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🚨Houston’s Ken Johnson Throws No-Hitter but Loses Game

Apr. 23, 1964 - Knuckleballer Ken Johnson of the Houston Colts became the first major leaguer in history to pitch a no-hitter and lose when the Cincinnati Reds capitalized on two errors in the ninth inning tonight for a 1-0 victory at Colt Stadium. Eight other major league pitchers, the last of whom was Harvey Haddix in 1959, hurled no-hit ball for nine innings but gave up subsequent hits in extra innings to lose.

Johnson helped bring about his own downfall when he committed one of those ninth inning errors. Second baseman Nellie Fox committed the one which allowed the run to score. Fox apologized to Johnson, but the Colt pitcher gallantly told the veteran “it was all my fault.”

With one out in the ninth, Pete Rose bunted in front of the plate. Johnson, obviously nervous, threw wildly past first base. Rose went all the way to second on the misplay then advanced to third on Chico Ruiz’s infield out. That it made it two out.

Vada Pinson followed with a sharp bouncer to Fox, who fumbled the ball, allowing Pinson to reach first and Rose to score the only run.

It was a heartbreaking defeat for Johnson, who had won his first two games this season and five in a row previously at the end of the 1963 season. Tonight, he struck out nine batters and walked only two.

“So, I made history tonight,” Johnson declared afterward, grinning. “Hell of a way to get into the books, isn’t it?”

Outwardly, Johnson was relaxed and composed, and someone remarked on how he seemed to be taking this turn of wretched fortune.

“What else can I do?” asked Ken, still smiling. “I pitched the best game of my life. I can’t feel bad because I lost it. Actually, I feel worse for the guys on the club. I guess that sounds funny, but it’s true.”

The rest of the Colts, in fact, looked like they had just received foreclosure notices from the mortgage company. Fox dressed slowly and left without a word.

Asked what he had told Fox, Johnson said, “It wasn’t his fault. It was mine. I put the guy [Rose] on base, and I have no one to blame but myself. I knew I had to make a quick throw. I grabbed the ball with three fingers, and I threw a perfect sinker — low and away, and behind Pete. A good throw would have got him.”

Outfielder Johnny Weekly, who took a called third strike for the last out of the game with the tying run at first, kept staring at the floor.

“It’s a crime,” he said, “that we didn’t win this one for Kenny.”

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