August 30, 1941: Lon Warneke finally throws his no-hitter

After throwing four one-hitters in his 12-year major-league career, Lon Warneke could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the elusive no-hitter simply wasn’t meant to be.

There was his season-opening game with the Chicago Cubs in 1934, when Adam Comorosky singled to center field with one out in the ninth. Five days later, he threw another one-hitter, holding the Cardinals to a fifth-inning double by Ripper Collins. In 1939, now a member of the Cardinals, Warneke was a step slow in covering first base and the scorekeeper awarded Stan Hack a seventh-inning single to keep Warneke from perfection.

Earlier in the 1941 season, Warneke allowed a leadoff single to Philadelphia’s Heinie Mueller before holding the Phillies hitless the rest of the way.

On August 31, 1941, however, Warneke was, as Bob Considine of the Cincinnati Enquirer documented, “a perfect pitching machine, not too fast, but smooth and sharp.”[1]  The Reds managed just two hits out of the infield the entire day – a fly ball to center field by Lonny Frey in the first inning and a drive by Frank McCormick in the seventh that forced Cardinals left fielder Don Padgett to the left-field fence.

“I gave them a little of everything I had, mixing up everything I knew how to throw, and not forgetting a change of pace,” Warneke said.[2]

Warneke only struck out two batters on the day, instead relying on his infield defense to record outs. Cincinnati didn’t get its first baserunner until the bottom of the fifth, when Frank McCormick reached on an error by Cardinals second baseman Creepy Crespi. Warneke struck out the next batter, Jim Gleeson, and catcher Walker Cooper caught McCormick stealing for a double play.

In the top of the seventh, the Cardinals finally got Warneke the offensive support he needed for the win. With two outs, Jimmy Brown walked and Johnny Hopp followed with a single. Cincinnati center fielder Harry Craft missed a line drive by Padgett into the right-field gap to score the game’s only two runs. The play was ruled an error, but his postgame recap, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter J. Roy Stockton wrote that the play should have been ruled a double.[3]

In the bottom half of the inning, Warneke worked around a two-out walk to Frey, and in the eighth he benefitted from a 4-6-3 double play after Jim Gleeson reached on an error by Brown.

In the ninth, Warneke retired pinch hitters Lloyd Waner and Ernie Koy before getting Billy Werber to fly out to Johnny Mize at first base for the game’s final out. Mize tossed the ball to Warneke as his teammates congratulated the veteran right-hander affectionately known as the “Arkansas Hummingbird.” As the Associated Press reported, “there was no uproarious celebration – instead the quiet satisfaction of a job very well-done” and many of Warneke’s teammates simply stopped by his locker, shook his hand, and said, “nice going.”[4]

Warneke said that even though the Cincinnati faithful began to cheer for him in the late innings, he wasn’t thinking about the possibility of a no-hitter.

“It never crossed my mind,” he said. “When I’m pitching, I’m concentrating on my next pitch.”[5]

Center fielder Terry Moore, who missed the game while he was in the hospital recovering from a pitch to the head earlier that month, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a phone interview that Warneke’s accomplishment was wonderful “just when so many people thought he was all washed up.”

“As soon as the weather turns a little cool, Lon always does better,” Moore said. “He’ll be a great pitcher for us right down the stretch.”[6]

Enos Slaughter, who also missed the game due to injury, was visiting Moore in the hospital. He said that while a few of Warneke’s sliders have “slid right out of the park,” they have become the veteran’s best pitch.[7]

The win marked Warneke’s 15th of the season and improved the Cardinals to 80-45, two percentage points ahead of the 81-46 Dodgers for first place in the National League.

“Well, we won the game and recaptured first place,” Warneke said. “That’s all that matters to me.”[8]

Cincinnati’s Elmer Riddle took the tough-luck loss, scattering five hits and five walks without allowing an earned run. His record fell to 15-3 even as he lowered his ERA to 1.99.

Later that week, Warneke told the St. Louis Star and Times that he would undergo surgery on his knee to repair a bone growth that had developed on his left kneecap and was “sore as a boil most of the time.”[9]

Though the Dodgers wound up capturing the National League title, Warneke finished the season with a 17-9 record and a 3.15 ERA. He started 12 games for the Cardinals in 1942, going 6-4 with a 3.29 ERA, before he was sold to the Cubs for $7,500. He went 5-7 for the Cubs the remainder of the season despite a 2.27 ERA, and went 4-5 for the Cubs in 1943 before missing the 1944 season due to military service. After serving about a year and a half as the civilian director of recreation at the Shumaker Naval Ammunition Depot near Camden, Arkansas,[10] Warneke returned to the Cubs for nine games in 1945, all but one game of which came in relief.

He retired after the season with a 192-121 career record, five all-star appearances, the 1932 ERA title, and one no-hitter.

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[1] Bob Considine, “Those Nasty Giants Knock Brooks Out Of League Lead,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 31, 1941: Page 14.

[2] “Main Thing Is We Won – Warneke,” Des Moines Register, August 31, 1941: Section 5, Page 1.

[3] J. Roy Stockton, “No-Hit Game for Warneke as Cards Regain League Lead By Defeating Reds While Dodgers Lose Twin Bill to Giants,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 31, 1941: Page 8A.

[4] “Main Thing Is We Won – Warneke,” Des Moines Register, August 31, 1941: Section 5, Page 1.

[5] “Main Thing Is We Won – Warneke,” Des Moines Register, August 31, 1941: Section 5, Page 1.

[6] “Just the Tonic Lon Needed, Say Moore and Slaughter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 31, 1941: Page 8A.

[7] “Just the Tonic Lon Needed, Say Moore and Slaughter,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 31, 1941: Page 8A.

[8] Bob Considine, “Those Nasty Giants Knock Brooks Out Of League Lead,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 31, 1941: Page 14.

[9] “Warneke to Undergo Operation on Knee After Season Ends,” St. Louis Star and Times, September 2, 1941: Page 11.

[10] Don Duren, “Lon Warmeke,” Society for American Baseball Research,, Accessed September 28, 2020.

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