No-hitters have always stayed just out of reach for Blue Jays pitchers, and that was the case for Dave Stieb -- until he finally got the final out on Sept. 2, 1990.
In the two seasons prior, Stieb had lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth and a pair of no-hitters with two outs in the ninth. Then, on the 123rd pitch of his game against the Indians, Stieb forced Jerry Browne to line out to right fielder Junior Felix. The curse was over.
“FINALLY,” read the first page of the sports section the next day in the Toronto Star. On the front page of the newspaper was a scene of Stieb being mobbed by his teammates under the banner of “Stieb pitches Jays’ 1st no-hitter.”
It was the first, and still, it’s the only. Many have made their runs since, but much like Stieb in the 80s, they’ve fallen just short.
“I’ve seen too much happen before,” Stieb said following the game. “To be honest, I can hardly believe what I did today. I wasn’t nervous and, no doubt, being there so many times before helped.”
Stieb didn’t even feel like he had his best stuff that day against Cleveland. He told reporters following the historic moment that he didn’t have his best control and battled to find his release point through the early innings, hanging some pitches that he felt fortunate to get away with. He even went as far as saying he’d had much better stuff in his near-misses, but there was something else at play.
“Luck,” Stieb said. “There’s so much luck involved in a no-hitter, and that’s all it was today.”
Whether it’s luck, karma, talent or a combination, Stieb got it done. Let’s take a look back at some of the Blue Jays’ other notable near-misses, including Stieb’s.
Sept. 24, 1988: Dave Stieb vs. Indians
After Rob Ducey brought home Fred McGriff on a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead, the stage was set for Stieb’s run at history. Following a strikeout and groundout to open the inning, though, Julio Franco broke up Stieb’s bid with two outs. He’d retire the next batter and earn the win, and his next shot was coming soon.
Sept. 30, 1988: Dave Stieb vs. Orioles
In Stieb’s very next outing, he was even better. The right-hander had allowed just one walk and cruised through the Orioles’ lineup until, you guessed it, there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This time, it was Jim Traber who singled to right field to break up the bid. Stieb finished out the complete-game win on just 90 pitches.
Aug. 4, 1989: Dave Stieb vs. Yankees
This was another 90-pitch gem for Stieb that made it to the finish line with a perfect game on the line. After striking out Hal Morris and Ken Phelps to open the bottom of the ninth, Stieb gave up a double to Roberto Kelly then a single to Steve Sax before getting Luis Polonia for the final out.
Sept. 27, 1998: Roy Halladay vs. Tigers
Back before Roy Halladay was known as "Doc" and became arguably the greatest player to ever wear a Blue Jays uniform, he was a 21-year-old kid called up in late September in 1998 to get his feet wet. He did much more than that. In just his second MLB start, Halladay carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the ninth against the Tigers before Bobby Higginson launched a solo home run to left field. It was a heartbreaker at the time, but Halladay still finished with his classic line of a complete game on 95 pitches.
Aug. 8, 2010: Brandon Morrow vs. Rays
One of the great individual performances in Blue Jays history, Morrow struck out a whopping 17 batters in his quest for a no-hitter, throwing 137 pitches. Once again, it came down to the very last out. Evan Longoria sent a ground ball to the right side that second baseman Aaron Hill got to, but wasn’t able to make the difficult play on, giving the Rays their first hit.