The Fourth of July is a big day for Americans nationwide. There are barbecues, fireworks, beaches, and yes, a whole day of baseball. For the New York Yankees’ franchise and fans, it is a day to remember the great game of baseball. It is The Boss’s birthday. The Iron Horse gave his famous, tear-jerking, chill-evoking speech. It is also the anniversary of Dave Righetti’s no hitter against those hated Boston Red Sox.
July 4th, 1983. It’s hard to believe that Rags’ no-hitter came 31 years ago today. Righetti was just a young left-handed hurler amid his third full season in the starting rotation. He was no stranger to the limelight, taking home the 1981 Rookie of the Year Award after compiling an 8-4 record with an eye-popping 2.05 ERA. But this day would be unforgettable. He recollected on it all in a 2008 Daily News article.
It was a sweltering hot New York City day. Catcher Butch Wynegar, now the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders hitting coach, and Righetti took the field on that 94 degree afternoon in front of a near sellout crowd, with one of those fans being Richard Nixon. Remember, this was the early 80s, and sellouts were sparse, especially on a perfect beach day.
Righetti came out and was firing on all cylinders. Using his four-pitch arsenal headlined by his overpowering fastball and sneaky slider, Rags struck out seven of the first nine Red Sox he faced. As with every no-hitter, it always takes a few dazzling plays by the defense behind the pitcher to keep it rolling. Dave Winfield robbed Wade Boggs twice on two sharp hits. Short stop Roy Smalley ran down a pop fly to make a great catch and keep the no-no in tact. Righetti called right fielder Steve Kemp’s lunge into the stands to rob Dwight Evans of a hit the play of the day.
When the ninth inning rolled around, Rags was finally starting to think that today was the day. Despite walking his first batter, Righetti came back to induce back-to-back groundouts. This brought to the plate third baseman Wade Boggs, arguably the best hitter in the American League, one who would rival Don Mattingly for AL supremacy over the ensuing five years. Boggs, who would only strike out 36 times on the 1983 season, swung and missed a Righetti 2-2 slider and gave Rags his no hitter.
The very next season, after finishing 14-8 with a 3.44 ERA, Righetti was moved to the pen. He would go on to become one of baseball’s most feared relievers over the next eight seasons. The Yankees didn’t win many games over that span, but when Rags entered the game, fans knew we would. He set the then record for saves in his memorable 1986 season, registering 46. He won the first of his two back-to-back AL Rolaids Relief Awards that season.
Righetti is now pitching coach for the San Francisco Giants, where he has been in command of one of the most successful young pitching staffs for the past 15 years. It should come as no surprise that this is a pitching staff full of no hitters with Tim Lincecum throwing his second in a calendar year just over a week ago. While Rags serves his time now on the West Coast, he will always be immortalized in pinstripes for his fireworks that he provided 31 years ago today.