One of the most dominant starts in the illustrious history of the Indianapolis Indians ended with a routine fly ball to left field. May 15, 2005 – nine innings, nine strikeouts, no hits, no runs… and one walk. With 7,390 fans in attendance for a 54-degree, Sunday afternoon ballgame at
One of the most dominant starts in the illustrious history of the Indianapolis Indians ended with a routine fly ball to left field. May 15, 2005 – nine innings, nine strikeouts, no hits, no runs… and one walk. With 7,390 fans in attendance for a 54-degree, Sunday afternoon ballgame at Victory Field, Ian Snell turned up the heat with a tantalizing, near-perfect performance against the Norfolk Tides.
Snell’s 9.0-inning no-no was just the fourth thrown by a single Indians pitcher since World War II and only the second in that time frame to take place in the Circle City. The others? Edward Wright at Kansas City in 1945, Gary Peters against Minneapolis at old Victory Field in 1959 and Tom Carroll at Omaha in 1974. Snell was a 3-2 pitch away from becoming the first Indianapolis pitcher to ever secure a perfect game.
Backed by a second-inning, three-run homer by former Indians outfielder and current hitting coach Jon Nunnally, Snell sailed through a strong Tides lineup.
“He hardly ever walked people,” longtime Indians play-by-play voice Howard Kellman said. “I remember [Snell] telling me once in an interview, ‘I take walks personally.’”
Snell retired the first 13 batters he faced – four on strikeouts – until that decisive full-count offering to Tides right fielder Ron Calloway with one down in the top half of the fifth inning. It missed the zone, and Calloway didn’t chase.
“His best pitch was his fastball, but he opted for a breaking ball in that particular moment,” Kellman remembered. “I spoke with [Indians pitching coach] Darold Knowles after the game and he said, ‘I didn’t call that pitch!’”
Snell escaped the one-out free pass without further harm. Calloway reached third on a stolen base and coinciding throwing error by Indians catcher Paul Chiaffredo, but Snell’s fastball-curveball combination wiped away Benji Gil and Chris Basak on strikes. Sixteen up, 15 down.
Selected by Pittsburgh in the 26th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft out of Caesar Rodney (Camden, Del.) High School, Snell flirted with perfection from the first time he toed the rubber as an 18-year-old with rookie-level Bradenton up until that May 2005 outing at The Vic, and beyond.
The right-hander started his minor league career with a perfect 13-0 record. He went 1-0 in four relief appearances in 2000, 10-0 in 13 games (12 starts) between Bradenton and Short-Season A Williamsport in 2001, and 2-0 in his first two decisions with Single-A Hickory in 2002. He finished the ’02 campaign with an 11-6 record and maintained his prowess the following season between High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona, compiling a 14-3 record and 3.00 ERA in 26 starts, which earned him honors as Pittsburgh’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Snell remained in Double-A in 2004 and his consistency never wavered; he set a new Curve single-season record and finished second in the Eastern League with 142 strikeouts while going 11-7 with a 3.16 ERA in 26 starts. Ranked as Pittsburgh’s No. 6 prospect by Baseball America ahead of the ’04 season, Snell’s success allowed him to skip Triple-A momentarily for three outings (one start) with the Buccos that year.
In 2005, he returned to the minors for more seasoning, this time at the highest rung of the Pirates’ minor league ladder. It was also Indianapolis’ first year as Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate since a four-year partnership from 1948-51. No matter the level or location, Snell got off to another fast start, going 5-0 through his first seven appearances in an Indians uniform. Start No. 8 with Indy turned out to be quite special.
“When the game got into the sixth, maybe the seventh inning, that’s when I started to get the same feeling I had during [Tom] Carroll’s no-hitter in ’74,” Kellman recalled. “Anytime a pitcher gets that deep into a game with zeroes still intact, you realize that you’re seeing something special.”
It had been almost 31 years to the day – May 24, 1974 to be exact – when Kellman called Carroll’s 9.0-inning no-hitter for the Indians in Omaha, Neb. That was Kellman’s first year behind the mic for Indians games.
“I’ve been fortunate to broadcast many exciting moments in our franchise’s history. Clinching division titles and winning league championships… all great memories,” Kellman said. “But there is something about a chance at perfection for a pitcher… a chance at a no-hitter, where I feel like every waning pitch matters. I get nervous in those moments.”
Meanwhile, Snell’s emotions were under control. Two line drives found Nunnally’s glove in left to bookend the seventh, and five outs later, Nunnally grabbed out No. 27 – a fly ball off the bat of Gerald Williams – to seal the bid.
Like any no-hitter, Kellman was caught by surprise. What didn’t surprise him, however, was that it was Snell who completed the feat.
“Throwing a no-hitter is such a difficult task for any pitcher,” Kellman said. “But in terms of guys that I would anticipate having the chance to throw [a no-hitter], Snell would have been at the forefront of the pitchers I’d consider. [I always thought], ‘Yeah, he’s certainly got the stuff to make it happen.’”
In a postgame interview with ESPN Radio, Snell knew his no-hitter would not have been possible without great defense.
“[Left fielder Jon] Nunnally, [center fielder Chris] Duffy and [right fielder Graham] Koonce all made awesome catches in the outfield. It’s really an honor to have those guys on my team. They are always there to back me up.” Snell said.
Snell also leaned into the support from everyone in the dugout.
“I tried to mix my pitches and locations today,” he said. “Our coaching staff helped calm me down late in the game. Everyone just told me to take a deep breath, and fortunately, that advice worked.”
Did it ever. It was advice that helped etch Snell’s name in the Indianapolis record books forever.