Walking Away from a No-Hitter

Pitchers can get pulled from no-hitters for a variety of reasons, and fans find themselves trying to decide whether they should applaud the outgoing pitcher or boo the decision maker calling for the change. Babe Ruth (sort of) removed himself by punching an umpire one batter into a 27-up and 27-down game. Last year Clayton Kershaw was pulled from a perfect game after approaching a predetermined pitch count.

California Angels starter Mark Langston found himself in just such a predicament early in the 1990 season. On April 11th he pulled himself from the mound seven innings into a no-hitter. Baseball nearly went on strike for the 1990 season, only reaching an agreement weeks before the season was to start and resulting in an abbreviated Spring Training. Langston was worried about injuring his arm after not having his usual amount of time to prepare for the season. Going into the game he had set a personal workload limit of 5 innings. He got through 7 innings, but realized he was running out of gas with 6 more outs to go. Mike Witt, himself the author of a perfect game in 1984, was called in from the bullpen. He finished the game without allowing a hit, resulting in this unique card in the following year’s Donruss release.

That Langston was involved in a no-hitter should not have come as a surprise. He logged substantial strikeout totals throughout his career, averaging 7.5 per 9 innings when such numbers were not the norm. He broke into the majors at the same time as Roger Clemens, yet it was Langston that took home the league strikeout crown in 1984, 1986, and 1987. This dominance made other teams take notice, prompting the Montreal Expos to trade Randy Johnson to the Mariners in exchange for Langston in 1989. That move worked out much better for the Expos, as Langston signed a new contract with the Angels and began his tenure with the team with the joint no-hit effort in his first game with the Halos.

Langston is portrayed delivering one of his strikes on the front of his 1993 Finest card. The pose works, but would have been even better if he had been shown making a move to pickoff a runner at first base. His left-handed delivery set him up perfectly to make last second pivots to catch aggressive baserunners. He retired with more pickoffs than anyone in the game’s history and still ranks inside the top five.