The Spoilers

This article was written by Ray Gonzalez

This article was published in 1974 Baseball Research Journal

Billy Williams of the Cubs has spoiled no-hit games for pitchers on four different occasions. Ironically, he did it, not by banging out a base hit in a one-hit game, but by collecting all the hits in 2-hit, 3-hit, and 4-hit games.

Williams achieved the ultimate on September 5, 1969, when Steve Blass of Pittsburgh held the Cubs to 4 hits and Billy got all of them.   In addition, they all went for extra bases — two doubles and two homers.   The only other time this feat was approached was on August 1, 1903, when Kid Elberfeld of the New York AL Club collected all four hits off Rube Waddell of the A’s. That time all four were singles.

On July 5, 1965, Williams collected all three hits off Woodie Pryman of the Pirates.   This time the hits were two singles and a double.   This feat by a batter was achieved by 21 others since 1900, but never twice by the same hitter. It did happen twice to a pitcher.   In consecutive starts on July 8 and 12, 1969, Baltimore southpaw Mike Cuellar set the Yankees down with three hits (all by Ron Woods) and the Red Sox (all by Tony Conigliaro).

In his first full year, on September 24, 1961, Williams reached Warren Spahn for two singles in what was otherwise a hitless effort for the Milwaukee ace. On July 25, 1970, Billy rapped Phil Niekro for two singles and the Braves’ knuckleballer wasn’t able to get his no-hitter until 1973.   The Cubs’ outfielder is one of five players to collect both hits off a hurler on two occasions. Other double spoilers were Duff Cooley of the Boston NL club in 1903 and 1904; Earl Averill of the Indians in 1935 and 1937;   Vada Pinson did it once in each league, in 1963 for the Reds, and 1970 for the Indians; and Henry Aaron for the Braves in 1959 and 1962.

The two hits that Aaron made off long-forgotten hurler Willard Hunter of the Mets on June 20, 1962, were both homers.  They were enough to beat the rookie hurler 3-2.  An even more uncommon happening took place on May 2, 1972 when Gary Gentry of the Mets tossed a 2-hitter against the Giants and both hits were triples — by Bobby Bonds.

So Williams stood in the way of four pitching gems by being the sole hit collector, but never was it just one bingle.  What about those more tense, emotional games where only one hit stood between a pitcher and baseball immortality?  How many spoilers were there who collected that crucial hit more than once?  There have been many; in fact, Bobby Doerr did it twice to the same pitcher — Bob Feller.

There were six players who were credited with breaking up three no-hitters with solitary hits. They were Sherry Magee, Harry Hooper, Bob Johnson, Del Ennis, Zoilo Versalles, and Jim Northrup.  The real spoilers, however, were those who broke up a record four no-hitters.   They were Ed Konetchy, Don Blasingame, and Cesar Tovar.   Koney did it in consecutive games on June 28 and 30, 1916.  Here is a summary of those crucial hits, so devastating to a dozen aspiring hurlers.