Archive for category Indians Baseball
August 3, 1987: Yankees 0, Indians 2
NYY 000 000 000 – 0 1 1
Cleve 110 000 00x – 2 6 0
“The first time I came close to a no-hitter was against the Yankees, when I took a no-no into the eighth inning,” Candiotti recalls in a conversation for the book A Life of Knuckleballs. “But Mike Easler broke that one up and I ended up with a one-hitter.”
When Candiotti became only the 22nd pitcher since 1918 to toss a nine-inning one-hitter versus the Yankees, it turned out to be a big game. It would be the start of an ugly 3-10 slide that knocked the Yankees out of first place in the AL East.
Wait, you say. The Yankees in contention in the 1980s? Nah, can’t be true. Pure myth, right? Nobody in their right mind would consider the Yankees of that decade to be any good. It’s a well-known fact that they didn’t win any championships in the 1980s, and didn’t make the postseason in that decade after losing the ’81 World Series.
But it would be inaccurate to say the Yankees of that era weren’t any good. In the 1980s, they still had good hitters such as Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Rickey Henderson, and Don Baylor. Left-hander Ron Guidry was still in pinstripes—and would be until 1988—and had 20-win seasons in 1983 and 1985. The Yanks also had All-Star left-hander Dave Righetti, who began the decade as a dependable starter before becoming a star closer by the mid-1980s.
In 1985, the Yankees, who finished 97-64, went into their season-ending series against Toronto still with a shot at the AL East title, but were finally eliminated by losing their penultimate game. New York ended up with the league’s second-best record, trailing only the Blue Jays’ 99 victories. But in those days, with only two divisions and no wild card, the Yankees missed out on the postseason while the 91-win Kansas City Royals, champions of the West, took on Toronto in the ALCS.
In 1983, New York won 91 games but finished third, seven games behind the AL East-winning Orioles. In ’84, the Yankees again finished with enough wins to capture a division championship in the West. But their 87-75 record was good enough only for third in the East, while the Royals won the West with only 84 victories.
In 1986, the Yankees finished 90-72, second in the division, 5.5 games behind Boston. But they weren’t as close as the final standings indicated, as they were 10 games out with only 12 games to go. They won nine of those final 12 contests to reach 90 victories, including a meaningless four-game sweep at Fenway Park to close out the season, with the Red Sox having already clinched the division.
But 1987 seemed like a different year. Entering play on August 3rd, they had the AL’s best record at 64-41—that’s .610 baseball, a 99-win season over a full 162-game schedule—and were 2.5 games ahead of second-place Toronto. They’d just won six of their last seven games, including a big series victory over Detroit (the eventual division champion), and were in Cleveland for the start of a two-game series against the hapless Indians, who at 37-67 had baseball’s worst record.
That opener pitted left-hander Steve Trout—who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 12th—against Candiotti. Trout had tossed back-to-back shutouts in his final two starts for Chicago before being dealt to New York. Though he hadn’t won a game yet in three Yankee starts, he’d looked good in his previous outing against Kansas City, tossing six shutout innings. Meanwhile, Candiotti was 3-11 on the season and had compiled a 5.09 ERA in five July starts.
But what do you know? Cleveland got ahead 2-0 after two innings, and Trout was gone in the fourth after throwing a two-out wild pitch. It was Trout who looked more like a knuckleballer, not Candiotti. Trout’s line: 3.2 innings, three hits, five walks, and three wild pitches. Yankees catcher Mark Salas was also charged with a passed ball, and—according to the Melville Newsday—there were four other pitches from Trout that bounced past him.
Ironically, the guy with the knuckleball had no such problems. Candiotti retired 21 of the first 22 Yankees—with only a second-inning walk to Winfield ruining his shot at perfection—taking a no-hitter into the eighth. Through seven innings, just one baserunner! And this was a lineup that had Mattingly, Winfield, Mike Easler, and Mike Pagliarulo (who’d smack 32 homers in 1987) in the 3-4-5-6 spots in the batting order.
Mattingly thought the key to Candiotti’s pitching was his knack for throwing strikes all evening. It didn’t matter what he was throwing, whether it was the knuckler, curve, or fastball. “He just got ahead in the count, batter after batter,” said Mattingly that night. “When you do that, you’ve got the freedom to throw the knuckleball all the time” (Michael Martinez, “Indians Blank Yankees on Candiotti’s One-Hitter,” Associated Press/New York Times, August 4, 1987).
Candiotti remembers he didn’t throw that many knuckleballs—only about 30-40 percent. “I mixed in my fastballs, slow curveballs, and changeups with the knuckler,” he says. “I threw more fastballs and curveballs than the knuckleball.” All of those pitches worked. After the walk to Winfield, Candiotti retired the next 18 batters in a row.
Alas, Easler led off the top of the eighth with a clean single to rightfield that broke up the no-no. It came on a 3-2 fastball that dropped in, just in front of charging centerfielder Brett Butler. “I fell behind 3-0 to Easler,” Candiotti recalls. “When the count was 3-1, he absolutely ripped a fastball 350 feet to rightfield which went just outside the foul pole. I was fortunate that it went foul. Now, with the count 3-2, I didn’t wanna walk him, so I threw him another fastball. It was a fastball, high and inside.”
Easler managed to get his bat on the pitch, hitting a weak little blooper that dropped in. “He just blooped a single to rightfield that fell no more than 12 feet in front of Butler,” Candiotti says. “Brett was charging hard for the ball but he couldn’t have gotten to it. It was hit too shallow for him, and too deep for [second baseman] Tommy Hinzo. It was just a little soft line drive that dropped in for a hit. No chance for anybody to get to it.”
Easler said afterward that he was looking for the fastball, and guessed right, knowing Candiotti couldn’t afford to walk him with the left-handed Pagliarulo on deck and the left-handed Dan Pasqua still on the bench. “I didn’t think I’d see a knuckleball with a 3-2 count,” Easler said. “We were down by two. You don’t want to put a guy on base and bring the tying run to the plate” (Marty Noble, “Candiotti Shows His Stingy Side,” Newsday, August 4, 1987).
But with the tying run indeed at the plate, Candiotti settled down and got three straight groundball outs to end the eighth. In the ninth, Henry Cotto struck out, Claudell Washington grounded out to second, and on a two-strike knuckleball, Gary Ward swung wildly and missed for the final out. Only two Yankees reached base, with Candiotti walking one, striking out five, and throwing 108 pitches.
Why did a good ballclub like the Yankees—a first-place team at the time—have so much trouble against him? “They had an aggressive club,” Candiotti says. “Their hitters liked swinging for the fences, and I guess when they faced pitchers that threw off-speed stuff, they didn’t do so well. If you had a pitcher that threw knuckleballs or changed speeds, you had a good chance of shutting them down.”
It was the start of the end for the ’87 Yankees, who at the time were the AL’s best team. Including the one-hitter, they’d lose 10 of their next 13 games—including another loss to Candiotti on August 14th—to fall out of first place for good, going from 2.5 games up to three games out during that slide. By season’s end, they’d finish in fourth place at 89-73, nine games out.
Was it because Candiotti’s knuckleballs put them into a slump?* He laughs. “Actually, like I said, I threw maybe 30-40 percent. I threw mostly knuckleballs to Mattingly and Winfield, though, because those two guys were the big bats in their lineup that could do the most damage. I used my other pitches also, so I had everything working that night.”
According to Candiotti, there was one upside that the no-hitter was gone. He no longer got the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout after the top of the eighth inning. “When a pitcher’s throwing a no-hitter, nobody in the dugout talks to him because they don’t wanna jinx him. It’s one of these baseball superstitions. So, for the longest time—maybe after the fourth inning—nobody said anything to me when I was on the bench. It felt very strange for me, because I’d never experienced it before. But when I got back to the dugout after the no-no was broken up, [pitcher] Scott Bailes came up to me and said, ‘Oh, good. Now I can talk to you.’”
Four weeks later, Candiotti came close to another no-hitter—and endured the silent treatment from his teammates in the dugout once again. Steve Trout, meanwhile, would be winless with the Yankees, going 0-4 with a 6.60 ERA in 14 appearances before being traded to Seattle in the off-season.
*In the 1988 season finale, Candiotti defeated the playoff-bound Red Sox, who then got swept by Oakland in the ALCS. Was it Candiotti’s knuckleball that put the Boston hitters in a slump? “Nah,” he laughs. “I think it was more the fact that they were facing Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley in the playoffs.”
Did You Know?
Two or fewer baserunners…
From 1970 to 2010, only seven Indians pitchers threw complete games in which they allowed two or fewer baserunners. (Candiotti’s was just the 15th since 1918.)
Pitcher / Date / Opponent / Result
Dick Bosman / Jul. 19, 1974 / Athletics / no-hitter/one baserunner
Dennis Eckersley / May 30, 1977 / Angels / no-hitter/one baserunner
Dennis Eckersley / Aug. 12, 1977 / Brewers / one-hitter/two baserunners
Len Barker / May 15, 1981 / Blue Jays / perfect game
Tom Candiotti / Aug. 3, 1987 / Yankees / one-hitter/two baserunners
Tom Kramer / May 24, 1993 / Rangers / one-hitter/one baserunner
Billy Traber / Jul. 8, 2003 / Yankees / one-hitter/one baserunner
No pitcher has ever thrown a perfect game against the Yankees. But Candiotti’s “nearly perfect” game made him just the 10th major-leaguer since 1918 to allow only two baserunners in a complete-game one-hit shutout (or no-hitter) over the Yankees.
Knuckleball No-no’s: Had Mike Easler not ruined Candiotti’s no-hitter, it would have been the first AL knuckleball no-hitter since Baltimore’s Hoyt Wilhelm against the Yankees on September 20, 1958*. The last major-league knuckleball no-hitter was in the NL, when Atlanta’s Phil Niekro no-hit San Diego in 1973.
It would’ve been fitting had Candiotti no-hit the Yankees. Entering that game, he was 3-11 on the season. Wilhelm’s no-hitter against New York came during a trying 1958 season. Used as a reliever for most of the year, Wilhelm was 2-10 before throwing the no-no.
*That afternoon, opposing pitcher Don Larsen, author of the only perfect game in World Series history (1956), allowed only one hit in six innings. Orioles catcher Gus Triandos’s 425-foot homer off reliever Bobby Shantz in the seventh won it 1-0. According to Triandos years later: “Catching Hoyt was such a miserable experience, I just wanted to end the game” (Mike Klingaman, “Catching Up With Gus Triandos,” Baltimore Sun, May 5, 2009).
Did You Know?
Coincidence? Maybe not…
When Pat Corrales was managing Cleveland in the first half of the 1987 season, he wanted Candiotti to throw nothing but knuckleballs. That idea didn’t work, as the Candy Man struggled to a 2-9 record.
After Doc Edwards took over as manager at the All-Star break, Candiotti was allowed to use his other pitches along with the knuckler. Edwards’s philosophy was that his pitcher should throw pitches that he felt comfortable with, instead of being forced to throw one pitch repeatedly.
In his second start of the post-Corrales era, Candiotti defeated Texas 4-2 in a game where he relied heavily on fastballs and curveballs. Using those two pitches to get ahead of hitters and throwing the knuckler only in certain situations, he retired the first 12 Rangers before losing the perfect game bid in the fifth inning. He finished with a four-hitter, with the only two runs against him coming on sacrifice flies. It wasn’t a no-hitter, but it was certainly a dominant effort.
I’m always working on sports writing, even if it’s not on a daily blog. Here’s an entry from a book that I’m working on about knuckleball pitchers throughout baseball history. This particular entry is about a gem pitched by war hero and Cleveland baseball hero Gene Bearden.
Rookie Bearden Wins Season Debut En Route to 20-Win Campaign
May 8, 1948: Cleveland Indians 6, Washington Senators 1 At Griffith Stadium
Gene Bearden: 8.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO.
Making his season debut, Cleveland Indians rookie knuckleballer—and war hero—Gene Bearden pitched 8.2 innings of three-hit ball to beat the Senators 6-1 at Washington’s Griffith Stadium.
Bearden, who’d made his major-league debut the year before with one relief appearance, was making his second big-league appearance and first major-league start in this outing against the Senators.
The fact that Bearden was pitching on a major-league mound was remarkable. Although he was a rookie, he was also a war hero who also won a Purple Heart in World War II. A machinist’s mate, Bearden was among the survivors when three torpedoes hit the USS Helena in the South Pacific in July 1943. “Somebody pulled me out,” he later told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “They told me later it was an officer. I don’t know how he did it. The ship went down in about 17 minutes. All I know is that I came to in the water some time later.” Badly wounded, he was hospitalized for two years, and forever after carried a steel plate in his head.
On this afternoon, Washington left fielder Gil Coan had two of the hits off Bearden, who walked four and struck out five. The Cleveland knuckleballer was in control until the bottom of the ninth, when he issued all four of his walks. Following his fourth free pass of the inning—a bases-loaded walk to Tom McBride to break up the shutout—Bearden was lifted for reliever Russ Christopher, who recorded the final out without incident.
It was quite the season debut—and first big-league start—for Bearden, who through the first eight innings had a three-hit shutout while facing 26 Senators hitters, two batters over the minimum.
Bearden would win six of his first seven starts in 1948, tossing four complete games and a pair of shutouts in that stretch.
It was the way he would end the season, though, that was most impressive.
During the final month of the season, Bearden won each of his final seven starts, pitching two more shutouts and winning the one-game playoff against the Red Sox at Fenway Park to capture the AL pennant for Cleveland. By season’s end, he would have 20 wins—including six shutouts and 15 complete games—and an American League-best 2.43 ERA.
He’d then defeat the Boston Braves with a 2-0 shutout in Game Three of the World Series, before recording the final five outs in the Game Six clincher. It was Cleveland’s first title since beating Brooklyn in the 1920 Series. To date, the Indians still have never won another World Series. “He won the pennant and World Series for us,” Indians Hall-of-Fame pitcher Bob Feller reflected in 2004. “If it hadn’t been for Gene Bearden, Cleveland would not have a world championship since 1920.”
But it all started on this date in Washington, where the knuckleballer won his 1948 debut en route to a 20-win campaign as a rookie. “Nobody showed me,” Bearden said that season of the knuckler. “I was just fooling around to see if I could add another pitch to my fastball and slider. I found the batters didn’t like it, so I kept on using it. Now it’s my main pitch. The fastball and slider are just mixed in, now and then, for variety. I use it so much my fingertips develop calluses.”
Candy Man Wins in Second Debut with Cleveland
July 3, 1999
Cleveland Indians 9, Kansas City Royals 8 At Jacobs Field
Tom Candiotti: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO.
Tom Candiotti, who’d previously pitched for the Cleveland Indians from 1986 to 1991, made a triumphant return to the ballclub, winning his first game for the franchise in eight years.
Signed by Cleveland on June 29 after spending the first three months of this season with Oakland—he was let go when the A’s called up Tim Hudson from Triple-A—Candiotti was making his first appearance of his second stint with the Indians in the first game of today’s doubleheader against Kansas City.
In his previous stint with Cleveland, he went 72-65 with a 3.53 ERA for five-and-a-half seasons before being traded to Toronto on June 27, 1991. He also pitched for the Dodgers and A’s before rejoining the Indians this season.
Brought back this season to shore up the Cleveland bullpen, Candiotti entered today’s contest in the third inning with the Royals already ahead 8-3. The score was actually 8-0 at one point—Kansas City battered starter Charles Nagy for eight runs in two innings—but the Indians struck for three runs in the bottom of the second before giving the ball to Candiotti.
And the knuckleballer turned back the clock like it was 1991 again, pitching 5.2 shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts. He threw curveballs and fastballs in his first two innings, and then threw more knucklers as the game progressed. “He was really tough,” said Royals rookie Carlos Febles of Candiotti. “He threw a soft one and a hard one and they were really moving.”
Whatever Candiotti threw worked. He retired the first nine Royals he faced, allowing his first base runner when Febles led off the sixth with a bunt single. A passed ball and sacrifice bunt moved Febles to third, but Candiotti struck out Carlos Beltran and Joe Randa swinging to keep the deficit at 8-3.
Perhaps sparked by that clutch pitching, Cleveland rallied for five runs off Jay Witasick and Alvin Morman to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning. Candiotti returned in the seventh and got three quick outs, and then watched Tribe slugger David Justice homer off Marc Pisciotta in the bottom of the seventh for a 9-8 lead. In the eighth, Candiotti retired the first two Royals before Febles—that man again—doubled, only the second base runner the knuckleballer allowed, and “Candy Man,” as he is called, walked off the mound to a standing ovation by the Jacobs Field crowd of more than 43,000. Fortunately, reliever Ricardo Rincon retired the next batter, keeping the lead intact. Stopper Mike Jackson closed out the ninth, preserving the victory and giving Candiotti his first win with the franchise in eight years.
This win was Candiotti’s 151st and final victory in the majors. Although he never won another major-league game, this appearance was a fitting way for Candiotti to end his career. “After every inning, I’d get a standing ovation from the crowd every time I got back to the dugout. They gave me four loud ovations when I was out there. I mean, it was really spectacular for me. It goes to show that the people in Cleveland really respected me,” he reflects now. “It was like, I was in one last go-around, and all the fans were acknowledging me for all those years in the 1980s when I had to suffer [on those bad Indians teams when the club played at Cleveland Stadium]. It really brought a tear to my eye, seeing how the fans were appreciative of all the years I’d given them.”
Speaking of debuts, exactly eight years earlier, on this date, July 3, 1991, Candiotti recorded his first victory with the Blue Jays. Traded to Toronto on June 27, the knuckleballer pitched a quality start the following day with six innings of three-run ball against the Mariners but the Blue Jays lost 3-1 to Bill Krueger. But on this date, July 3, he pitched seven shutout innings of six-hit, three-walk, seven-strikeout baseball to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0. With Candiotti on the staff, the Blue Jays went on to capture the AL East crown.
I’m not one who toots his own horn. I rarely do that. But, in the era of social media and getting your name out there, I suppose it’s become a necessity to do so. After all, if you’ve written a book, you want people to know about it — and these days, it’s essential to use social media and the Internet to promote your works.
So, this brings me to this post today: I can’t believe how fast time has flown, but it’s been nearly five years now since my book about underrated knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti, A Life of Knuckleballs, was published by McFarland & Co.
I’m still blown away to see people buying a copy here and there. I mean, I’ve always thought that Candiotti didn’t get the accolades that he deserved in his career. So, to have a book about him published — albeit it a little too late, in my opinion, as it came out 15 years after his retirement — is an amazing thing.
It wasn’t an easy process, to be sure. Having a book published isn’t a simple matter of the writing part. It’s also listening to what the publisher wants. There were many stories that Candiotti told me which I originally included in the manuscript, but the publisher has a word limit and all that, and wanted a lot of those stories excluded in the book.
Perhaps some day I will post those stories that didn’t make it into the book on this website. We shall see.
But it’s been nearly five years since the book came out. Time to pat myself on the back.
Here’s a vintage video of a Tom Candiotti interview. Candiotti, then with the Indians, discuses his pitching style the day following a 3-1 win over the Brewers on May 10, 1988.