The idea of a book about all the no-hitters thrown in baseball history -- 294 to date -- seems at first to be a fairly straightforward undertaking. Make the list. Add a couple supporting facts. Maybe a quote or two. And there you have it.
"Baseball's No-Hit Wonders: More Than a Century of Pitching's Greatest Feats" by Dirk Lammers far exceeds that pedestrian possibility. And it does that despite obstacles that aren't immediately obvious.
Take, for example, the simple question of what a no-hitter is. Lammers points out that there was no official definition until 1991, when Commissioner Fay Vincent, who provided the foreword, chaired a committee that finally settled on a fixed understanding of what the term means. Does a pitcher have to pitch nine innings to be credited with a no-hitter? Yes. Does he make the cut if gets through nine but gives up a hit in extra innings? No. And so on.
From that starting point, Lammers takes his impressive research and runs with it.
What adds to the mystique of no-hitters is that a certain amount of serendipity is involved. A great fielding play can assure that a pitcher's name will go down in history. A broken bat hit or an umpire's call can deny the same. Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux are among the greats who never threw one. But Bumpus Jones, Iron Davis, Bobo Holloman and Mike Warren did.
The Mets went a half century without one. The Expos got one in the ninth game in franchise history.
There is also a playful discussion of whether the Mets went so long as part of a "curse" for trading Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. And whether the Padres -- still waiting for their first no-no -- are similarly afflicted, because manager Preston Gomez pinch-hit for starter Clay Kirby after he held the Mets hitless for eight innings in 1970.
Yes, there are detailed examinations of some of the more interesting no-hitters in history. The one Dock Ellis said he pitched while tripping on LSD. The one Fernando Valenzuela may or may not have predicted. The one that earned Sam Jones a golden toothpick from the team's broadcaster. Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-nos and Don Larsen's World Series feat, of course.
But this examination goes far beyond the expected outline. No-hitters by brothers? In Major League debuts? By hometowns? Lost in the ninth? With fewest official at-bats? By franchises, stadiums, seasons and cities? By committee? In the Negro Leagues? Perfect games? It's all here and more.
What really sets this work apart, though, is the context that is carefully placed around the subject.
Here it's noted that a total of 14 no-hitters in 1990 and '91 caused MLB to establish a committee to see if rules changes were needed … and also take a look at 10 separate revisions of the rules that impacted how pitchers deal with hitters.
Here is raised the question of whether umpire Jim Joyce's infamous missed call at first, which cost Armando Galarraga of the Tigers a perfect game, may have nudged MLB toward expanded instant replay.
Here is noted the unsung role catchers play in no-hitters with special recognition for those who have been the receivers in more than their share.
Here is not only debated the question of whether it's unsportsmanlike to bunt to try to break up a no-hitter but the point at which that began to become an issue.
Here is explored the superstition of not mentioning a no-hitter in progress.
Here, in the end, is a book that could have been a dull recitation transformed instead into an exuberant romp through the history of one of baseball's most impressive achievements.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.