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Lost in the ninth: Cubs no-hitters broken up in the last inning, both for and against

These pitchers were almost famous.

Warren Hacker of the Cubs, who had a no-hitter broken up in the ninth in 1955
Photo by The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty Images

Last June 24, Zach Davies, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel combined on a no-hitter against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. It was the first combined no-hitter in Cubs history and the 17th overall in franchise history.

That number could be larger. Since 1893, the year the current pitching distance of 60 feet, six inches was established, the Cubs have had 11 no-hitters broken up in the ninth inning. In addition, Cubs batters have broken up seven no-hit bids against them in the same time frame.

This is the first article in a short series. The longer articles will deal with all the no-hit bids both for and against the Cubs that were broken up in the ninth inning in the expansion era, since 1961. In that 61-season time frame, Cubs pitchers had seven no-hit bids broken up in the ninth and Cubs hitters broke up five no-hit bids in the ninth — all of the latter, incidentally, helped keep the Cubs no-hit streak of 7,920 consecutive games (between Sandy Koufax’ perfect game in 1965 to Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in 2015) intact.

Here are the six games pre-1961:

September 27, 1905

Carl Lundgren of the Cubs took a no-hitter into the ninth at West Side Grounds against Brooklyn. Here’s what the Tribune said about this game in an article with no byline, headlined “SPOILS RECORD FOR LUNDGREN”:

Carl Lundgren missed pitching a “no hit, no run” game against Brooklyn yesterday by an exceedingly small margin, and by the merest scratch at that.

The ex-collegian went into the ninth inning with a clean record in the hit and run columns. Two men were retired in order; then Sheckard, the third man to face him in that round, lobbed a measley little fly into short center which Slagle could not reach, the ball falling not a foot from his eager hands as he dashed in through the thick smoke that hung over the park. After that the Superbas scored two runs, which were useless except to spoil Lundgren’s record, because the final score was 7 to 2 in Chicago’s favor.

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore, that’s for sure. The Brooklyn franchise was known as “Superbas” from 1899-1910. (That’s the way “measley” was spelled in the original, and I have no idea why “thick smoke” would have hung over West Side Grounds, except possibly from nearby factories.)

July 4, 1906 (first game)

Lefty Leifeld of the Pirates had no-hit the Cubs through eight innings, when Jimmy Slagle led off the ninth with a single in a game that was scoreless. He was sacrificed to second, went to third on an error and scored on an infield out, and the Cubs won 1-0. Mordecai Brown, the Cubs’ starter, also threw a one-hitter. The Cubs also won the second game 1-0. That doubleheader — a split-admission DH with a morning game and an afternoon game — certainly defines the Deadball Era.

June 3, 1923

Earnest “Tiny” Osborne of the Cubs had a 4-0 lead and a no-hitter entering the ninth inning in Cincinnati. Then this happened, per Frank Schreiber of the Tribune:

The trio of Red hits came in the ninth round and, combined with a pair of errors, went on to score three runs. George Grantham paved the way for the Red runs when he fumbled Pinch Hitter Harper’s ground ball long enough to let the fleet footed lad reach first. Burns was an easy out, but Daubert tripled, Duncan singled to left and made second when Miller fumbled. Roush also tripled and three runs were over, with 20,000 fans screaming and yelling. Osborne then fanned Bohne and forced Pinelli to pop to Grantham to end the contest.

From 4-0 to 4-3 with the tying run on third and one out in what seemed an instant, but the Cubs hung on to win the game.

April 17, 1934

Six years before Bob Feller threw what is still the only Opening Day no-hitter, Cubs righthander Lon Warneke nearly became the first to throw a no-no in a season opener.

Again, the no-hitter was intact through eight innings.

Irving Vaughn of the Tribune picks up the story:

Warneke broadcast the power of his arm by holding Cincinnati to one hit, a single after one was out in the ninth inning.

Adam Comorosky, an ex-Pirate, slammed the door in the face of the fireballing Chicagoan. He singled to center, a sort of lazy hit that appeared as if the effort had only been half hearted.

A ground ball followed that could have been a game-ending double play, but the relay throw was muffed. A popup to second ended the contest in a 6-0 Cubs win. Warneke walked two and struck out 13.

September 2, 1950

In front of a Wrigley Field crowd of 12,261, Ewell Blackwell of the Reds stood one inning away from the first no-hitter at Wrigley Field since 1917.

It was not to be. Blackwell had walked five and the Cubs had scored a run in the bottom of the eighth. Phil Cavarretta led off the ninth with a sharp single to left on a 2-2 count. Blackwell then struck out Roy Smalley and got Hank Sauer to hit into a game-ending double play to preserve his 5-1 win.

May 21, 1955

Warren Hacker, who was probably one of the Cubs’ two best starters (Bob Rush the other) in the dead zone that was mid-1950s Cubs baseball, took a no-hitter into the ninth at Milwaukee County Stadium against the Braves.

Just nine days earlier, Sam Jones had no-hit the Pirates at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs entered this day 19-15 and tied for second place in the National League. Could the Cubs throw two no-nos in a 10-day period and maybe contend for the pennant?

The answers, obviously, were no and no. Edward Burns of the Tribune wrote:

Instead, a villain suddenly appeared in the ninth and messed up Hacker’s no hit script in a big way. This character, George Crowe, an extra in the Milwaukee Braves’ ranks, smashed a home run into the right field seats.

Hacker lost his no hitter but he retired the next two batters to win the game, 2 to 1, fourth straight victory for the third place Cubs and eighth in their last nine.

Needless to say, the rest of 1955 didn’t go so well for the Cubs. They finished sixth at 72-81.

All of this data is from this excellent article. Tomorrow begins an article a day on each of the other 12 games (seven Cubs pitchers with no-nos broken up, seven when Cubs hitters broke up one). I’m going to do these in chronological order, so those for the Cubs will be interspersed with those against them.