It's the held breath before the last pitch, the arms wide open as the catcher runs towards the pitcher, and the roar of the crowd as they witness one of the most magical moments in baseball: the no-hitter.
The no-hitter is one of the beauties of baseball and games that you never forget as a fan. The no-hitter is as much luck as talent, and there have been some great pitching talents to pass through the Twins pitching staff.
With all the excitement of the no-hitters this season, it’s a perfect time to look into the Twins no-no’s. Just one year after moving from DC as the Senators to Minnesota as the Twins in 1961, the Twins recorded their first no-hitter. The Twins organization has gone on to experience four more no-hitters since, the last one ten years ago. I intended to write about the no-hitters in one article and rank them. However, the more I read about each game, I thought it would be fun to make a series out of the rankings.
There is a lot that goes into a game to take into consideration as I considered ranking their quality, even more so when the game ends as a no-hitter or a perfect game. It’s not all luck. With many variables that go into a game's success. So let’s take a brief look at what factors I considered to decide how to rank the games.
The opponent is essential. A stronger opponent will give a pitcher more trouble than a team that is hitting poorly, has a lesser coaching staff, and any luck at the plate. It doesn't make it easier - nothing about baseball is easy - it's just a different scenario with more challenges.
Since having errors, walks or a hit batter is likely in a no-hitter (unless it is a Perfect Game, something no Twins pitcher has done, yet), looking at these numbers could make one no-hitter score higher than another. A good defense will come to the pitcher's aid and how well they can get an out, a ground ball, and round out double plays is a large factor.
How many pitchers pitched
Fewer pitches to accomplish a no-hitter is undoubtedly preferred. The number of pitchers involved in a game makes a difference. In a game for the Yankees this past May, Corey Kluber pitched a no-hitter. The Cubs also tossed a no-hitter this season. Zach Davies started but three other pitchers followed to finish the game. A combined no-hitter is not the norm (though certainly more likely as today’s pitchers rarely go beyond six innings), but certainly, I wanted to take that into account.
Home or Away
The strength of the schedule is important. So sleeping in your bed and playing in your home stadium with your fans can be better than playing at the closest opponent's stadium. It is also better than traveling back two time zones after a double-header or late-night game. There are a lot of things that people don't think affect a team that genuinely does. I am sure that the east to west coast games are exhausting and play a part in the turn-out and how well the players play.
Does home or away really make a no-hitter more or less likely? If so, I’m sure it’s nice to have the fans there.
Did the pitcher hit?
The DH came into the American League in 1973. Before then, Twins pitchers and their opposing pitchers had to hit. Since then, American League pitchers have had to deal with batters whose sole purpose is being a good hitter. In theory, that should make throwing a no-hitter much more difficult in the AL than NL. Unless a player like AL MVP Shohei Ohtani is on the team. He can dominate on the mound and at the plate.
People who say baseball is boring may not have a clue how much goes into a game. The low-scoring games are some of the best games to watch. It is a battle of the pitchers and hitters, as well as t defense can affect the games we see. Based on the criteria above, I looked over the five no-hitters that the Twins had. All no-hitters are impressive, some more than others.
As I reviewed box scores and numbers, the #1 ranked no-hitter to me was a no brainer.
No-No Number 1: “Jittery” Jack Kralick - 1962
The Pitcher: Jack Kralick
The Date: August 26, 1962
The Opponent: Kansas City Athletics
The Stadium: Metropolitan Stadium
The Pitcher’s Background and Story
Jack Kralick was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1935. His parents later moved to Michigan where he attended high school and eventually attended Michigan State University. He spent time bouncing between minor league teams and a semi-pro squad back home in Michigan. Later he was pursued by the Tigers, Yankees and Indians.
Kralick however was more keen on the offer from the Washington Senators and made his debut in the Majors in 1959 with the Washington Senators, which would eventually become the Minnesota Twins.
Jack Kralick went the distance in this game, a near-perfect game. It was the very first no-hitter for the “Minnesota Twins”.
Kralick was described as a “loner,” a smoking machine, and was called “jittery” for his constant movement on the mound from twitching his feet to fidgeting with his belt. Even though he was seen as quiet and a recluse, teammate Rich Rollins said that he “got along well with everyone in the clubhouse and everyone got along with him while he was in Minnesota.”
It was a beautiful 78 degrees for this late August game, a day when one is almost disappointed that the game only lasted one hour and 57 minutes! That’s how quickly the pitchers turned and burned the line-ups. The Kansas City Athletics (now the Oakland Athletics) were a struggling team when they played against the Twins and eventually finished ninth in the AL with a record of 72-90. They certainly were not a strong team, but that’s not what makes this no-hitter my favorite no-no. Let’s review the rest of my criteria to see why it continued to impress me more and more.
Only one Kansas City baserunner was allowed on base in this game. That is the lowest number of base runners among the five Twins no-hitters. The only runner came with one out in the ninth inning.
“Jittery” Jack Kralick retired 25 batters and was two outs away from a perfect game before George Alusik walked. That just blew my mind. For a pitcher to get that far into the game with no other pitching maladies is just … awesome. The game ended with a foul-pop fly to first base.
Because it was a decade before the Designated Hitter rule which came about in 1972 and was implemented in 1973 throughout the American League. All pitchers were also hitters. You pitched. You hit. Being able to hit was a requirement to play the game. In my opinion, it made teams stronger and more cohesive. Along with the no-hitter, Kralick also went 1-for-2 and had a sacrifice bunt.. Through the three seasons that he was with the Twins, the southpaw hit .173. During the 1962 season, his batting average was .202, definitely an asset to the Twins and the highest batting average of his career!
1962 was his last full season with the Twins. In early May of 1963, Kralick was traded to Cleveland in exchange for righty Jim Perry. Yes, the Jim Perry that is in the Twins Hall of Fame.
I am excited to share more of the Twins no-hitters with everyone and see if you agree with where I ranked the games. Do you have ideas for this series? What do you think is important in a no-hitter? Is it talent, or just luck? Let me know below!
With all of the no-hitters this year and speculation as to why they are happening, it’s fun to think about the potential for another Twins no-hitter sooner rather than later!
I look forward to discussions!