A little more than 49 years ago, future Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium. The date was September 9, 1965. It was a milestone in baseball history, but no one thought much more of it than that; it was Koufax' fourth career no-hitter and the second time the Cubs had been no-hit in three weeks -- they had been no-hit by Jim Maloney of the Reds in the first game of a doubleheader August 19, 1965 at Wrigley Field.
No-hitters were almost commonplace in Cubs history at that time -- they'd also been no-hit in 1952, and several other Cubs (Sam Jones, Don Cardwell, Ken Holtzman, Holtzman again, Burt Hooton and Milt Pappas) had thrown them in the period from 1955-72.
It took 36 years for another Cub to throw a no-no after Pappas, Carlos Zambrano in 2008, and as for the Cubs... well, they're on a major-league record streak of not being no-hit.
You might be familiar with the @CubsNoHitStreak Twitter feed, which lovingly chronicles each game's first Cubs hit and tweets out other bits of Cubs lore.
The Twitter account is run by Jimmy Greenfield, Community Manager of ChicagoNow, the Tribune's blog network. I approached him with the idea of writing about The Streak (as it's known by its aficionados) and wondered if he thought writing about it would jinx it in any way. He told me, "I reject any talk of a 'curse' or a 'jinx' in sports, not just the Cubs. It's just a fable created by mythmakers to sell newspapers and books. I love how Len Kasper isn't afraid to mention a no-hitter is being thrown by the Cubs, and then when it's broken up and people on Twitter get angry at him he RTs their tweets. That's the perfect way to handle it."
Well, I can't argue with that. I asked Greenfield to provide me with some lists of players for The Streak, so here they are. What you see below are counts of how many times the players listed got the first hit of the game for the Cubs, thus extending The Streak.
All-time leaders in extending The Streak
Ryne Sandberg: 413 Don Kessinger: 328 Mark Grace: 276 Sammy Sosa: 239 Glenn Beckert: 238 Billy Williams: 230 Bill Buckner: 170 Ivan de Jesus: 161 Alfonso Soriano: 153 Derrek Lee: 139
Glenn Beckert: 134 Don Kessinger: 124 Billy Williams: 123 Ron Santo: 65 Ernie Banks: 51 Adolfo Phillips: 40 Randy Hundley: 30 Paul Popovich: 19 Al Spangler: 8 Jim Hickman: 7 Willie Smith: 7 Lee Thomas: 7
Don Kessinger: 204 Jose Cardenal: 131 Rick Monday: 129 Ivan de Jesus: 112 Billy Williams: 107 Glenn Beckert: 104 Bill Buckner: 64 Jerry Morales: 61 Bill Madlock: 51 Ron Santo: 46
Ryne Sandberg: 265 Bill Buckner: 106 Leon Durham: 101 Bobby Dernier: 95 Keith Moreland: 63 Andre Dawson: 56 Ivan de Jesus: 49 Jody Davis: 47 Gary Matthews: 45: 40
Mark Grace: 222 Ryne Sandberg: 148 Sammy Sosa: 126 Brian McRae: 97 Shawon Dunston: 64 Mickey Morandini: 55 Rey Sanchez: 48 Lance Johnson: 47 Jose Vizcaino: 44 Dwight Smith: 40
Derrek Lee: 115 Sammy Sosa: 113 Alfonso Soriano: 96 Aramis Ramirez: 93 Ryan Theriot: 88 Corey Patterson: 87 : 84 Moises Alou: 46 Juan Pierre: 46 Todd Walker: 43
Starlin Castro: 138 Alfonso Soriano: 57 David DeJesus: 53 Anthony Rizzo: 52 Darwin Barney: 40 Kosuke Fukudome: 36 Marlon Byrd: 30 Aramis Ramirez: 27 Luis Valbuena: 26 Chris Coghlan: 25
Remember that for the decades listed above, the 1960s and 2010s are really half-decades; the "1960s" for this purpose didn't start until late 1965, and the 2010s, of course, are only half-finished.
Pitchers who extended The Streak
Carlos Zambrano: 6 Ray Burris: 5 Mike Krukow: 5 Greg Maddux: 5 Rick Reuschel: 5 Shawn Boskie: 4 Ferguson Jenkins: 4 Carlos Marmol: 4 Rick Sutcliffe: 4 Jason Bere: 3 Bill Bonham: 3 Kevin Foster: 3 Ken Holtzman: 3 Dennis Lamp: 3 Mike Morgan: 3 Kevin Tapani: 3 Steve Trachsel: 3 Travis Wood: 3
Type of hit that extended The Streak
Single: 5426 Double: 1430 Triple: 189 Home run: 780
Inning in which The Streak was extended
First: 4740 Second: 1777 Third: 686 Fourth: 382 Fifth: 127 Sixth: 73 Seventh: 23 Eighth: 9 Ninth: 5
So, five times since Koufax' perfect game, a pitcher has taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Cubs, only to see it broken up. Those games are:
July 9, 1969 at New York. Jimmy Qualls broke up Tom Seaver's perfect game with one out in the ninth. The Cubs lost 4-0.
April 16, 1971 at San Francisco. On a cold, wet night at Candlestick Park, Leo Durocher pulled most of the Cubs regulars in the sixth inning, down 6-0. Backup catcher Ken Rudolph singled to lead off the ninth; the Cubs got one more hit in the inning but lost 9-0.
September 24, 1975 at Wrigley Field. With two out in the ninth, Joe Wallis breaks up another Seaver no-hit bid (this time, he had walked five) with a single. The game goes scoreless into extra innings and the Cubs win 1-0 in 11.
April 10, 1997 at Wrigley Field. On a bitterly cold, windy, 37-degree day, the Marlins' handcuffed the Cubs for 8⅓ innings without a hit. After that first out in the ninth Dave Hansen dribbled an infield single and the Cubs loaded the bases on two Marlins errors. Despite that, they could not score and lost 1-0.
July 25, 2004, at Philadelphia. The Phillies' Eric Milton had a 2-0 lead and a no-hitter going into the ninth. Michael Barrett blooped a ball into short center for a leadoff double and the Cubs actually tied the game 2-2 before LaTroy Hawkins blew it in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 loss.
In all, the Cubs have been one-hit 23 times since Koufax's perfect game, and even though the team has been pretty bad since 2009, there has been just one one-hitter thrown at them since then, July 31, 2012 at Wrigley by A.J. Burnett. That was the "Hug Game", the day Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto were traded in deadline deals and were spotted giving hugs in the dugout. Burnett took a no-no into the eighth inning, when the eminently-forgettable Adrian Cardenas singled to break it up.
The Streak has now completed 49 full seasons (plus about a month's worth of another in 1965). Next September 9 will be its 50th anniversary, and it's nearly 900 games longer than the second-longest active no-no-hit streak, which belongs to the Reds, who haven't been no-hit since June 23, 1971. Here's a spreadsheet showing all 30 teams' current streak (note: the length of the Braves' streak as listed is correct, but the date of the last one is wrong; they were no-hit by Cole Hamels a few weeks ago). The Cubs and Reds are the only teams with streaks more than 4,000 games, and in a weird coincidence, the Reds' streak began with a no-hitter thrown... three weeks after they had previously been no-hit, by the Cubs' Ken Holtzman, June 3, 1971.
With the Cubs becoming a better-hitting team and with the addition of Kris Bryant and other prospects, this streak should last a long, long time. May The Streak live forever.