Ken Johnson’s no-hitter

Washington Post

Ken Johnson passed away this past week, on November 21, 2015.  I’m not sure I ever even heard of him until I saw the news story about his passing.  It turns out, Johnson is the only pitcher in MLB history to pitch a nine-inning, complete game no-hitter and still lose the game.

On April 23, 1964, Ken Johnson and the Colt .45s played the Cincinnati Reds.  While Johnson pitched near flawlessly, it was fielding errors that became his undoing.  The game was still scoreless going into the top of the ninth, when Pete Rose bunted a roller back to the mound.  Johnson fielded but threw the ball away, allowing Rose to advance to second.  Rose moved to third on a ground out.  Then, with two outs, an error by second baseman Nellie Fox allowed Rose to score.

When the Colt .45s failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, Johnson became the first pitcher to lose a game in spite of throwing a no-hitter in nine innings.  No other pitcher has ever managed to accomplish this feat (if you can call it an accomplishment).  Statistics from the game can be found here.

“I pitched the game of my life and still lost,” Johnson would say after the game. “A hell of a way to get into the record books.”

According to Johnson’s family, he had been bedridden with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases for two years.  He died after contracting a kidney infection.

                1  2  3   4  5  6   7  8  9    R  H  E
                -  -  -   -  -  -   -  -  -    -  -  -
Reds            0  0  0   0  0  0   0  0  1    1  0  2
Colts           0  0  0   0  0  0   0  0  0    0  5  2

6 thoughts on “Ken Johnson’s no-hitter

  1. There’s something both bittersweet and sweet about these kinds of stories, don’t you think? Those almost-but-for-a-bit-of-bad-luck moments that I think we all have in our lives makes these players seem a little more human. I think it makes me appreciate these players — like Ken Johnson and Harvey Haddix and Armando Galarraga, etc etc — a little bit more because of their almost-but-not-quite moments.

  2. I had a Ken Johnson card when I was a kid. Maybe I still do. That Reds lineup that he shut down had some good hitters. I see that there were 5,000 people there to witness it. So quaint.

    1. Small crowd, even for that time. Looks like average game attendance in Houston that year was 8,960. Though I’m sure that in the end, Johnson didn’t mind so few being there to witness such a dubious achievement.

  3. Me neither. Never heard of him. Another great thing about baseball is that I guess it’s possible to have heard of everything, but more likely, it’s impossible, for a human being anyway.

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