As if Rich Hill needed another stomach-punch, here's one: His incredible performance on Wednesday night, in which the Dodgers' 37-year-old lefty didn't allow a hit for nine innings before giving up a walk-off home run to the Pirates' Josh Harrison in the bottom of the 10th for a 1-0 loss, would have been recognized as a no-hitter under rules that existed for more than a century.
But in September of 1991, a statistical-accuracy committee chaired by commissioner Fay Vincent ruled that the only official no-hitters were those that went at least nine innings and in which the game ended without the team in question eventually getting a hit. Even that decision was overshadowed by a more controversial topic: The committee voted unanimously that Roger Maris's 61 home runs in 1961 would be recognized as the only single-season home run record after sharing space in the record book for 30 years with Babe Ruth's 54 in the 154-game season of 1927.
(We'll pause here to ponder what this statistical-accuracy committee would have made of the coming sabermetric revolution.)
Gone in an instant were 50 no-hitters, 38 that ended short of nine innings because of rain, darkness or other factors, and 12 in which the pitcher gave up a hit in extra innings. Writing in Sports Illustrated's Sept. 16, 1991 issue, longtime baseball writer and editor Robert W. Creamer thought it much ado about nothing: "Forgive us if we react to all this with a big ho-hum. People remember great performances for the remarkable achievements they are. It doesn't matter where they're placed in the record book."
Alas, most of those 50 no-hitters and the three others that have since been added to that grouping have been lost to history. If you remember only a few of them, make it these five, ranked by the pitcher's Game Score:
1. Harvey Haddix, LHP, Pirates
Date: May 26, 1959 vs. Braves
Line: 12 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
Game Score: 107
Facing the two-time defending National League champions, Haddix retired the first 36 batters he faced, but Pittsburgh had not yet been able to push a run across against Milwaukee's Lew Burdette despite picking up 12 hits. In the bottom of the 13th inning, the Braves finally got a baserunner when Felix Mantilla reached on an error by third baseman Don Hoak. Eddie Mathews, who led the majors with 46 home runs that year, followed with a sacrifice bunt and Haddix then walked Hank Aaron intentionally to set up a possible double play.
Instead Joe Adcock hit a ball over the wall in right-centerfield. Aaron, thinking the ball landed in play, stopped running and Adcock passed him on the bases. He was ruled out but Mantilla's run, the only one that mattered, still counted, giving Milwaukee a 1-0 victory.
Haddix remains the only pitcher ever to throw 12 perfect innings. Though it is no longer recognized as a no-hitter, it is still often considered the best game ever pitched, which was the title of an SI story about it from 2009.
2. Jim Maloney, RHP, Reds
Date: June 14, 1965 vs. Mets
Line: 11 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 18 K
Game Score: 106
In his first start of that season, on April 9 against the Braves in Milwaukee, Maloney took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before giving up a leadoff single to Dennis Menke. Two months later he was even better against a dreadful Mets team that would finish with 112 losses and had been victimized by a perfect game from the Phillies' Jim Bunning the previous June.
Through 10 innings, New York's only baserunner came when Ed Kranepool walked in the second inning. The Reds had managed six hits off two Mets pitchers but had not gotten a runner even as far as third base when the game went into the 11th. That's when Johnny Lewis led off with a home run against Maloney, who also yielded a single two batters later to Roy McMillan but escaped without giving up another run. Despite a Frank Robinson single in the bottom of the inning, Cincinnati failed to score, losing 1-0.
Don't feel too bad for Maloney, though. On Aug, 9 of that season he finally got his no-hitter, beating the Cubs 1-0 despite nine walks, and four years later he pitched another one against the Astros.
3. Pedro Martinez, RHP, Expos
Date: June 3, 1995 vs. Padres
Line: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K
Game Score: 94
Still two years away from winning the first of his three Cy Young Awards in what became a Hall of Fame career, the 23-year-old Martinez was making just his 34th start ever in the major leagues when he faced the Padres in San Diego. Like Haddix he took a perfect game into extra innings, but unlike Haddix he actually had a chance to win when he went to the mound for the bottom of the 10th. His Montreal teammates had managed to score a run in the top half on an RBI single by Jeff Treadway, and Martinez stood just three outs from the 13th perfect game of the Modern Era.
Facing Bip Roberts, Martinez fell behind 1-1 before Roberts lined a double to rightfield. That was Martinez's last pitch of the night, though he would still get credit for the victory when reliever Mel Rojas secured the final three outs, stranding Roberts at third base. Martinez's best days were still in front of him—including a 17-strikeout one-hitter at Yankee Stadium and six hitless innings in relief in a do-or-die ALDS Game 5 against the Indians just one month apart for the Red Sox in 1999—but he would never again come that close to pitching a no-hitter.
4. Hippo Vaughn, LHP, Cubs
Date: May 2, 1917 vs. Reds
Line: 10 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K
Game Score: 94
The first no-hitter in Wrigley Field history was also the first and only time in baseball history that two pitchers made it through nine innings without giving up a hit, as Cincinnati's Fred Toney matched Vaughn zero-for-zero. At Weeghman Park, as it was then known, Vaughn faced the minimum 27 batters through nine but with one out in the top of the 10th he gave up a single to Larry Kopf. Three batters later Jim Thorpe—yes, the same Jim Thorpe who won Olympic gold in the decathlon in 1912 and later played in the early days of the NFL—hit a ball between home and first that was enough to score Kopf from third with the only run of the game.
In the bottom of the 10th Toney completed his no-hitter. Vaughn went on to win a career-high 23 games that season en route to 178 for his career, which ended after the 1921 season. He never pitched a no-hitter.
5. Rich Hill, LHP, Dodgers
Date: August 23, 2017 vs. Pirates
Line: 9 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K
Game Score: 91
Though his Game Score ranks fifth on this list, Hill's night has a heartbreaking quality all its own: He became the first pitcher in baseball history to lose a no-hitter on a walk-off home run. Not only that, Hill had taken a perfect game into the ninth inning before an error by third baseman Logan Forsythe gave Pittsburgh its first baserunner. Oh, and somehow a Dodgers team that is steamrolling baseball with a chance to set a new record for wins managed to be shut out for the first time since June 1 on a night when even a single run would have helped Hill make history.
This wasn't Hill's first taste of perfect disappointment. Last Sept. 10 he had been removed from a game against the Marlins in Miami after throwing seven perfect innings because Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts was concerned that Hill's recurring blister problem would pop up again and limit his effectiveness or ability to pitch at all in the postseason. It didn't.