Earlier this week, Nathan Eovaldi came close to pitching the 12th no-hitter in franchise history. If not for a rule change, it would actually have been the 13th.
Eleven men are able to claim that they threw no-hitters in a Yankees uniform. They are: George Mogridge (1917), Sam Jones (1923), Monte Pearson (1938), Allie Reynolds (two in 1951), Don Larsen (1956 World Series perfect game), Dave Righetti (1983), Jim Abbott (1993, attended by yours truly), Dwight Gooden (1996), David Wells (1998, perfect game) and David Cone (1999 perfect game). If not for a change to the official rules in 1991, a tall right-hander named Andy Hawkins would be on this list too.
Hawkins came to the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 1989 season. Before that, the Waco, TX native had spent seven rather inconsistent seasons with the San Diego Padres, where he’d put together a 60-58 record and a 3.84 ERA (4.23 FIP). Hawkins was not a power pitcher by any means, relying mostly on ground ball outs to fuel his success. In fact, he only struck out over 100 guys once during his ten-year career despite topping 200 innings several times. In 1984, he became the only Padres pitcher in history to record a World Series win (Game 2), in a game started by another future Yankee, Ed Whitson. In 1985, Hawkins won 18 games, and he finished his Padres career with a 14-11, 3.35 season in 1988.
Following that solid year, the Yankees signed Hawkins to a three-year, $3.6 Million contract with the hopes that the right-hander would bring some stability to a rotation that was entering a big time transition period (I don’t want to talk about the 1989 rotation). Hawkins was lit up in his Yankees debut, and things never got much better for him in the Bronx. Over the course of two years and change with the team, Hawkins went 20-29 with a 5.21 ERA. When the Yankees released him outright in 1991, nobody cared.
Hawkins did have one shining moment in pinstripes, though, and it came on July 1, 1990, when he pitched what was, for about a year, then the 8th no-hitter in Yankees history against the Chicago White Sox. Despite the fact that Hawkins carried a 6.49 ERA coming into the game, and White Sox starter Greg Hibbard’s sat at 2.59, it was apparent early that this game would be a pitchers duel.
Both pitchers were on their games, and the first four-and-a-half innings flew by without any base runners on either side. Hawkins got a bit wild in the bottom of the fifth, walking Ron Karkovice and Scott Fletcher with two out, but got a young Sammy Sosa to fly out to end the threat without a hit and, more importantly, without a run. The Yankees got their first base runners in the top of the sixth on back-to-back one-out singles by Bob Geren and Alvaro Espinoza, but Roberto Kelly and Steve Sax got out to end the threat, and we were still scoreless heading to the bottom of the inning.
Hawkins recovered nicely with a 1-2-3 sixth, and the Yankees threatened Hibbard again in the seventh. This time, Jesse Barfield and Jim Leyritz singled with two out, but were stranded when Mike Blowers flew out to end the inning. Despite a walk to Ivan Calderon, Hawkins kept on rolling through the seventh, and Hibbard worked around an error to get through the top of the eighth. The game was still scoreless, and Hawkins’ no-hitter was looking more and more like it might not happen, not because he would give up a hit, but because this game looked like it might stay scoreless forever.
Then came the bottom of the eighth–an inning that made Andy Hawkins the answer to an unfavorable trivia question. Everything started out smoothly, as Karkovice and Fletcher popped out without incident, but the lug nuts started flying off with the next batter, and soon the wheels were completely off of Hawkins’ once promising start.
The next batter was Sosa, who reached on an error by Blowers and stole second. Hawkins then lost the strike zone, walking Ozzie Guillen and Lance Johnson to load the bases. However, all he needed was one out, and he could get out of the jam. Future Yankee Robin Ventura was up next, and the rookie hit what should have been an inning-ending fly ball to left. Unfortunately, Chicago is known as the “Windy City” (although, ironically, not for its wind). The ball got blown around and Leyritz, a catcher by nature (not cuz I hate ya), never stood a chance. The ball hit off “The King’s” glove and fell in for an error, clearing the bases and giving the White Sox a 3-0 lead.
Because of the error, the no-hitter was still in tact, so all Hawkins had to do was get the third out and hope the Yankees could rally in the top of the ninth. When Calderon hit a fly ball to right field, it looked like Hawkins had done just that. In a bit of really sad and pathetic Déjà vu, Barfield lost the ball in the sun and had it hit off his glove too! Ventura scored, and the White Sox led 4-0. The play was ruled an error, so Hawkins still had the no-hitter, but he must have been wondering if he’d accidentally drank Jobu’s Rum in the clubhouse before the game. Luck that bad had to be a curse.
The Yankees, meanwhile, still had a chance to rally for Andy, but they’d have to do it against rookie White Sox reliever Scott Radinsky. The great Don Mattingly flew out to star the inning, but the not-so-great Steve Balboni reached on an error, which gave the Yankees a slim hope of a miracle comeback. Unfortunately, Barfield wasn’t done ruining things. The righty slugger grounded into a double play to end the threat, and the game. Andy Hawkins had lost 4-0, despite not allowing any hits. He seemed almost shellshocked after the game. He told reporters:
“I’m stunned; I really am. This is not even close to the way I envisioned a no-hitter would be. You dream of one, but you never think it’s going to be a loss. You think of Stewart and Fernando, coming off the field in jubilation. Not this.” (New York Times)
At least he could still boast that he’d thrown the eighth no-hitter in Yankees history, though… right? Yep! For less than a year. In 1991, MLB revised its rules. Commissioner Fay Vincent (whom I met once as a little leaguer), decided to change the definition of a no-hitter. The new rules stated that a pitcher must pitch at least nine full innings, and complete the game, for his no-hitter to count. Since the Yankees lost in regulation, and the White Sox didn’t have to bat in the bottom of the ninth, Hawkins had only pitched eight innings. His no-hitter was stricken from the record (as were a few others).
What could have been the best moment of his Yankees career (yes, I do see the irony of his best moment still being a loss… it would still be the best thing he ever did), was now just another 4-0 loss. If you thought that was bad, Hawkins lost another tough outing his very next start. After holding the Twins scoreless for eleven full innings (eleven!!), he gave up two runs in the top of the 12th and lost 2-0, ending up with two runs allowed in 11.2 innings.
With friends like the Yankees offense, Hawkins didn’t need enemies.