Eckersley no-hits Angels at Cleveland Stadium
Before he was the game’s most successful relief pitcher, before he was a Cy Young Award winner and an MVP and before he was traded to the Red Sox in a deal Indians fans still lament, Dennis Eckersley was one of the top starting pitchers in the American League.
On May 30, 1977, Eckersley proved it by pitching a no-hitter against the California Angels.
Making his 11th start of the season and just the 65th of his three-year-old MLB career, Eckersley blanked the Angels, striking out 12 batters in a 1-0 victory. Just two runners reached base for California: Tony Solaita on a first-inning walk and; and Bobby Bonds, who advanced to first following a strikeout and wild pitch. Bonds was erased one batter later on a double play ball off the bat of Don Baylor.
When Eckersley fanned Angels center fielder Gil Flores to end the game, the 13,400 fans at Cleveland Stadium erupted with cheers and applause.
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“It’s not a matter of how good a pitcher you are,” Eckersley told the Associated Press following the game. “It’s a matter of how lucky you are. There are a lot of good pitchers who never get a no-hitter.”
But clearly, the 22-year-old Eckersley was on his game in 1977. He finished his previous start on May 25 with 7.2 innings of no-hit ball against the Mariners, working all 12 innings of Cleveland’s 2-1 win. Then in his first start after the no-hitter – against the Mariners again and working on just three days rest – Eckersley pitched 4.2 no-hit innings before allowing a home run to Ruppert Jones.
In all, Eckersley posted 21.1 straight no-hit innings.
“Early in the game, he blew them away with his fastball,” Indians catcher Ray Fosse told the Associated Press. “Then he had a good breaking ball late in the game. The only thing I had to do was remind him to tuck his shoulder in.”
The sidewinding Eckersley finished the 1977 season with a record of 14-13 and a 3.53 ERA, earning his first All-Star Game selection. But on March 30, 1978 – just days before the opening of the regular season – the Indians traded Eckersley to the Red Sox with Fred Kendall in exchange for Ted Cox, Bo Diaz, Mike Paxton and Rick Wise.
Eckersley would go on to win 20 games in 1978. He remained a stalwart in the rotation for the Red Sox and later the Cubs before transitioning to the bullpen in 1987, where he became one of the game’s most effective relievers for the Oakland Athletics.
In 1977, however, Eckersley was just getting started.
“I think I’m going to buy a (Corvette),” Eckersley said after learning that Indians’ owner Ted Bonda was giving him a $3,500 bonus for his no-hitter. “I was going to buy one anyway and now I am for sure. This will pay for the insurance.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum