KANSAS CITY -- Former Royals right-hander Bret Saberhagen has certainly been to baseball’s mountain top. He earned a World Series ring in 1985, a World Series Most Valuable Player trophy and two American League Cy Young Awards.
But the night Saberhagen will never forget came on Aug. 26, 1991, at Royals Stadium. It was the date Saberhagen threw the last no-hitter in club history, beating the White Sox, 7-0.
“I can remember just about every play," Saberhagen said during a recent return to Kauffman Stadium. “You have a lot of great memories in baseball … but when you have something as unique as a no-hitter, it tends to stay with you.”
Saberhagen knew he had special stuff that night. His fastball had its usual late life, and his breaking stuff was spot on. The White Sox never really had a chance, but nonetheless, the last out came with the dangerous Frank Thomas at the plate.
"It was a breaking ball to Frank, and he hit the ball to Terry Shumpert at second base," Saberhagen recalled. "Terry got it and fired to first, and that was it. Such a cool feeling."
The no-hitter, though, came with a smidge of controversy. With one out in the fifth, Dan Pasqua of the White Sox drove a deep fly toward the left-center-field gap. Left fielder Kirk Gibson at first seemed to be tracking the ball, but he misjudged it at the last moment and the ball caromed off his glove.
Official scorer Del Black made no ruling initially as he waited to see more replays. The stadium scoreboard operator, however, mistakenly gave the White Sox their first hit.
But Black, after seeing several replays, ruled it an E7.
“After the replays, I thought it was catchable,” Black said after the game. “He was there waiting for it. It didn’t appear he was straining to catch it.”
Saberhagen said a few years ago, “To this day, I always give Gibby crap. After they called it an error, Gibby came in [the dugout] and was complaining that it was an error. He was grumpy about it.
“And I told him, ‘Hey, if you were to hit a ground ball and you were trying to get an infield hit, you would have been busting your butt and running as hard as you can to first to get that hit -- unlike what you just did on that fly ball.’”
While pitching to the next batter, Saberhagen heard a roar from the crowd. The stadium scoreboard operator had taken the hit off the board.
“That’s when I really started focusing on every single hitter,” Saberhagen said.
Saberhagen walked two and struck out five on the night en route to history.
“Just a very special memory,” he said.