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A Box Of No-Hitters

No-hitters come along about two a season, and they come in a variety of shapes and forms. Sort of like a box of chocolates. You bite into one hoping for something sweet like caramel or strawberry, but occasionally you get an unknown foreign substance which requires the nearest trashcan for relief.

Carlos Rodon's masterpiece last Wednesday evening obviously was of the former variety. The 307th no-hitter in major league history going back to 1875 would have been baseball's 28th perfect game except for a Rodon slider which nipped the left foot of Cleveland catcher Roberto Pérez with one out in the top of the ninth inning.

Pérez, a husky fellow, could be excused for not leaping out of the way. With two strikes, he was digging in and trying to reach base. A strikeout and groundout followed to complete Rodon's artistry, the 20th no-hitter in team history. The Sox lead the American League in that category.

The feel-good story of Carlos Rodon has been well-documented. A first-round draft choice (3rd overall) in 2014 out of North Carolina State, the brawny left-hander has had his moments of brilliance marred by injuries resulting first in an arthroscopic procedure to his left shoulder in 2017 followed by Tommy John surgery for a damaged elbow a year-and-a-half later. When the Sox non-tendered Rodon after last season, his South Side days very well could have ended.

Thankfully, the story continued when Rodon re-signed with the Sox on Feb. 1 for one year at $3 million. A strong spring training earned Rodon the fifth spot in this season's rotation, and his lone start prior to the no-no came on April 5 in Seattle where he covered five scoreless innings, yielding a couple of hits in a 6-0 White Sox victory.

Manager Tony La Russa stuck with Rodon after Pérez reached base, and Rodon responded with a 98.8 mph heater en route to his 114-pitch gem. Keep in mind that Rodon was scratched from last Monday's start because of an upset stomach, which raised the COVID-19 specter, but, indeed, his boiler simply was in disarray. By the ninth inning Wednesday, he was a picture of health and then some. Whether he was operating on a rush of adrenaline or sheer willpower - most likely a combination of both - the 28-year-old clearly had plenty remaining in the tank. The performance was simply glorious.

Rodon's teammates helped out by scoring six runs in the first inning. After three frames, the Sox led by the final count of 8-0. Ask any pitcher what it feels like to pitch with a big lead, and they'll provide a glowing account of his teammates for diminishing the pressure of a close game.

As Sox fans are well aware, the previous no-hitter for the franchise occurred last Aug. 25 when Lucas Giolito blanked the Pirates 4-0. A fourth inning walk was the lone blemish on Gio's bid for a perfect game.

The team's initial hitless game was pitched by a guy named Jimmy (Nixey) Callahan back in 1902, a 3-0 blanking of the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 20. Callahan, who also played the outfield, won 16 games that season while hitting .234.

Between Callahan's and Rodon's heroics, the Sox have had no-hitters both artful and sloppy. Mark Buehrle's no-hitter in April of 2007, a 6-0 triumph over the Texas Rangers, featured one baserunner: Sammy Sosa, who walked in the fifth inning and was promptly picked off by Buehrle.

Of course, Buehrle one-upped himself with his perfect game on July 23, 2009, beating Tampa Bay 5-0, preserved by "The Catch" by Dewayne Wise in the top of the ninth, robbing current San Francisco Giant skipper Gabe Kapler of extra bases.

Philip Humber etched himself into White Sox annals in April of 2012 in Seattle with his perfecto, beating the Mariners 4-0 in his second start of the season. Unfortunately, Humber, a former first-round pick of the Mets, never came close to matching his masterpiece after his heroics against the Mariners. Five days later, the Red Sox clobbered him for nine runs over five innings.

Between the perfect game and the end of the season, Humber went 4-5 with an ERA of 7.39. He was put on waivers after the season. The Astros took a chance on Humber for 2013, but Philip lost all his eight decisions with an ERA of 7.90. He closed out his career in 2015, pitching in Korea. Humber's perfect game was like a bogey golfer shooting par. No one can take it away from him. These things occasionally happen.

Going back to the 1976 season, Sox hurlers Blue Moon Odom, in the twilight of his career after being a stalwart in Oakland, and Francisco Barrios combined on a no-hitter to beat the A's 2-1. Odom walked nine hitters in five innings and Barrios two more. The A's lone run scored on two walks, a stolen base and an error. The 1983 division-winning Sox invented the phrase "Winning Ugly," but that July day 45 years ago certainly deserved the moniker.

Another less than memorable no-no occurred 10 years later on Sept. 19 when Sox pitcher Joe Cowley pitched a complete game against the Angels, beating the Halos 7-1. Cowley walked eight, but he didn't allow a hit. Cowley never won another game, closing out his career the next season with the Phillies.

Perhaps the most inept no-hitter ever pitched belongs to Bobo Holloman on May 6, 1953, pitching for the dismal St. Louis Browns, owned at the time by Bill Veeck. Holloman was an ineffective relief pitcher who lobbied his manager Marty Marion for a starting spot. Holloman claimed his poor performances were due to the fact that he was truly a starting pitcher.

In the rain and cold of St. Louis, Marion granted Holloman's wish, no doubt figuring that the club could release the cocky hurler after the game against the Philadelphia A's, who slammed the ball all over the field but directly at Browns' defenders. Holloman walked five and even committed an error, but the A's failed to get one hit off Holloman.

In his next start, Holloman lasted 1⅓ innings. Subtract the nine hitless innings against the A's, and Holloman's ERA was 6.07 for the 1953 season, the lone year of his major league career.

Virgil (Fireball) Trucks was one of the American League's top pitchers in the '40s and '50s, winning 177 games for five different teams. He went 47-26 for the White Sox in 1953-55. However, pitching for the Tigers in 1952, Trucks won just five games while losing 19. Amazingly, of Trucks five wins were two no-hitters, and he also hurled a one-hit marvel. He won all three contests by a 1-0 score.

Then there was Edwin Jackson's no-no on June 25, 2010, when he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jackson pitched for 14 different teams, including stints with both the White Sox and Cubs, during a 17-year career in which he pitched almost 2,000 innings. In his 1-0 no-hitter against Tampa Bay, Jackson required 149 pitches to complete the deed. He walked eight that night.

While perfect games and no-hitters can occur anytime and from the most unlikely competitors, the great pitchers have a tendency to repeat these milestones. Nolan Ryan tossed seven no-hitters. Sandy Koufax accomplished the feat four times. Justin Verlander has pitched three no-hitters.

Johnny Vander Meer, winner of 119 games between 1937 and 1951 primarily with mediocre Cincinnati clubs, pitched two no-hitters in consecutive starts in 1938. We probably won't see that again, although Rodon will have his chance Tuesday in Cleveland.

One might assume that a no-hitter provides energy and a boost to a ballclub, but there is a dearth of evidence to support that theory. After Rodon's beauty, the Sox dropped a 4-2 decision to Cleveland the next night before traveling to Boston where snow postponed Friday's game before the Red Sox beat the Sox 7-4 on Saturday.

When Giolito blanked the Pirates last season, the team still experienced a meltdown at the end of the year, dropping seven of its final eight games before bowing out of the playoffs against Oakland.

The White Sox rebounded nicely on Sunday, beating Boston in a pair of seven-inning games 3-2 and 5-1 to even their record at 8-8. Solid defense and a bullpen that lived up to its preseason press clippings highlighted the White Sox sweep along with Michael Kopech who started Sunday's second game, limiting the Red Sox to just one hit and a single run over three innings.

On Monday they'll face the Bosox in the annual Patriots' Day game, a Boston tradition started in 1959 to coincide with the Boston Marathon, which won't be run until October 11 this year. The morning starting time with feature a match-up between Giolito and Red Sox ace Nathan Eovaldi. Then it's on to Cleveland where we'll see whether Rodon resembles one of those chocolate goodies with a filling that pleases our taste buds.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on May 13, 2021