Lights Out: Sam McDowell Pitches Back-to-Back One-Hitters
When: May 1, 1966
Where: Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Game Time: 2.51
He came into the 1966 season as the reigning American League champion in strikeouts (325 in 1965) and ERA (2.18). And Sam McDowell started out the 1966 season proving he was not only the league’s most overpowering pitcher, but also, at his best, almost unhittable.
McDowell opened the season with 3 victories in his 4 April starts, including a complete game victory over the New York Yankees and a one-hit shutout against the Kansas City Athletics. Six days following his one-hitter, he faced the Chicago White Sox and did what only three major league pitchers had done before.
McDowell squared off against White Sox left-hander Tommy John, who had won 14 games for Chicago in 1965 after being acquired from the Indians the previous winter. After pitching a scoreless first inning, John gave up a two-out double to Pedro Gonzalez. The next Tribe batter, shortstop Larry Brown, singled to drive in Gonzalez.
It would be the only run of the game.
John would allow only four more hits in pitching through the seventh inning. Reliever Bob Locker pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the White Sox. But allowing even one run wouldn’t be good enough against McDowell that day.
McDowell not only pitched his second consecutive shutout that day (and third consecutive complete game), but also tossed his second consecutive one-hitter, a feat that hadn’t been done since Lon Warneke pitched back-to-back one-hitters in 1934. (Of course, Johnny Vander Meer pitched back-to-back no-hitters in 1938.) McDowell faced 34 White Sox batters, striking out 10 (for the second consecutive game) and walking five. The only White Sox hit came in the third inning when Don Buford doubled.
McDowell would win only five more games the rest of the season. Ongoing shoulder problems reduced his number of starts, and generally feeble support from Cleveland bats limited McDowell to only a 9-8 season, even with five shutouts, a league-leading 225 strikeouts and a 2.87 ERA.