June 25, 1999: Cardinals Rookie Jose Jimenez out-duels Randy Johnson with no-hitter

 

On June 25, 1999, Arizona Diamondbacks fans came to Bank One Ballpark looking forward to a match-up between their flame-throwing left-hander, Randy Johnson, and the Cardinals’ record-breaking slugger, Mark McGwire. They indeed got to see something special – they just weren’t expecting it to come from rookie right-hander Jose Jimenez.

With the assistance of two exceptional plays from right fielder Eric Davis, Jimenez joined Paul Dean as just the second rookie in Cardinals history to throw a no-hitter (Dean accomplished the feat in 1934). He also became just the third pitcher from the Dominican Republic to throw one, joining the Giants’ Juan Marichal in 1963 and the Dodgers’ Ramon Martinez in 1995.

“It’s so hard to do,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “You see guys lose them in the seventh and eighth innings. To actually get one … against one of the top hitting teams in the National League … against Randy Johnson …” La Russa trailed off and shook his head. “It was just a hellacious game.”[1]

Despite facing a Diamondbacks offense that entered the game with a National League-leading .287 batting average, Jimenez only had to work around trouble a few times. After retiring Matt Williams on a ground ball to lead off the second inning, Jimenez walked Steve Finley on five pitches. Two pitches later, he got Travis Lee to hit a ground ball to Mark McGwire for an inning-ending double play.

In the third inning, Jimenez hit Andy Fox with a pitch but worked out of trouble, getting a groundout by Johnson and a strikeout of Tony Womack.

 

In the sixth, Davis made a diving catch to steal a hit from Fox. After the game, he sat on a chair with an ice pack on his left shoulder, an injury that had been bothering him before the game that was aggravated on the play. Had he considered coming out of the game?

“C’mon,” he said with a smile. “It was a no-hitter.”[2]

In the seventh, Luis Gonzalez drew a one-out walk. Once again, Jimenez, who learned his sinker from Class AA pitching coach Rich Folkers, got a ground ball to McGwire to start a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.

Heading into the ninth, Johnson had matched Jimenez every step of the way. Through eight innings, Johnson had struck out 12 batters, shutting out the Cardinals on just four hits. After striking out Joe McEwing to start the inning, Johnson walked Darren Bragg and McGwire in consecutive at-bats.

Davis struck out on three pitches for the 2,500th strikeout of Johnson’s career, but Thomas Howard worked the count full before breaking his bat on a blooper into left field, sending Bragg home with the winning run.

“I guess the only thing I’m discouraged about is walking two guys back to back,” Johnson said. “I was one pitch away from getting out of the inning. Unfortunately, he puts enough wood on the ball, breaks the bat, and that’s the ballgame.”[3]

It was the only blemish in an otherwise outstanding game for Johnson, who scattered just five hits and two walks while striking out 14. By the time he had thrown 77 pitches, Johnson had already struck out 10 Cardinals.

“I’m not going to lose too much sleep,” he said. “I pitched a pretty good game and we got no-hit.”[4]

In the bottom of the ninth, Jimenez struck out Fox on a 3-2 pitch, then benefitted from a diving, tumbling play by Davis, who grabbed a fly ball to shallow right field off the bat of pinch hitter David Dellucci. As Davis regained his feet and waved his arm, the ball slipped out of his glove, but the umpires correctly ruled the play a catch.

“I thought it would drop in,” Delucci said, “but I played with E.D. in Baltimore for a little bit and I know he’s a great outfielder. Anybody else and it might have been in there.”[5]

 

With Davis’s catch preserving the no-hitter, Jimenez got the final out on a ground ball to second base. McGwire gave the ball back to Jimenez, who kissed it. After the game, he sent it to his mother’s home in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.[6]

It was the first major league complete game for Jimenez, who had lost seven of his previous eight decisions with an 8.04 ERA heading into the game. It also was the first time the Diamondbacks franchise had been no-hit.

“This is something special,” Jimenez said. “I feel great. I feel like I want to fly.”[7]

It was a special day for the other Cardinals who saw Jimenez shut down the first-place Diamondbacks. KMOX broadcaster Mike Shannon, who by then had spent more than 40 years around major league baseball, including three World Series appearances as a player, called it one of the greatest games anyone involved would ever see.[8]

“If the score was 5-0 and a no-hitter, that would have been a good game,” Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee said. “But because it was 1-0, where one play, one run, one misplay could make the difference, that was beautiful.”[9]

“That will have to rank right up there with the best of them ever,” McGwire said.[10]

Jimenez finished the 1999 season with a 5-14 record and 5.85 ERA. In November, the Cardinals traded him, along with Manny Aybar, Brent Butler, and Rich Croushore to the Rockies for Darryl Kile, Dave Veres, and Luther Hackman.

In four seasons with the Rockies, Jimenez was primarily a relief pitcher, going 15-23 with a 4.13 ERA. He played his final major league season with the Indians in 2004.


[1] Dan Bickley, “Take game for what it was – gem of history,” Arizona Republic, June 26, 1999: C1.

[2] Dan Bickley, “Take game for what it was – gem of history,” Arizona Republic, June 26, 1999: C6.

[3] Richard Obert, “Praise for what’s-his-name,” Arizona Republic, June 26, 1999: C6.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Jimenez gives Arizona nothing,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 26, 1999: 4OT.

[5] Richard Obert, “Praise for what’s-his-name,” Arizona Republic, June 26, 1999: C6.

[6] Rick Hummel, “No words for Jimenez’s no-hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 27, 1999: F1.

[7] Don Ketchum, “2 diving catches save rookie’s gem,” Arizona Republic, June 26, 1999: C1.

[8] Rick Hummel, “No words for Jimenez’s no-hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 27, 1999: F1.

[9] Rick Hummel, “No words for Jimenez’s no-hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 27, 1999: F13.

[10] Rick Hummel, “No words for Jimenez’s no-hitter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 27, 1999: F1.

 

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