40 years later Len Barker still holds last no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians are known for currently holding the longest championship drought not only in Major League Baseball, but all of North American professional sports. Unfortunately, that’s not the only drought in which the team is leading the league.
On this day 40 years ago, May 15, Len Barker recorded the last no-hitter and perfect game by a member of Tribe. Cleveland has come close, including Zach Plesac‘s bid just a couple nights ago, but Barker’s is still the most recent one in the books, leaving the Cleveland Indians with the longest no-hitter drought in all of professional baseball, as well as the longest no-hitter drought in the history of the American League.
On May 15, 1981, Barker took the mound for the Tribe against the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only did he record a perfect game, but he threw only 19 balls in the contest. Barker’s no-hitter was the 14th in club history, joining the ranks of Dennis Eckersley, Bob Lemon, Ray Caldwell, Addie Joss who tossed two and Bob Feller who threw three.
Since Barker’s no-hitter in 1981, there have been 101 no-hitters in major league baseball, including three by Nolan Ryan. Over that time, the Tribe have been on the losing end of a no-hitter five different times, including twice this season. The others came in 2011 against Ervin Santana, in 1993 against Jim Abbott and in 1990 against Dave Stieb.
There are six clubs who have had just one no-hitter, but at this point each team has had at least one in their history history. The last team to tally their first no-hitter was the San Diego Padres when Joe Musgrove did so earlier this season on April 9 against the Texas Rangers.
As for the other droughts, the Milwaukee Brewers are the next longest with their last one coming in 1987 and being the only one in club history, at least for the current edition of the team. In 1987, Juan Nieves no-hit a Baltimore Orioles team that was highlight by Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray. Despite walking five, Nieves struck out seven in the win. Nieves is now the assistant pitching coach for the Detroit Tigers after being the pitching coach for the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, in 2019.
While the Tribe haven’t been able to be on the right side of a no-hitter recently, they’ve been on the wrong side almost as many times over the club’s history. In the time of Cleveland Indians baseball, the Tribe have been on the losing end of a no-hitter 12 times, tying the Boston Red Sox for 11th in league history. The Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers lead the way with 19 no-hitters against them.
Despite the drought, Cleveland still ranks rather high on the no-hitters thrown list as well. If you include all of the team’s history, meaning the games by the Cleveland Naps as well, the current edition of Cleveland baseball has 14 no-hitters, tied for seventh in major league history.
So with being known as a pitching factory, why can’t the Tribe break the 40-year drought?
Just since the start of the 2019 season there have been 10 no-hitters. Keep in mind that includes a shortened 2020 season and only about a month of games in 2021. In fact, this season already has four no-hitters, tying the mark from 2019. The last time five or more no-hitters were thrown in a season was 2015 when there were seven.
Plesac came close to breaking the drought just a few days ago, taking a no-hitter into the top of the eighth against the Seattle Mariners, but a line drive just cleared Amed Rosario‘s leaping effort to log a hit and break-up the bid.
What might be more impressive, if that’s the word, is that the Cleveland Indians have had five Cy Young Award winners since Barker’s perfect game, all coming within the last 14 seasons when the number of no-hitters has surged. Despite the pitching greatness that has gone through Cleveland, a no-hitter has eluded the team.
Since Barker’s no-hitter, 14,610 days have passed along with 6,259 games. The Major League Baseball record stands at 8,944 games between no-hitters, set by the Philadelphia Phillies from 1906 until 1964. Hopefully, the Tribe can record one before then, otherwise we have about 18 more years of waiting before the next no-hitter by a pitcher of the Cleveland Indians.