After retiring 27 batters without giving up a single hit on September 19, 1986; White Sox pitcher Joe Cowley became the 214th major league pitcher to toss a no-hitter to beat the red-hot Angels 7-1. Not to take anything away from Cowley but it wasn’t exactly what you would think of when you think “no-hitter”.
Most of the no-hitters that I’ve seen happened to creep up on me (usually by the 5th inning) and leave me on the edge of my seat as I watch the pitcher battle deeper into the game and the defense making plays to keep that magic “0” in the “H” box on the scoreboard.
Most no-hitters are close to perfection. Cowley’s no-hitter was closer to perfectly unconventional.
Sure, Cowley lasted 9 innings and the Angels failed to get a hit, so technically, by definition it was a “no-hitter” and his name is in the record book.
Ask Angels first-baseman Wally Joyner about the game and he’s flatly not impressed –
“He was either two feet outside or right on the black (the corner). He did his job. He got 27 outs. But he wasn’t tough at all, he wasn’t. We didn’t get a hit, that’s all that happened. If you guys don’t look up at the scoreboard, you’d think he gave up eight or nine hits. When he was around the plate, he was barely around it. I’m not even frustrated. It wasn’t impressive, it wasn’t. Not to put Joe Cowley down, but it wasn’t impressive.”
Joyner’s take on the game probably had something to do with the fact that Cowley walked 7 batters during the game, including walking the bases loaded in the 6th and then giving up a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson so not only did Cowley give up a run in his 9 innings of no-hit ball; he managed to give up an earned run. He wouldn’t win another major league baseball game in his career.
Baseball can be wacky like that.
Speaking of wacky, Joe Cowley was widely considered by many of his teammates to be just that.
During his 2 seasons (’84-’85) with the New York Yankees, there was hardly a funnier sight that watching manager Yogi Berra visit the mound to either talk to Cowley or remove him from the game. Berra was all of five-seven and Cowley six-five. When Yogi would get to the mound, Cowley would rest his hand on Yogi’s shoulder giving the crowd the impression that it was Berra getting the talking-to and not the other way around.
In 1985, Yankee manager Billy Martin spent most of the season trying to figure Cowley out. After heading to the mound to remove Cowley from a game, Martin was taken aback as Cowley greeted the manager by saying, “Hey Skip – don’t feel bad. You’re making the right move getting me out of here.”
That season, Cowley would go 12-5 with the Yankees and his coaches and teammates all felt that he would have performed even better had he been able to keep his concentration on the mound. As he demonstrated in his unconventional no-hitter a year later, Cowley had an infuriating penchant for walking batters.
Yankee teammate Don Baylor who at the time was the leader of the clubhouse as well as judge and jury of the Yankee kangaroo court would fine Cowley repeatedly for his bone-headed play.
After walking the lead-off hitter in fifth inning of a game, Cowley looked over to the Yankee dugout to see Baylor standing at the top of the steps with his hands on his hips glaring out at the pitcher’s mound. Cowley yelled over to Baylor, “I know, I know…I owe you ten for that one!”