At 39, Warren Spahn tosses no-hitter

Written by: Bridget Gadoury

Warren Spahn had earned many accolades by the start of the 1960 season – the 16th of his career. He had won a Cy Young award, a World Series championship and was a 12-time All-Star.

He had 10 20-win seasons under his belt and a slew of other awards in his trophy case. Yet one thing was still missing from his illustrious résumé: A no-hitter.

That void would be filled Sept. 16, 1960, when Spahn, at 39 years old, achieved baseball immortality against the Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Spahn, a crafty southpaw with a high leg kick, had been making quick work of the Phillies all evening. Coming into the top of the ninth inning, in a game that was barely two hours old, Spahn had only allowed two base runners – both of whom reached on walks.

With four runs of support from his Braves, Spahn was in a position to make history.

No. 9 hitter Bobby Gene Smith was the first to bat for the Phils in the ninth. Spahn promptly struck him out for his 14th K of the game – and proceeded to do the same to leadoff man Bobby Del Greco, elevating his strikeout total to 15 on the night.

Only one man now stood between Spahn and an accomplishment which few men achieve in a lifetime.

Second baseman Bobby Malkmus stepped into the batter’s box, and just as quickly as the game had progressed up to that point, it ended – with a groundout to shortstop Johnny Logan.

“He’s beyond comparison with any modern lefthander,” Hall of Famer Casey Stengel said. “He has beaten every handicap – the live ball, second division teams. No one can ever say anything to deny his greatness.”

With the win, Spahn improved to 20-9 and lowered his ERA to 3.46. He finished the season 21-10 and placed second in Cy Young award voting behind Vern Law of the Pirates.

Spahn would go on to throw his second no hitter April 28 of the following year – at the age of 40.

“I don't think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame,” Stan Musial once said. “He'll never stop pitching.”

After the 1960 season, Spahn would spend four more All-Star caliber years with the Braves before joining the New York Mets and then San Francisco Giants in 1965. He retired after the ’65 season at the age of 44.

Spahn finished his career with a whopping 363 wins (a record for left-handers) and is sixth on the all-time wins list.

He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 in his first year of eligibility.

Bridget Gadoury was a public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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