One of the biggest stories surrounding the 1993 Cubs was the fact that general manager Larry Himes had let Greg Maddux walk as a free agent, despite the fact that Maddux had wanted to stay.
Once Maddux left, Himes signed a number of other players using money that had been earmarked for Greg. One of those players was righthander Jose Guzman, who had pitched six seasons for the Texas Rangers, 1985-88 and 1991-92, missing all of 1989 and 1990 with shoulder issues.
Himes signed Guzman to a four-year, $14.3 million deal. As fate would have it, the Cubs opened the 1993 season against Maddux and the Braves, but Guzman would not be the Cubs pitcher to face the former Cub on Opening Day. That fell to Mike Morgan. Maddux and the Braves beat Morgan and the Cubs 1-0, and so it was Guzman making his Cubs debut against John Smoltz in the season’s second game April 6.
It was a sunny but chilly afternoon (42 degrees at game time) when Guzman took the mound against Atlanta. The Braves went down in order in the first inning and the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the frame. Rey Sanchez singled and Mark Grace doubled him in.
And then... a whole lot of nothing ensued. No one from either team reached base after that until a leadoff single by Jose Vizcaino in the fifth.
Guzman, meanwhile, hadn’t allowed anything and didn’t through seven, the first 21 Braves going down in order, seven by strikeout.
Terry Pendleton led off the eighth. On an excruciatingly close 3-2 pitch, he walked, breaking up Guzman’s perfect game bid. After pinch-runner Deion Sanders was caught stealing, Guzman issued another walk, but retired the next two hitters, the no-hitter intact through eight.
The Cubs went down without scoring in the bottom of the eighth, and Guzman was sent out for the ninth with that 1-0 lead.
Mark Lemke grounded out. Francisco Cabrera, who had been the Atlanta hero in the previous year’s NLCS, batted for Smoltz and popped up.
One out to go for the record books.
Alan Solomon of the Tribune wrote what happened next:
Otis Nixon broke up the no-no with two outs on a line-drive, no-doubt single to left. It came on an 0-1 fastball down the middle.
“I tried not to throw a fastball down the middle the whole game,” said Guzman, who succeeded for most of the nippy afternoon. “That’s part of the game. I made some other pitches down the middle, and we made good plays.”
Solomon noted good defensive plays by Sanchez (in the fifth) and Sammy Sosa (in the sixth) that helped preserve the almost-gem.
Nixon was balked to second, but Jeff Blauser hit a ball caught by Sanchez in short left to finish off the one-hitter.
Guzman threw 124 pitches to complete the one-hit shutout, a total that probably would not be allowed today — most modern pitchers would get lifted after allowing a hit that broke up a no-hitter in the late innings.
Guzman wasn’t that good the rest of 1993, finishing with a 4.34 ERA in 30 starts. He appeared in only four more games for the Cubs after that year, all in 1994, finishing off the last two years of his Cubs contract injured and rehabbing in the Cubs minor league system. He did come back and pitch two years of indy ball at Ft. Worth in 2001 and 2002 at age 38 and 39.