Feller’s Second No-Hitter Arguably His Best No-Hitter

Seventy years ago today, Indians Hall of Fame hurler Bob Feller stunned the New York Yankees at home by throwing his second of three career no-hitters.

It was a remarkable feat for Feller, who added his name alongside Addie Joss as the only members of the Cleveland franchise to ever throw two hitless outings in their careers. He would later take that crown all for his own when he threw his third and final no-hitter on July 1, 1951, against the Detroit Tigers, adding it to the first he threw in his career with his memorable Opening Day no-hitter on April 16, 1940, still the only such game thrown in MLB history.

Most pitchers aren’t even lucky enough to claim one no-hitter, so the notion that Feller had multiple to compare just lays credence to his abilities as a pitcher and his well-deserved spot among the baseball immortals in Cooperstown, New York.

While his first no-hitter was thrown in his fifth MLB season as his career was rocketing skyward, his outing in 1946 was different. Feller had missed three full seasons while in the U.S. Navy during World War II action in 1942, 1943, and 1944. He had returned late in the 1945 season and pitched well in a handful of outings, but the 1946 season was to be his first full year back on the mound and would indicate whether or not Feller had lost any of his effectiveness while serving his country in the war effort.

He was the Indians’ Opening Day starter that year in Chicago, throwing another gem to start the year. He allowed only one hit heading into the bottom of the eighth and clinging to a 1-0 lead when he gave up two singles, the latter of which led to Don Kolloway being thrown out at the plate by left fielder George Case. The Indians would hold on to win 1-0. Feller struck out ten.

He struck out ten in a complete game loss against Detroit in Cleveland in his second outing, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits while walking five. He followed it up with another complete game defeat, allowing four runs on nine hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in a rematch with Chicago.

The high strikeout results would appear again on April 30, as the Indians and Yankees played for the first time in 1946 and did so at Yankee Stadium.

Feller was wild, but he avoided trouble the best he could.

The Indians loaded the bases in the first, but Lou Boudreau could not drive in a run as Feller took the mound. He got three groundouts, but walked the three-hitter Tommy Henrich. Walk number two came to lead off the bottom of the second, but Charlie Keller was erased trying to steal and Feller struck out the next two to make it through two.

Another leadoff walk had Feller pitching with a base runner for the third straight inning, but he reared back and struck out the next three in order. In the fourth, Feller walked the leadoff man for the third straight inning (and his fourth walk of the game). With slugger Joe DiMaggio at the plate, Henrich picked off second but would stay right there as DiMaggio lifted a fly to second before Keller and Nick Etten struck out to again keep the game scoreless.

Feller retired the side in order in the fifth, but walked the leadoff man of the inning, Phil Rizzuto, again in the sixth. He was sacrificed to second but moved no further. Feller breezed through the seventh and eighth, setting down the side in order, but still in a scoreless game.

Bill Bevens, the Yankees starter, had pitched himself a nice little ball game as well for New York. Through eight, he had allowed five hits and gave up five walks while striking out four. As would be expected, he returned for the ninth, but after getting a fly out from Boudreau, Feller’s battery mate Frankie Hayes drilled a home run to put the first run of the day on the scoreboard. Ray Mack would follow with a single, but would be caught stealing and Feller would strike out to end the inning.

With three outs to go, Feller had his work cut out for him with the two, three, and four hitters scheduled to hit. Snuffy Stirnweiss reached on an error at first on his bunt and was sacrificed to second by Henrich on another bunt. The tying run now in scoring position, DiMaggio stepped in but Feller got him to ground to the shortstop Boudreau for the second out as Stirnweiss advanced to third on the play. On an 0-2 pitch to Keller, Feller induced a grounder to second, fielded by Mack and lobbed to first baseman Les Fleming to secure the win and the no-hitter.

It took two hours and 14 minutes and 133 pitches for Feller to issue the first no-hitter thrown against the lethal Bronx Bombers lineup in 27 years (also done by an Indians pitcher, Ray Caldwell, on September 10, 1919) and the first ever thrown on their home field. Seventeen Feller pitches were called strikes and 18 were swung on and missed, while only two balls hit by the Yankees left the infield. A total of 29 pitches were fouled off by a Yankees lineup loaded with future Hall of Famers. Feller walked five on the day, but struck out eleven in winning his second game of the season.

As seems to be the case time and time again in no-hit games, some dramatic and impressive plays helped to keep Feller’s pursuit of history in tact. A first inning smash from Stirnweiss was deflected by Feller, but Boudreau on a dead sprint scooped the ball and threw to first before sprawling to the turf, nailing the Yankee third baseman by a nose. Later, with two outs in the eighth, Ken Keltner dropped a foul pop that he lost in the sun off of the bat of Rizzuto. With a second chance, Rizzuto ripped a shot in the hole that Boudreau again raced to, skidded to a stop, and fired a seed to first to nail his New York counterpart.

Feller was back and questions of his demise would certainly be put to rest as he would go 26-15 in 48 games pitched in the 1946 campaign. He would lead MLB pitchers in wins, games pitched, games started (42), complete games (36), shutouts (10), innings pitched (371 1/3), and struck out an improbable 348 batters. He was an All-Star for the fifth time that season and finished sixth in the MVP voting at year’s end.

Feller would look back fondly on that game and gave it higher praise than the other no-hitters he threw, especially his much-discussed Opening Day one in 1940 that will be mentioned every season until someone can match his feat.

“My Opening Day no-hitter, of course, has gotten a lot of publicity,” Feller said in 2010. “But my no-hitter at Yankee Stadium was against a much better team, by far, than the White Sox. I had to pitch to Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, and Joe DiMaggio in the ninth inning to get the Yankees out.”

Photo: Getty Images

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