972 – Graig Nettles Walkoff Hit

Although most famous for his years with the Yankees, Graig Nettles had some very solid years early in his career in Cleveland. In 1970, he led the league in fielding percentage of .967 and hit 26 home runs.

By 1972, he was a fixture at third base for the Tribe and a solid hitter in the heart of the lineup. He was once again playing third base and hitting fifth when the Rangers came to visit Muni Stadium on this Thursday night in July.

Although the Indians scored first on an RBI single to right field by Chris Chambliss in the bottom of the first, the Tribe soon found themselves in a hole.

Texas second year shortstop (and later Indians All-Star) Toby Harrah had a big night with four hits in six plate appearances, plus a stolen base. Those four hits included a solo home run in the top of the third, and an RBI single in the top of the fifth.

In the middle of the eighth, the Rangers led 5-2 and appeared to be on course to victory. However; in the bottom of the eighth, catcher Jerry Moses homered with Nettles on first to cut the Rangers lead to 5-4.

Tribe reliever Ed Farmer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the top of the Texas order.

In the bottom of the ninth, John Lowenstein walked and advanced to second on a passed ball. Chris Chambliss sent him home with a two-out double to left center, tying the game at 5.

Indians reliever Ed Farmer continued to chew through the Rangers lineup. Allowing only three baserunners from the ninth to twelfth innings.

Chris Chambliss flied out second to lead off the bottom of the twelfth. Alex Johnson singled to right. Graig Nettles dropped a double into centerfield, scoring the speedy Johnson from first for the walkoff win.

Later in 1972, rumors began to swirl about a potential trade with the Yankees. Nettles made it clear that he would be pleased to be traded to a team that was able to contend. Indians General Manage Gabe Paul attempted to squash the trade rumors. “Nettles is a hell of a player and we have no intention of trading him; he’s not involved in anything we are now talking about,”

Shortly after the season ended, he was dealt to the Yankees along with catcher Jerry Moses  for outfield prospect Charlie Spikes, catcher John Ellis, infielder Jerry Kenney, and outfielder Rusty Torres. Also in the 1972 off season, a group led by George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees. Gabe Paul was a minority investor in the Steinbrenner group, which raised more than a few suspicious of collusion.

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Game 41

May 30, 1977 – Dennis Eckersley’s Memorial Day No Hitter

On Memorial Day 1977, the Angels were in town and Cleveland had a young, brash pitcher on the mound. Dennis Eckersley was matched up with Angels ace Frank Tanana.

Cleveland Plain Dealer Collection

Eckersley issued one walk, with two outs in the top of the first to first baseman Tony Solaita.

In the bottom of the first, Duane Kuiper hit a fly ball to center field. Gil Flores attempted a shoestring catch, but narrowly missed the ball. The hit rolled all the way to the outfield wall and Kuiper was aboard with a triple. Right fielder Jim Norris executed a suicide squeeze to bring Kuiper home. This first-inning run is the only support Eck would need.

Mowing through the Angels lineup, Eckersley struck out twelve. The only other Angels baserunner was Bobby Bonds. He struck out to lead off the eighth, but strike three eluded Tribe catcher Ray Fosse. Bonds made it safely to first base, and it was ruled a wild pitch. Bonds was then neutralized on a ground ball double play by Don Baylor.

Tommy Smith, a good friend of our family and an old teammate of my father shared a story with me about his experience of this game:

“We had started the day finishing up in third place in the 2U Cleveland Umpires Tournament. Our last game concluded about 1PM. Four of us, along with three of the wives decided to grab a bite to eat at the local tavern and make plans for the rest of the evening. Our intention was to go see the young phenom Dennis Eckersley pitch on a beautiful evening.

This is where our plans hit a snag. One–and only one–of the wives decided she had seen enough baseball and softball in the last three days and was not going to go see another game that evening. So, we asked what she wanted to do.

She wanted us all to go see a movie. We let her have her way and went to see “It’s Alive”, one of the worst movies I believe I have ever seen in my life. We walked out of the theater about 9:15 PM, got in our cars and turned on the game as we headed out to dinner.

It was the top of the 8th inning, and Eckersley had not given up a hit. A no-no, and we were missing it! We got to the restaurant in the top of the 9th and the ladies walked in while the four guys stayed near the car to hear the end of the game.

Leading of the top of the ninth for the Halos was Bobby Grich. He struck out for the second time of the evening and was Eck’s 11th strikeout victim. Next was pinch hitter Willie Aiken, so lifted a short fly ball to left for out number two.

Everyone in the crowd was up on their feet as Gil Flores came to the plate. We turned the car radio up as loud as it would go, and none of us said a word, hoping not to jinx the moment. Strike one was called and Flores was not happy. Ball one came and the crowd was anxious. The third pitch was fouled back and now the count was 1 – 2. You could hear a pin drop in the stadium–and in the parking lot–as the next pitch was delivered.

Swing and a miss! Strike three! And Dennis Eckersley was now a part of baseball history. The four of us looked at each other and couldn’t utter a word. Baseball history in our own back yard and we had missed it in favor of “It’s Alive.” A game that goes down in Indians history…sure would have been nice to have been there.”

Eckersley would go on to strike out over 191 batters in the 1977 season, leading the league with a 3.54 strikeout to walk ratio. He will appear again in this project, later in his career pitching for his hometown Oakland As in Game 71.  

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Many thanks to Tommy Smith. I have lightly edited his comments to me for clarity.

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Game 35

May 23, 1970 – Jack Heidemann Walkoff in the 13th vs Yankees

One of the best things about baseball is that sometimes the most unremarkable teams and the least likely players end up being heroes for a day.

The 1970 Indians were one of the most forgettable teams in Tribe history, finishing 5th in the AL East with a record of 76 and 86. Sam McDowell and Ray Fosse are probably the only 1970 teammates with name recognition beyond the most loyal fans.

Just over 6,800 tickets were sold for the Saturday afternoon contest with the Yankees on the lakefront. The fans who actually attended got to see plenty of baseball, though. The Indians matched up starter Rich Hand (no relation to current Tribe reliever Brad) with the Yankees Gary Waslewski.

Hand would scatter two runs on five hits over the first six innings. Waslewski lasted only four innings, giving up two runs on four hits, including a two-run home run by left fielder Duke Sims in the bottom of the 4th. Pete Ward pinch hit for Waslewski in the top of the 5th and then was replaced by Ron Klimkowski on the mound.

The Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 7th on an RBI single by Frank Tepedino. The Tribe answered in the bottom of the 8th when Duke Sims teed off again, this time with a solo home run.

In extra innings, Indians reliever Phil Hennigan was brilliant, retiring 9 out of 10 Yankees in the 11th, 12th, and 13th. In the bottom of the 13th, Duke Sims trotted to first after being hit by a pitch. Backup third baseman Larry Brown sent Duke to third on a ground-rule double.

With runners on first and third, the Yankees brought in reliever Jack Aker and intentionally walked the dangerous rookie Ray Fosse (who would go on to win the Gold Glove for 1970 and hit .307 with 18 HR).

Stepping in for his 6th plate appearance of the day, shortstop Jack Heidemann’s only hit of the day was the game winner. He poked a single to left field, scoring Sims and sending the Tribe home victorious.

Thirty-four players saw action in this extra-inning contest, which took nearly four hours to play.

The next day, Tony Horton would hit three home runs in the second-half of a twi-night double header the next day (Game 37), but the Indians would lose 7-8.

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Game 25

Larvell Blanks Walkoff Homer in Pitching Duel

Pitcher Jim Bibby had been brought to the Indians in a trade for Gaylord Perry. Both were talented pitchers of the era, and both had pitched no-hitters (Perry for the Giants in 1968 and Bibby in 1973 for the Cardinals against the defending champion A’s.)

Jim Bibby

However, Perry had a long-stewing feud with player-manager Frank Robinson. In 1974 when Robinson was claimed off waivers, Perry was the indisputable leader of the clubhouse–or at least the white clubhouse. Off the field, the team was largely divided along racial lines. There was a well-publicized locker room blowup when Robinson caught word that Perry intended to demand “the same salary, plus a dollar more” than what Robinson was making.

When Frank Robinson became player-manager of the Tribe in 1975–the first black manager in baseball–Perry undermined his authority in the clubhouse on everything from the conditioning regimen during Spring Training to whether pitchers could take infield practice. By late June, GM Phil Seghi was forced to trade both of the Perry brothers in an attempt to bring peace to the locker room.

Game 25 of the 1977 season was postponed from Monday night due to the cold. The resulting double-header began at 2PM on Tuesday. Jim Bibby would face off with Jim Slaton of the Brewers in what would become a great pitchers duel.

Bibby cruised through the beginning of the game, retiring the Brewers 1-2-3 in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and eighth innings. He issued only one walk in the top of the 6th.

Slaton was less efficient, scattering five hits and issuing five walks. Both teams struggled offensively. The Indians left seven men stranded on base.

Bibby was tested in the 6th 7th and 9th innings, but he was able to get out of each jam. The Brewers were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.

In the bottom of the 9th, after a groundout by John Lowenstein, shortstop Larvell Blanks stepped to the plate. By the middle of 1977, Blanks was having his own issues with Frank Robinson. In 1976 he batted .280 while appearing in 104 games for the Tribe. Larvell felt that he ought to be starting over Frank Duffy, who was a better defensive shortstop who had only hit .212 the previous year.

Blanks launched a home run into the cold Muni Stadium afternoon. The walk off homer sealed a complete game shutout for Jim Bibby, spoiled a potential complete game for Slaton, and furthered Blanks’ case for the starting shortstop position. Discontent in the clubhouse continued to grow over playing time and personnel issues, and Frank Robinson was let go after Game 77 of the 1977 season. Larvell Blanks would see more playing time under the new manager Jeff Torborg, but would later be traded to the Rangers in a deal for Len Barker.

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