A pitcher throwing a no-hitter typically receives the silent treatment once the late innings roll around. His teammates begin giving him a wide berth, leaving him alone with his thoughts. No one wants to be the guy who ruined a no-hitter by doing or saying the wrong thing, which includes invading a pitcher’s solitude.
What do pitchers think of the superstitious convention? Do they like being avoided between innings, or would they prefer everything to be as normal as possible? I asked several pitchers, some of whom have thrown a no-hitter. Here are their responses:
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox: “In the sixth inning of mine, I was sitting in the dugout by myself. No one talked to me. I was here for Jon Lester’s and it was the same thing. When Josh Beckett threw his, he was walking around talking to guys. He treated his a little differently, but for the most part, everybody leaves you alone. But it wouldn’t bother me if someone talked to me.”
R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays: “It’s part of tradition. You see the pitcher sitting at the end of the bench. When Johan (Santana) threw his, I was in a different spot every time, starting in the sixth inning. Everyone wants to feel they had a part in it, psychologically. That’s what every superstition is. You put the right sock on before the left and feel that’s part of what helps you succeed. It’s a bunch of gibberish, of course.”
Dennis Eckersley, Red Sox broadcaster: “Guys did (avoid me), but every game I sort of had my own place to sit. But having a no-no, everybody knows that. Later in the game, they didn’t come near me. I was so young then – I was 22 years old – and looking back, I didn’t know the difference.”
Doug Fister, Nationals: “I don’t like to have things changing. I want everything to be normal. Even if it’s one of my teammates – I don’t want them to start acting weird or do anything out of the ordinary. Just do the same thing you would if I’ve given up three hits or 10 hits. I want everything to be consistent.”
Kevin Gausman, Orioles: “It’s kind of an unspoken rule. You try to not be the reason – you don’t want the pitcher to say, ‘He never talks to me, but he came and talked to me and that’s why I gave up a hit.’ But honestly, most guys don’t talk to the pitcher on the days he pitches anyway. Some guys are really social on the days they pitch, but I usually only talk to a couple of guys.”
Ubaldo Jimenez, Orioles: “I’d rather things were just normal. That way you don’t have to think about how you’re doing something different. I would like to be normal, talking to the guys and pretending everything is the same. When I threw mine, some people (avoided me) but I talked to a couple of the guys. They came to me and I came to them.”
Daniel Norris, Blue Jays: “The other day, Hutch (Drew Hutchison) had five or six no-hit innings and we were just trying to keep it on the low. That’s around the time you start noticing. We were kind of staying normal, but we definitely knew what was going on.”
Henry Owens, Red Sox prospect: “I refrain from saying anything if someone else has one going. Ask Brian Johnson about my first start this year. He said something right before I gave up a hit (in the sixth inning). But as far as superstitions go, I don’t really believe in them. Everyone was saying, ‘Brian, apologize,’ but I told him I didn’t care.”
Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals: “It’s just something they’ve been doing over the years, and it doesn’t affect me either way. Some pitchers don’t want to be bothered, but I’d rather keep it the same as if I was giving up three, four, or five hits. I don’t like sitting there by myself and not having anyone to talk to. You realize a no-hitter is going on whether there are people talking to you or not.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.