Feller No-Hitter Lives In Opening Day History

It’s one of the great baseball mindbenders: What’s the only game where all the players had the same batting average before the game as they did afterward.

It happened on April 16, 1940, opening day for the Indians. Bob Feller took the hill for the Tribe at Comiskey Park against the White Sox and he was unhittable, throwing the first and to date only opening day no-hitter.

“There were no doubtful plays,” wrote Gordon Cobbledick in the next day’s Plain Dealer. “No plays which a benign official scorer gave Feller the benefit of his judgement.”

Feller scattered four walks and the Indians had one error. He struck out eight, but needed some help in the ninth. Second baseman Ray Mack, who pulled in an infield fly by Mike Kreevich, was the first out. After the second out, a grounder by Julius Solters to shortstop Lou Boudreau, Luke Appling of the White Sox fought Feller off enough to draw a walk, the first Chicago baserunner since the third inning. Taft Wright hit a screaming liner to Mack, who knocked down the ball and threw it to first baseman Hal Trosky for the putout to end the game and preserve Feller’s first no-hitter.

Offensively, Feller’s catcher Rollie Hemsley drove in the game’s only run.

When Feller retired, he had the record for most no-hitters in a career with three. That record was supplanted first by Sandy Koufax with four, and obliterated by Nolan Ryan’s seven no-nos.

In 1994, Rapid Robert was on hand to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at the opening of Jacobs Field. Randy Johnson was pitching for the Mariners, and he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Feller was known to watch Indians games from the press box – up until shortly before his death in December 2010 – and those there that day described him as a pacing, nervous wreck, determined to hold on to his title as the only pitcher to throw an opening day no-hitter. A Sandy Alomar single in the eighth allowed Feller to hold on to that.

Hideo Nomo threw a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox on April 4, 2001 – earlier in the year than Feller’s no-no, but in the second game of the season, keeping Feller’s record intact.

Artwork: Graig Kreindler Painting From Bob Feller Museum

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