His fastball was hopping…his slider flicking away from Boston bats.
Jim Bunning – a tall boy with a crew, from Kentucky – yesterday achieved a minor miracle of baseball. He pitched a no-hit, no-run game for the Detroit Tigers against the Red Sox yesterday at Fenway Park.
Bunning beat the Red Sox, 3-0. So Ike Delcock’s feat of winning his 10th consecutive victory – his 13th in a row over two seasons – by downing the Tigers, 5-2, in the second game remained a secondary matter to a crowd of 29,529.
A no-hit game against the Red Sox is something. Fenway Park – with its near left field fence. The Red Sox – with their right-handed sluggers in Malzone, Jensen and Gernert. The Red Sox – with their left-handed hitters in Stephens, Runnels, and Williams. Fenway Park – a pitcher’s Hades.
But Bunning did it…became the third man to do it in the 47-year history of Fenway Park. Two others achieved the feat…Walter Johnson in 1920…Ted Lyons in ’26. Back in 1917, George Mogridge of the Highlanders pitched a no-hitter against the Sox, but Mogridge allowed a run.
A prank of fate helped Bunning.
In the first half of the opening inning, before the Red Sox went to bat, Detroit’s fiery Billy Martin – attempting to break up a Boston double play – slid into Peter Runnel and inflicted an injury on Runnel’s leg.
A few moments later that injury helped create a no-hit game.
For Boston chief threats towards the hitter occurred before anyone dreamed there’d be a chance of a no-hitter. These threats were by the first two hitters who faced Bunning at the start of the game.
Geno Stephens opened the game for Boston by driving a Bunning fast ball – helped by a favoring wind – deep to the running track by the Tiger bullpen in right. Al Kaline, 375 feet from the plate, hauled it in – a ball that in many a major league park would have been a home run.
Then Runnels stepped to the plate. He hit a harsh, hopping grounder to a point between third baseman Ossie Virgil and third base. Virgil went over toward the bag, blocked the ball, and all but caught it. He dropped the ball, quickly retrieved it and gunned his throw to first base.
The throw beat Runnels by a narrow margin.
“I think I would have beaten it – if my leg were right,” said Runnels afterward.
“I think he would have too,” granted Bunning.
Running to the bag, Runnels didn’t limp. After he passed the bag, he limped. He must have given everything he had in his sprint to the bag. He then went to the Sancta Maria Hospital for x-rays, and Ted Lepcio replaced him at second base.
Bunning retired the first four Red Sox.
With one down in the second inning, he brushed Jensen with a pitch, and Jensen took his base.
With Jensen going to second on Gernert’s ground-out – the only Boston runner to pass first base – Bunning got four more men in order.
With two down in the third, he walked Stephens.
Then…eight putouts in a row.
One down in the sixth. Stephens up again… he walks. Then… eleven putouts in a row.
In the last inning – with the stands tense – Bunning had to face Stephens, Lepcio and Williams. Bunning fanned the first two, got Williams on his second pitch – on a fly to Kaline in right.
In all, Bunning fanned 12 batters. Earlier this year, against the Yankee, he did better. He fanned 14.
Against Frank Sullivan – the nearly anonymous man who pitched for the Red Sox – the Tigers scored three runs in the fifth. Harris tripled to right. Zernial doubled to left center. Two men went out. Wilson, Bunning and Kuenn singled. Result – three runs.
After Virgil threw out Runnels, there wasn’t a difficult play. The closest approach was at the start of the fifth. Gernert chopped a grounder to Virgil who took it on a shot hop – the second hop – and threw him out.
Bunning faced only 30 batters.
Bunning shattered a six-game Red Sox winning streak, blocking the Sox from gaining their longest streak since Mike Higgins became manager in ’55.
Said Higgins: “Takes a no-hitter to beat us…That wasn’t much of an accident. He had it. He was really firing.”
Oh, yes…there was a second game.
Delock versus Susce, and in the third inning – on singles by Delock, Piersall, Malzone and Jense – the Sox took a two-run lead. But in the fourth Zernial singled. F. Bolling doubled and Virgil singled for a run. In the fifth, Kaline homered – and the score was two-all.
In the eighth, the Red Sox won. Malzone walked, Jensen sacrificed, and Gernert was intentionally walked. White singled to center for the winning run. After pinch-hitter Williams walked, Consolo drove in two more with a line single off the first baseman’s glove.
The Red Sox, after all, broke even.