Dave Stieb: Squeezed Out Of A Perfect Game?

After Matthias’ excellent posting yesterday on Dave Stieb vs. Roy Halladay, I started to think about the perfect game that Stieb lost in the bottom of the 9th inning vs. New York in 1989. I was able to finagle some old footage of the game and it is amazing to see how close came to actually achieving the perfect game vs. those hated Yankees:

Stieb’s first pitch to Roberto Kelly can be seen around the 1:12 mark. To me, it looks like a strike.  But the ump calls it a ball.  Stieb follows up with a pitch that misses to make it 2-0.  At that point he is pretty much forced to pitch Kelly a strike and Kelly laces it into LF for the double. Had that first pitch been called a strike, Stieb would have had a little more wiggle room. What might have happened then?  Would Kelly have chased a fastball/slider combination from Stieb out of the zone? That’s what I love about the game of baseball.  Anything can happen and the entire outcome of a game can hinge on a single pitch.

Eventually, Stieb was able to achieve that elusive no hitter:

What is also remarkable about Stieb is that during the 1988 season he pitched 3 one-hitters, including his last two starts in which his no-hit bid was broken up by soft seeing-eye-singles with 2 outs in the 9th. Not so much remarkable as incredible.  He was truly a treat to have in Toronto and a bona-fide stud.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of seeing Stieb pitch, below is a little highlight reel of his from the 1990 season.

Update: Kman took a couple of screencaps to see where the ball crossed the plate.

Judging from the screencap, it looks like the ball hasn’t quite reached the plate yet but is already on the inside corner.  What are your thoughts?


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has written for Mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Callum on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (@callumhughson)

  • Question:

    If Stieb is able to convert on… let’s say one or two of his no-hit or even the perfect game bids, does he get a few more HOF votes in 2004?

  • Good question. The obvious comparison to Stieb is Morris, who still lingers on the ballot. In my mind he is there for his 10 inning playoff performance. Add an additional no-hitter or perfect game for Stieb and is he neck and neck with Morris? Probably.

  • Also, I love the fact he was thinking about the no-hitter in the 2nd or 3rd inning. Cocky stud. Stieb always did have that swagger.

  • Hate to say it, but that first pitch to Kelly is a ball. (Unless you were Jonathan Sanchez’s home plate umpire, in which case, it’s right down broadway.)

  • This is definitely splitting hairs, but I don’t care it is fun anyway. Remember, any piece of the ball that touches the strike zone is a strike.

    Try this on for size: http://www.mopupduty.com/orly.jpg

  • Jamie

    I remember watching that no-hitter live on TV at the time. It was in the old Cleveland ballpark back in 1990. I recall it was a Sunday afternoon game in early September and there had been much talk at that point about Stieb perhaps finally winning 20 games that season (which didn’t happen).

    Anyway, for me this was a very special moment because of the build-up from Stieb having lost so many no-hitters (and the perfect game) in the two seasons prior. It really seemed as though he was jinxed or something.

    During the game itself my nerves were completely shot and it got more and more intense obviously as the game went on.

    One thing that stuck out for me was that Cleveland had this little pesky slap and run type hitter in their lineup named Alex Cole – kind of like a Joey Gathright clone. Anyway Stieb seemed aware that this guy could break-up the no-no with an infield hit at anytime. So Stieb was smart, he pitched around him, walking him twice I believe.

    Another thing I remember was the lack of run support (kind of a Stieb theme throughout his career). The Jays didn’t score at all until either the 5th or 6th inning and they never did break-it-open and give Stieb a cushion really. So the game itself was on the line pretty much the whole time.

  • I took my much younger brother to this game, the first pro game he had ever been to. I was already a Dave Steib fan, of course, but that was really special.

    Jesse Barfield was a Yankee then. I remember him striking out perfunctorily late in the game, away from the plate shaking his head in disbelief at the movement of Steib’s pitches that day.

    It took a great catch from Kelly Gruber just to nail down the shutout.

    Thanks for putting this together.

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  • sal

    i had forgotten it was a 2-0 count on Roberto Kelly

  • kwilson2008

    Great article Callum. I remember that night against the Yankees. We had people coming over and I watched the first couple of innings and I knew he had no hit stuff. The Yankees weren’t coming close to touching the ball. When the other 2 couples came over I told the guys that we have to watch the rest of the game because I think this is the night that Steib is going to do it. The 3 of us all played fastball together and understand the mindset of the hitter and the pitcher. I was so ticked off when they called that first pitch a ball when it was almost certainly a strike. As a hitter the dynamics of the at bat is totally different at 0-1 than 1-0. Once it got to 2-0, Steib had to throw something that caught a lot more of the plate because he couldn’t afford to go 3-0. If he had already walked somebody, and the perfect game was no longer a possibility, he could have afforded to be more careful on the 2-0 pitch and still keep his no hitter intact.

    I also remember his near consecutive no hitters. With 2 outs in the 9th against Cleveland, the hitter hit a routine ground ball to Manny Lee that hit a clump of dirt and bounced 10 feet over his head. The worst bad luck I’ve ever seen. Then in the next game I think he went to 0-2 on the last guy and he hit a lazy texas leaguer that the first baseman, 2nd baseman and right fielder all came within 2 feet of catching. More incredible bad luck. If Roberto Alomar was playing second base I’m sure he would have caught that ball. Steib wasn’t the most pleasant guy to be around but he was as hard luck as any pitcher I ever recall. But for that bad luck (not to mention some incompetence by the umpire in the Kelly at bat), Steib should have had 4 no hitters which would put him right up there with the incomparable Sandy Koufax and behind only Nolan Ryan.