The 2012 MLB season is barely over one-third of the way complete, and it has already been one for the record books. Matt Cain's perfect game at AT&T Park on Wednesday night was the 22nd in Major League Baseball history, adding to an already historic 2012 baseball season.
Last Friday's Mariners' no-hitter was the second of the season at Safeco Field-- following Philip Humber's perfect game for the White Sox in April-- and the Mariners' feat was just the tenth combination-job in MLB history (with the first being the famous 1917 game wherein Babe Ruth, then pitching for the Red Sox, was ejected after arguing a walk to the leadoff batter-- and Ernie Shore finished the game off by retiring every batter he faced in mop-up duty). This latest excitement in Seattle comes just a week after Johan Santana delivered the New York Mets (and their fans, at Citi Field) the franchise's first no-hitter. And while fellow-Met Scott Hairston's late-April cycle at Coors Field may have flown under the radar, who can forget Josh Hamilton's four home run game last month in Oriole Park at Camden Yards?
One of the great things about baseball is the chance to witness a piece of history anytime you got to the park, especially these types of accomplishments (no-hitter, perfect game, hitting for the cycle or a four home run outburst) that require no greater context to occur or have significance. This is to say that they do not need a pennant chase, or the accumulation of a season or career's statistics to be impressive or special: They can happen on any given day at every ballpark, and essentially materialize out of thin air-- baseball lightning in a bottle.
Historically, the incidence of no-hitters and batters going for the cycle in the Majors has been about the same. Depending on the source, the in/exclusion of different leagues and retroactive scoring rulings/changes may affect the overall totals, but the number for each stands approximately in the 270s. Much rarer are perfect and four home run games: Cain's perfecto brought that total to 22, and Hamilton's accomplishment the night of May 8th made him just the 16th to hit four out.
With all of this in mind, and considering the recent swell of activity, let us take a look at which current Major League stadiums are more prone to these happenings, and which may be due for some action.
The oldest stadiums of course have had the most opportunities to witness history, and so Fenway Park predictably leads the pack. Yawkey Way has seen a total of 14 no-hitters, though none were perfect games. Nine of these were thrown by Red Sox pitchers-- including Shore's relief stint, as well as one in 1962 by Earl Wilson, which was the first by an African-American in the AL (oddly, for the last franchise in baseball to integrate). Four no-hitters were thrown by the visitors, and the first in the park's history was by George Davis of the Boston Braves, who were Fenway co-tenants in 1914-15. In addition, 15 players have hit for the cycle 16 times over the years, with Bobby Doerr doing the deed twice.
Of a more recent vintage, U.S. Cellular Field has had its share of drama-- some infamous, like the separate fan-attacks on Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa and umpire Laz Diaz-- but we will stick with more enjoyable fare. This includes five cycles, a four home run game by Mike Cameron in 2002, a no-hitter last season by the Twins' Francisco Liriano, and a no-hitter as well as a perfect game thrown by Mark Buehrle.
Also relatively new, Coors Field has seen quite its share of rare feats. Eleven players have gone for the cycle-- with Hairston, of course, being the most recent-- and there has even been a no-hitter at Coors Field, tossed by Hideo Nomo in 1996.
On the North Side of Chicago, Wrigley Field has obviously experienced plenty of history-- but, surprisingly, a good amount less than Fenway (in only two fewer years of existence). Seven no-hitters have been thrown at the Friendly Confines; mirroring Fenway, this does not reflect any perfect games, and it also includes the first National (and Major) League no-hitter by an African-American-- Sam Jones, in 1955. In addition, ten cycles have been hit, and Mike Schmidt had a four home run game in 1976.
Hamilton's May four home run game in Baltimore was significant for a few reasons. First and foremost, as indicated, he is just the 16th to do so. Plus, it is a nice notch on the belt for a wonderful stadium that has not seen much of this type of activity (like in Coors Field, Hideo Nomo pitched Camden Yards' only no-hitter against the home team, in 2001, and aside from that, there has only been a pair of cycles). Finally, it makes Oriole Park just the fifth active stadium to witness a four home run game-- with U.S. Cellular, Wrigley, Miller Park and the Rogers Centre as the others.
As for those latter fields, in addition to Carlos Delgado's four home run game in 2003, the Blue Jays' stadium has seen a fair amount of activity of rare events-- with Dave Stewart tossing a no-hitter in 1990, and Justin Verlander throwing another last year (with a pair of cycles hit in between). But the Brewers' field has seen very little action in its relatively short lifespan: one cycle, a neutral site no-hitter (thrown by the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano against the Houston Astros, who were displaced by Hurricane Ike in 2008), and the four home run game hit off of Milwaukee pitching by the Dodgers' Shawn Green in 2002.
Los Angeles' rich pitching history is evidenced both in the dearth of offensive accomplishments at Dodger Stadium-- just two cycles, 45 years apart-- as well as by 10 no-hitters being thrown at Chavez Ravine. This breaks down to seven thrown for the Dodgers (with a perfect game by Sandy Koufax, in 1962), and three by other teams: two against LA (including Dennis Martinez' 1991 perfect game), and one by the Angels, when they briefly shared Dodger Stadium in the 1960s.
Once the Angels moved into their new and current home in 1966, a good amount of history was made here, as well. Seven no-hitters have been thrown at Angel Stadium of Anaheim-- including two by Nolan Ryan, as well as one by Jered Weaver, last month. There have also been five cycles hit at The Big A.
Elsewhere in California, the O.co Coliseum has hosted nine no-hitters over time: four against, and five for the A's-- including perfect games by Catfish Hunter in 1968 and Dallas Braden in 2010. There has also been a pair of cycles hit in Oakland. And one of the towns the A's vacated along the way-- Kansas City-- has seen a decent amount of activity at its Kauffman Stadium, including three no-hitters and five cycles.
Aside from those mentioned, the occurrence of these particular accomplishments at current stadiums has been fairly sparse. The Indians' Progressive Field, for example, has only had one no-hitter in its 18 years-- and that did not occur until last season; Rangers Ballpark in Arlington opened the same year, and had a Kenny Rogers perfect game in that inaugural season of 1994-- but since then, it has only had four cycles; Randy Johnson threw a perfect game in 2004 at Atlanta's Turner Field, but in addition there has only been another no-hitter plus a cycle over 15 years... and so on.
The remaining MLB stadiums fall somewhere in between on this continuum of relatively common and sparsely occurring rare feats, but in some cases, history simply has yet to be written. Minnesota's Target Field is only in its third season, and Marlins Park just opened, so no surprises there-- but the absence of no-hitters/perfect games/hitting for the cycle/four home run games at places like Petco Park (in its eighth year), and PNC Park (already in its 11th season) is curious.
Again, though-- for fans, these are the types of happenings that cannot be planned for, and that do not favor those who can afford to pay special event prices or for postseason tickets. They simply materialize, to the great, random fortune of those lucky few that happen to be in attendance. They could emerge any day of the season-- whether at open-air museums of baseball history like Fenway or Wrigley, at newer stadiums that have shown a propensity for drama like Coors Field or The Cell, or even at those ballparks whose existences have been fairly uneventful thus far like Petco or PNC.
So it is a little like playing a baseball lottery: the odds may be long, and at some places more so than others-- but seeing these events in person is something special, and that will not happen if you do not give it a shot. This is admittedly taking a look at the stadium cup as half full-- but at the same time, most teams still have around 100 games left in the season to play, and there have already been more no-hitters this year than last, so you just never know what you might get to experience...
What historic events have you seen at one of the current MLB parks?