Ken Johnson, only pitcher to throw nine-inning no-no and lose, dies

Ken Johnson didn’t have a Hall of Fame career. Heck, the 13-year journeyman pitcher didn’t even finish his career with a winning record. But in 1964, the 6-foot-4 right-hander pitched the likes of which had never been seen — and to date still haven’t — earning him an exclusive spot in the major-league history books.

According to multiple reports, Johnson died Saturday in Pineville, La. His son, Ken Jr., told The New York Times the elder Johnson died after contracting a kidney infection following long bouts with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases which had left him bedridden.

Johnson was 82.

On April 23, 1964, in his third start of the season, Johnson took the mound for the Houston Colt .45’s against one of his former teams, the Cincinnati Reds. He was nearly flawless that day, but not entirely. With one out in the top of the ninth, the game scoreless and the Reds yet to get a hit, Johnson fielded a bunt by Pete Rose but threw the ball away, allowing Rose to reach second base. A groundout moved Rose to third and with two outs, an error by second baseman Nellie Fox allowed Rose to score.

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Johnson got the final out and, after the Colt .45’s failed to score in the bottom of the inning, became the first pitcher in MLB history to lose despite throwing a complete-game, nine-inning no-hitter. He remains the only pitcher to ever do it.

"I pitched the game of my life and still lost," Johnson would say after the game. "A hell of a way to get into the record books."

Johnson pitched in the majors from 1958 to 1970, playing for seven different teams and compiling a 91-106 career record. His career high in wins came the season after the infamous no-no, when he won 16 games in 1965 for Houston and the Milwaukee Braves. While Johnson bounced around throughout his career, his trade from Houston to Milwaukee was the only time in his career he was traded from one major-league club to another.

In all, Johnson played for the Kansas City A’s, Cincinnati, Houston, the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, the Yankees, the Cubs and Montreal.

He is reportedly survived by his wife Lynn, three children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.