Happy Birthday Dave Righetti - remembering the no-hitter

Twitter is a dead zone for Yankee news right now. The Yankees are looking at a Cuban right-hander. Chase Headley will not get more than three years from the Yankees. CC Sabathia needs to bounce back. Why have the Yankees been so quiet. The Yankees need to respond to the Red Sox. Blah, blah, blah. But it is Dave Righetti's 56th birthday and that reminded me of his no-hitter against Boston on Independence Day of 1983. I watched it on television and it is a great memory. The 24-year-old Righetti was off to a hot start in 1983. He was 9-3 at the end of June and finished that month with a complete-game shutout of the Baltimore Orioles. Typical of Billy Martin managed teams, the crusty manager wasn't babying the young pitcher who was primed for a full season after tossing 187+ innings in 1982.

The Red Sox were not a great team in 1983. Boston ended up winning 78 games and looked tired under an equally tired Ralph Houk. But they did have some great hitters. Wade Boggs was on top of the world and tallied 210 hits and 92 walks. Jim Rice was at the peak of his career. But the team just didn't gel that season. Dwight Evans had a down year. Tony Armas drove in a lot of runs but hit .218 with a .254 on-base percentage. Yaz was 43. But you still couldn't imagine anyone to pitch a no-hitter against them. But that's what happened.

Righetti was matched up against John Tudor. Tudor was a very underrated pitcher of his time and he was tough. And the two pitchers did not allow a run the first four innings. Righetti came out smoking. He struck out the side around a Jim Rice walk in the first. He then struck out two in the second in a 1-2-3 inning and did the same in the third. He had seven strikeouts in the first three innings.

In the fourth, Righetti retired the side in order on two fly balls and a ground out. And in the top of the fifth, Righetti recorded his eighth strikeout to start the inning but walked Reid Nichols. Nichols was quickly erased on a caught stealing and Righetti retired Dave Stapleton to end the inning.

The Yankees broke through for a run on Tudor in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Steve Kemp singled and another single by Roy Smalley sent Kemp to second. Andre Robertson, playing second that day, drove Kemp home with another single. After a walk to Bert Campaneris, Tudor worked out of the inning by striking out Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield.

Dave Righetti retired he Red Sox in order in the top of the sixth on a fly ball and two infield popups. The Yankees added another run in the bottom of the sixth on a Don Baylor homer and it was 2-0. It was about here that the no-hitter started to enter our minds.

In the top of the seventh, Boggs was retired on a fly ball, but Righetti walked Jim Rice again. Tony Armas helped the cause though by rapping into a double play to end the inning. After the Yankees went down in order in the seventh, the Red Sox did as well in the eighth on two fly balls and a popup to first. Righetti was three outs away.

The Yankees chased Tudor in the eighth with a based loaded single by Kemp to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead and make things much more comfortable for Righetti in the ninth. We were going crazy!

Everyone was on pins and needles as Righetti began the ninth. Could he do it? It did not look good when he walked Jeff Newman to start the inning. Newman was batting .183 at the time with a .245 on-base percentage. Not a good start. Fortunately, Houk did not pinch run for Newman and he was erased at second on a ground ball by Glenn Hoffman. Jerry Remy then grounded out for the second out as Hoffman took second. That brought up Wade Boggs. Ugh!

Wade Boggs was batting .356 at the time and had only struck out 19 times heading into the game. He had a .447 on-base percentage. I was convinced that Wade Boggs was going to wreck it. He didn't. Dave Righetti struck him out...swinging! Wade Boggs did not strike out swinging in those days. But the no-hitter was meant to be. It was awesome!

Let's talk about Billy Martin here for a second. Martin has a reputation of pitching guys to death. And maybe that's true and maybe it isn't. The no-hitter was Righetti's second straight complete game. So what would happen in his next game? Five days later, Martin pitched Righetti 10.1 innings against the Royals in a game the Yankees eventually lost. Righetti pitched great, but seriously, that is a lot of work in just fifteen days.

Righetti stumbled a bit after that for the rest of July then recovered some in August and was 14-4 heading into September. He would not win another game as a Yankee starter and lost four straight that September to finish at 14-8. He would be the Yankees' closer after that season.

I will always question the Yankees' handling of Righetti. Why take a promising young starter and make him a closer? It was hard to figure, especially after witnessing that no-hitter on July 4, 1983.

Happy birthday, Dave Righetti. Enjoy those rings you earned as the pitching coach of the Giants. And thanks for the Yankee memories.