Sports Vault: By 1978, Tom Seaver had won every pitching honor -- except a no-hitter. And then ...

Three-time Cy Young Award winner did it as a Red

CINCINNATI -- It was pretty clear by the time he got to the Reds that Tom Seaver was the greatest pitcher never to have thrown a no-hitter.

When the Reds traded for Seaver in June of 1977, he had 189 wins, three Cy Young Awards, three ERA titles and five one-hitters.

"He was a lead-pipe cinch to get in the Hall of Fame," Reds play-by-play man Marty Brennaman said. "It would have been a shame if he went in without a no-hitter after coming so close five times."

Seaver took care of that on June 16, 1978, against the St. Louis Cardinals at Riverfront Stadium.

Seaver was not overpowering that night. He walked three and struck out three -- none after the fourth inning. If a no-hitter can be routine, this one was.

"I don't remember a lot about it," Brennaman said. "I don't remember any great plays. I do remember the last out. George Hendrick hit a high bouncer to Dan Driessen."

Jim Ferguson, the Reds media-relations director at the time, doesn't remember a lot about the game either -- except one thing.

"(Johnny) Bench didn't catch that night," he said. "Don Werner did. I don't think Bench was hurt. It was just a night off. He heard a lot about it afterward. 'He needed just a good catcher to throw a no-hitter.'"

Seaver came in on a six-game winning streak. He had a 1.62 ERA in those games, but was coming off a so-so start by his standards. He threw a complete game to beat Pittsburgh 7-4. But he allowed four runs on 11 hits.

The Reds were 37-25 coming into the game and in second place in the National League West, 2½ games behind the San Francisco Giants.

A big crowd -- 38,216 -- showed up for the game. Seaver was facing John Denny, who later would pitch for the Reds.

Seaver got into a bit of trouble in the second, when it was still a scoreless game. Keith Hernandez walked with one out. Hernandez then stole second with Jerry Morales at the plate and advanced to third on Werner's throwing error.

With the infield drawn in, Seaver struck out Morales with a high fastball. Ken Reitz ended up walking, but Seaver got Mike Phillips on a 4-3 groundout to stifle the threat.

Seaver would retire the next 19 in a row.

There were only three close calls. Hernandez hit a sharp ground ball in the third. But Joe Morgan ranged to his left to snatch it off the turf. He threw out Hernandez easily to end the third.

In the seventh, Hernandez hit one back at Seaver. It went off his glove and right to Dave Concepcion at short, who threw Hernandez out easily.

Morales hit a high chopper to Ray Knight, who in the eighth had taken over for Pete Rose at third. Knight charged and threw to first to get Morales by a step.

The Reds took the lead in the fifth. Cesar Geronimo led off with the first hit of the game. Werner followed with a single. Rose doubled them both in. Joe Morgan doubled in Rose. Driessen led off the sixth with a homer to make it 4-0.

Pinch-hitter Jerry Mumphrey led off the ninth with a walk. But Seaver got Lou Brock on a flyout, Garry Templeton on a ground ball and then Hendrick on the two-hopper to Driessen.

It was the only shutout Seaver threw that year. He finished 16-14 with a 2.88 ERA. The Reds, despite winning 92, ended up finishing second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the West.

Listen to Tom Seaver talk about his no-hitter:

 

Sparky Anderson was fired in the offseason. Rose left as a free agent. So 1978 was, in some ways, the end of the Big Red Machine.

Seaver pitched four more seasons with the Reds. He ultimately went 75-46 with a 3.18 ERA as a Red.

The trade to bring Seaver in was largely seen as one that hastened the end of the Big Red Machine Era. The Reds had given up Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry to get him.

Seaver's best year came in the strike-shortened season of 1981. He went 14-2 with a 2.54 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young vote.

The Reds had the best record in baseball that year, but did not make the playoffs because they failed to win either half of the season.

Seaver struggled mightily in 1982 -- the only 100-loss season in Reds history. He went 5-13 with a 5.50 ERA. The Reds traded him back to the Mets in the offseason.

Seaver went into the Hall of Fame in 1992, getting 425 of 430 votes.

And he went in with one no-hitter.

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