On this day in 1951, Cleveland Indians ace Bob Feller pitches the third no-hit game of his career to lead the Indians over the Detroit Tigers 2-1. This made him the first modern pitcher ever to throw three no-hitters.
Feller was born November 3, 1918, in Van Meter, Iowa, and spent much of his childhood practicing pitching against the side of a barn on his family’s farm. At just 16 years old, in July 1935, Feller signed with the Cleveland Indians. On August 25, 1936, when he was still only 17, Feller made his first start, striking out 15 St. Louis Browns with a blazing fastball and knee-buckling curveball that became the hallmarks of his long and storied career. Later that season, Feller struck out 17 Philadelphia Athletics in one game to set an American League record and tie Dizzy Dean’s modern major league record for most strikeouts in a game. Two years later, Feller broke Dean’s record when he struck out 18 Detroit Tigers. The performance set a modern record that stood for 31 years.
On opening day in 1940, Feller pitched his first no-hitter–the only no-hitter ever on opening day–to lead his team over the Chicago White Sox. When Feller enlisted in the military at 22, he already had 109 wins, far and away the most ever for a player of his age. Feller returned from World War II in time for the second half of the 1945 season and in 1946, he threw his second no-hitter, this one over the mighty New York Yankees.
After a mediocre season in 1950, questions began to surface about Feller’s effectiveness. He answered in 1951, when he started the season with a 10-2 record. On July 1, Feller’s Indians, who were battling the Yankees for the American League pennant, met the Tigers for a doubleheader in Cleveland. Feller started the first game, and, to the dismay of the hometown fans, was unable to establish his signature fastball. Instead, he was forced to rely on his curveballs, sliders and veteran guile. Tiger pitcher Bob Cain was a worthy foe, limiting the Indians to six hits and two runs. The Indians scored one in the first, but then Cain held them in check until the bottom of the eighth. With two outs in the ninth and the Cleveland faithful on their feet in Cleveland Stadium, Feller struck out Vic Wertz, his fifth strikeout of the day, to ring up the third no-hit game of his career.
Bob Feller retired from baseball after the 1956 season. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.