Jordan Zimmermann’s stunning 1-0 one-hit victory over the Cincinnati Reds Friday night quite possibly was the best pitching performance for the Nationals since baseball returned to Washington in 2005.
Zimmermann, however, would have to hurl five more complete-game shutouts in order to get close to matching what Walter Johnson did for the Washington Senators exactly 100 years ago.
In April and May of 1913, Johnson pitched 55 2/3’s consecutive innings without allowing a run.
The story is told by Henry W. Thom as in his remarkable 1998 book “Walter Johnson: Baseball’s Big Train.”
“Of all the great streaks and records in his career, Johnson was proudest of his 56 (sic) consecutive scoreless innings, a record set in St. Louis on May 14 in a 10=-5 win over the Browns. Although normally paying records and statistics little heed, he bore down from the start on this occasion, when just two outs were needed to break Jack Coombs’ standard of 53 straight innings without giving up a run. A strikeout of the first batter tied the records before a fly-out to centerfield (by Pete Compton who had also ended Johnson’s 16 game win streak) broke it. Johnson then added three more innings to the record” before the Browns got a run in the fourth on a double by rightfielder Gus Williams and a single by Del Pratt to end the amazing streak.
Johnson’s scoreless inning streak lasted until 1968 when Don Drysdale put together 58 scoreless innings in a season now known as the year of the pitcher. In 1988 Orel Hershiser dramatically bested the Drysdale record by one inning pitching 10 scoreless innings for the Dodgers in their final game of the regular season.
Marty is a retired journalist who started covering sports for the old Washington Daily News. He moved on to better weather in Hawaii, working for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and later as a business reporter at Fairchild Publications and Kiplinger.