Sometimes, coincidences have a way of falling into your lap.
A little while ago, I was replying to a comment on the fine baseball blog, Misc. Baseball, where a conversation about no-hitters as they relate to the Padres (and Mets) was taking place. I happened to recall that San Francisco Giants pitcher Ed Halicki tossed a no-hitter against the Mets in 1975. Curious about the date of that no-hitter, I decided to look it up. Strangely enough, today is the 40th-anniversary of that game.
Here are some bits of trivia I discovered while researching Halicki’s no-hitter.
The Mets manager that day was Roy McMillan, who had replaced Yogi Berra whom the Mets fired just 18 days earlier. The Mets had gone 56-53 up to the point Berra was fired. Under McMillan, they went 26-27.
The Giants manager was Wes Westrum. Westrum had managed the Mets from 1965-67. After 1975, neither McMillan nor Westrum ever managed in the Majors again.
Entering the ’75 season, both Ed Halicki and Mets starting pitcher Craig Swan had pitched fewer than one-hundred innings apiece in the Majors. They went on to have not entirely dissimilar careers. Halicki posted a career record of 55-66 with a WAR of 11.6. Craig Swan finished his career with a 59-72 record, and a 12.6 WAR.
In 1978, Halicki won just nine games, but led the N.L. with a 1.060 WHIP.
In 1978, Swan won just nine games, but led the N.L. with a 2.43 ERA.
Halicki’s no-hitter at Candlestick Park in San Francisco was the second game of a double-header that day. The Mets, behind Jon Matlack, won the first game 9-5. In the first game, the Giants didn’t even attempt to steal a base off of lefty Matlack and catcher Jerry Grote. In the second game, they ran wild, notching five steals off of Swan and catcher John Stearns.
The most controversial play of the game occurred in the top of the 5th inning. Mets batter Rusty Staub hit a liner off of the leg of pitcher Halicki, which then bounced over to second baseman Derrel Thomas who picked up the ball, then dropped it. The official scorer ruled this an error on Thomas. But Mets beat-writer Dick Young was outraged by this scoring, and complained loudly about it. He believed this play should have been scored a hit.
Though the no-hitter stood, official scorer Joe Sargis of UPI lost his part-time job as an official scorer.
Giants first baseman Willie Montanez drove in the Giants first two runs of the game in the bottom of the first inning. Though the Giants would go on to win 6-0, those first two runs would be the only runs Halicki would need to win. Three years later, the well-traveled Montanez would lead the Mets with 96 RBI.
Other than Staub reaching on an error in the 5th, the only other base-runners the Mets would have that day were pinch-hitter Mike Vail’s walk in the 6th-inning, and a one-out walk in the 9th to center-fielder Del Unser.
This was the last no-hitter ever pitched by a Giants pitcher at Candlestick Park.
It would be another 37-years until Johan Santana would throw the first no-hitter by a Mets pitcher in history (June 1, 2012.) June 1st is also the birthday of Rick Baldwin, who pitched three innings in relief of Craig Swan on that August day in 1975 at Candlestick Park.
Look closely enough, and baseball is always full of quirky stats and surprises.