Cubs pitchers had been responsible for six no-hitters in the 18 seasons from 1955-72 (Sam Jones, Don Cardwell, two by Ken Holtzman, Burt Hooton and Milt Pappas). They seemed almost commonplace.
More than a decade had gone by since Pappas’ no-hitter (and near perfect game) in 1972 when Chuck Rainey took the mound for the Cubs against the Reds on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon, August 24, 1983. Both teams were far under .500 and out of contention, yet 17,955, a pretty good crowd considering the matchup, paid to see this ballgame.
Rainey began mowing down Reds hitters. The first 18 Cincinnati batters went down in order, 10 by groundout, which was Rainey’s specialty.
The Cubs couldn’t do anything with Mario Soto until the sixth, when Leon Durham tripled and a sacrifice fly by Keith Moreland scored him to make it 1-0 Cubs.
Rainey’s perfect game bid ended with a leadoff walk to Eddie Milner in the seventh. Milner promptly stole second, but Rainey retired the next three hitters to keep the no-no intact.
The Cubs extended their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh when Mel Hall hit a two-run double.
Rainey walked Johnny Bench to lead off the eighth, but a groundout and a double play ended that inning with the no-hit bid still going, and Rainey had faced only 25 batters, just one over the minimum through eight innings. The Cubs didn’t score in the bottom of the eighth and so on the game went, three outs from immortality for Rainey.
Tom Foley grounded out, then Alan Knicely, batting for Soto, also hit a ground ball, this one back to Rainey for out number 2. That’s 16 outs on ground balls, a game Kyle Hendricks would have been proud of.
Milner, whose walk ruined the perfect game bid, was the next batter:
A no-doubt line drive up the middle on the first pitch. Sigh.
Rainey got Duane Walker to pop to short to complete the one-hitter, a 3-0 Cubs win. For the Cubs righthander, it was the last of six MLB shutouts he threw.
Of the pitch that ruined the no-hit bid, Cubs catcher Steve Lake was quoted in the Tribune recap:
“We had been getting Milner out on that pitch all day,” Lake said. “Couldn’t change on him now. He just happened to hit it. I’m left with an empty feeling now.”
“Milner’s basically a pull hitter,” Rainey said. “I can’t second-guess myself.”
Rainey had been acquired from the Red Sox in December 1982 for Doug Bird; he put together two not-awful seasons for two pretty bad Cubs teams and then was traded to the A’s in July 1984 for a PTBNL, who turned out to be Davey Lopes. That one worked out all right for the Cubs.