The Dodgers have 23 no-hitters in their history, and the very first one came 129 years ago today, when Brooklyn right-hander Tom Lovett blanked the rival New York Giants.
Lovett was 27 years old when he pitched the no-hitter, a home game at Eastern Park on June 22, 1891. This was Lovett’s third year with Brooklyn, and Brooklyn’s second year in the National League.
In 1890, Lovett led the National League in winning percentage (.732), going 30-11 with a 2.78 ERA, his 126 ERA+ the only above average adjusted ERA of his six-year career. He remains the only Dodgers pitcher to win 30 games in a National League season, and followed it up with a 23-19 season in 1891.
New York came to town atop the NL at 29-18, six and a half games up on fifth-place Brooklyn, floundering at 24-26. But as the New York Times described in the next day’s paper, “They were not Giants yesterday, either at-bat or in the field. They were veritable pygmies.” (1)
That Lovett went the full nine innings wasn’t a surprise. He completed 39 of his 43 starts this season, after completing 39 of his 41 starts in 1890. This was one of three shutouts in 1891 for the right-hander.
Brooklyn scored single runs in the first and second innings, then tallied runs in the fifth and sixth. Darby O’Brien and second baseman Hub Collins each doubled and scored two runs, and the Dodgers benefited from a whopping eight Giants errors, including three by New York catcher Artie Clarke.
That was more than enough for Lovett, who as one newspaper account put it, gave the Giants “the worst defeat they ever had at Brooklyn to-day.” (2)
It was the 13th no-hitter in National League history, and the league’s first in six years. Given the Giants’ excellent record was quite noteworthy. The Giants were right at league average in runs per game, but led the NL in OPS+ (106). But nobody knew what that was in 1891, so let’s settle on the fact that New York also led the league batting .263 as a team.
“Thomas Lovett, the Brooklyn pitcher, achieved a record on Monday which will probably never again be duplicated by any living man against the same team,” said the account in The Wilkes-Barre Record. (3) “The New York club has been hitting with great effect of late, and the team comprises men who are liable to knock the cover from the ball at any moment. Lovett pitched this club out in a full nine-inning game without giving them even a single hit, or even the semblance of one.
“The men tried bunting, tapping and every known tactic, but all to no purpose. The record is surprising and phenomenal.”
This was the only Dodgers no-hitter thrown at Eastern Park. The franchise’s next no-hitter came on the road in St. Louis in 1906 by Malcolm Eason.
- The Dodgers Encyclopedia, by William McNeil. Page 299
- “Didn’t Get a Hit,” Pittsburgh Dispatch, June 23, 1891.
- “Base Ball News,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, June 25, 1891.