Tom Seaver pitched one no-hitter in his major league career.

It was on a sticky Friday night, summer of 1978. Ten days before, I’d delivered the commencement address for my graduating class from Princeton High School. For those from out of town, Princeton is a public high school about 15 miles north of the Ohio River. “Hotel California,” “Carry On Wayward Son,” and, of course, “Stairway to Heaven” were my senior-year jukebox choices. I hadn’t discovered Dylan yet.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the Reds here in 1978. Particularly to a teenager who had played Cincinnati Knothole Baseball and lived in the area for all but the first six months of his life. That was before Little League travel teams. Baseball identity was small-neighborhood local. Our biggest games took us from Springdale to Sharonville, some years to Evendale.

I was one of those kids who grew up with the voices of Joe Nuxhall, Al Michaels and Marty Brennaman under my pillow. Back then, the Reds gave out 24″x36″ posters of a different star player every year. Bench, Rose, Morgan, Nolan and Perez adorned my bedroom ceiling, along with ’75 and ’76 World Championship team posters. (Don’t embarrass me in front my Tom Terrific Rookie Card by asking where those posters are now.) 

That summer of Tom Seaver’s no-hitter, the Reds were only a season removed from those back-to-back titles. Tony Perez was gone, with Dan Driessen in his place. But the rest of the Great Eight remained intact, Sparky Anderson still the skipper. That 1978 Reds team won 92 games — something they’ve only done twice in the 40 years since — but finished behind the L.A. Dodgers in the NL West. Dusty Baker was the Dodgers’ left fielder. 

In a bitter dispute over salary, the Mets had shipped their ace to Cincinnati the previous June at the trade deadline. It was a deal so favoring the Reds that “massacre” spelled with a capital-M is the word chosen to describe it. Seaver (32) was one of the best pitchers in baseball, having won three Cy Young Awards and led the NL in strikeouts five times.

But Tom Seaver had never thrown a major league no-hitter.

Five times with the Mets Seaver had given up just one hit. It was dumb, but Reds fans had an acute awareness of this gap in his resumé and wanted it plugged. Despite Seaver’s glittering record, people dwelled on the fact he’d never gone the full route. I remember it being on my mind as I listened to the end of the game and wondered if this would be the time Tom Seaver would finally do it.

Like many nights that summer, I was playing tennis with my best friend at our neighborhood recreation center. We usually tried to find a doubles match because my tennis game, despite the help of a new-fangled Wilson T2000, needed the support offered by my friend’s superior ability. Lucky for us that evening, though, we were playing singles. We could stop when we heard the news.

Tom Seaver was late into another no-hitter attempt.

Here’s what I re-learned today from the box score: 38,000+ fans were in attendance at Riverfront Stadium. Pete Rose had a couple hits and drove in two runs. Driessen hit a home run. Johnny Bench didn’t play. Joe Morgan doubled, walked twice and stole a base. Seaver walked three and struck out three. The Reds beat the Cardinals, who were led by Lou Brock, Ted Simmons and Keith Hernandez, 4-0.

People who study psychology call it a Flashbulb Memory. It’s when you have picture-perfect recall about a moment when you find out about something, even more so than the event itself. Flashbulb Memories are autobiographical and highly personal. They’re associated with experiences that carry strong emotion. For Mets fans of a certain age, the day their club traded Tom Seaver to the Reds is one of those memories.  

Yet, I’m not exactly sure how we found out that night. On a Friday night in June, the softball fields and tennis courts at the Springdale Rec Center would have been busy. Like I said, our community cared a lot about the Reds then. “Tom Seaver is pitching a no-hitter” is the kind of good news that would have spread fast from neighbor to neighbor. It was opposite in kind of the sad news we learned Thursday that makes this post timely.

Forty-one years later, I still remember stopping in the middle of our tennis match, running home a couple blocks and turning on WLW to hear the Reds’ Tom Seaver finish his no-hitter.

Photo of Riverfront Stadium by Rick Dikeman. The license for the photo can be found here.

28 Responses

  1. Mason Red

    I was 16 when Tom Terrific pitched this no no. A friend of mine had an extra ticket to the game but I decided not to go. Major blunder!

  2. Scott Laney

    I was 10 the summer of 78 and remember listening to it in my uncle’s kitchen as he drank beer and taught me how to shuffle a deck of cards. Same uncle taught me how to throw a 12-6 curve. Great memory!!

  3. doofus

    It was 41 years ago in the mid-afternoon at Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu when I heard on the radio that #41 had pitched a no-hitter.

  4. Scott C

    I was 26 and had recently moved from Cincinnati to Findlay, OH. I listened the game on WLW. It was scratchy but by the end of the game was coming in pretty well.

  5. Sowelo

    I have this game on CD. I break it out from time to time and love listening to a young Marty and Joe.

  6. Steve Mancuso

    Great reading the collective memory shared in the comments.

  7. Eric the Red

    I’m still bitter about Fernandomania cheating Seaver out of the Cy Young. I haven’t looked up what the advanced stats say about that decision, but through my Reds-colored glasses–then and now–it was a travesty.

  8. Lynn Rinck

    I still have my tickets stubs from that game. I was there with my husband, a 1971 Princeton graduate.

  9. Darryl

    I went to the game with my dad, brother and a neighborhood friend on tickets someone gave my dad. One of my many favorite memories of going to the Reds games… I miss those days.

  10. Indy Red Man

    I don’t remember listening to that game unfortunately, but I remember trying to drive off the mound with my legs and get that stain on my knee like Seaver. I never came close. Pitchers don’t use their lower half like that anymore….maybe thats there are so many TJs now?

    • MK

      They don’t teach it that way. Seaver must have had tremendous movement on his fastball as when he got low he was basically losing some of the advantage of pitching on a hill. His pitch would be on same plane as the bat. Now the emphasis is more about staying tall to provide more of a downward angle on the ball to give the hitter a smaller contact opportunity.

  11. vegastypo

    Great, great memory, thanks for sharing, Steve. … MLB Network ran a Seaver feature in which he talked about completing the no-hitter, and how he really wanted to get that last guy out, George Hendrick, rather than having to face Ted Simmons, who was on deck …

    Newspaper accounts said Seaver attributed it to realizing that his 4-0 lead would be in danger if he let another man reach base. (Jerry Mumphrey had walked to lead off the ninth.) … That feature made it sound like a bit more of a mind game between Seaver and Simmons.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing !!

  12. kmartin

    I was playing softball that night. After the game we were at a tavern drinking beer and eating cheeseburgers. I remember watching the account of the game on the evening news.

  13. KDJ

    That season I was a first year little-leaguer playing on the last place team. That night, we played the first place team, but four or five of their best players went that Reds game. It was one of our few wins that season. Seaver’s no-hitter and our unlikely win are forever entwined.

  14. Craig

    We left our wedding reception in Columbus and turned on the radio to literally hear Marty’ s call of the last out. A perfect night made even more memorable.

  15. Tom

    It was the last game I went to before leaving for basic training. In the 5th inning I bet my girlfriend $5 that he wouldn’t do it. I was never more excited to lose a bet!

    • Steve Mancuso

      The way the excitement builds as the no-hitter becomes more plausible is fantastic. I wasn’t at the Seaver game, but I was at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter. A unique experience.

      • Anthony

        I had a chance to go to the Tom Seaver game but I didn’t go. But I was at Homer Bailey’s second no hitter

  16. zoro7957

    Don Werner was the second half of the battery.

    • Eric

      I wondered about that – thank you. Man, I’ll bet JB still shakes his head when he thinks about missing out on that one.

  17. KELLY GREEN

    I was there for that one! 11 years old at the time. We already had tickets for Saturday’s game, but we were driving up on Friday afternoon, so I begged my parents to go to Friday’s game too! Unlike most of my begging attempts as a child, this one actually worked and we saw the game from the red seats.

  18. redfan4life

    I was 11 at the time. I remember listening to it on WLW.
    I went to the game the next day on Sat. Bench didn’t play that day either.
    Vic Correll and Don Werner both played. I think Bench may have been on the D.L. during that time frame. Because I highly doubt they would have had both Werner and Correll on the roster had Bench been healthy. I know those were the days of 7 man benches but the Reds rarely carried three catchers at least not before Sept.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Looks like Bench was on the DL from June 12 to 27. He also missed 10 games before June 11. Although it looks like he didn’t miss many games once he came back June 30. Played almost every day.

      Bench played only 107 games at catcher in 1978. It was the first year he didn’t win the Gold Glove for catching, dating back to 1968 his rookie year.

      • redfan4life

        That makes since with both Correll and Werner being on the roster at same time.

  19. Wm.

    I was 14. My home was 20 miles south of Cincinnati, but we were on vacation in the DC area. Not even sure how we found out now, but I remember my family and I talking about it in our hotel room (that night?).

    I was looking for something else earlier this evening in a bin of personal keepsakes from my HS years and came across my rolled-up Concepcion and Perez posters…

  20. Ron

    I was 12 and listened in my living room. I was biggest baseball and reds fan in my Indiana neighborhood. I remember running outside to tell anyone who was still up and around what had happened. They weren’t nearly as enthused as I was. Haha