- June 18, 1932
- 6' 5"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 8-10-1952 with PIT
'"I was 23 years old, and it was over." - Necciai, talking about his rotator cuff injury
Perhaps the greatest evaluator of talent in the annuls of the national pastime, Branch Rickey, said of Ron Necciai, that he only saw two pitchers that he was sure would have great careers, Dizzy Dean and Ron Necciai, because of their devastating fast balls. He further went on to make the claim that out of the two, Necciai was harder to hit.
That was absolutely high praise for as pitcher that to date had only competed in the Class D level for the team, but two games that he had pitcher for his Bristol, Virginia led everybody in the baseball nation to feel the same way.
Necciai, who was a tall lanky hurler with a low 90’s fastball to go with his incredible curve ball, tossed what the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues once called the greatest performance ever in professional baseball. He no-hit a club from Welsh, West Virginia and in the process became the only man in baseball history to strike out 27 men in a 9-inning game. While at the time, Necciai didn’t realize he was the only man ever to pull such a feat; he soon would be overwhelmed with calls and well wishes.
While it was a phenomenal game the Gallatin, PA native tossed, there were two particular facts about it that are lost in the enormity of the accomplishment, it was not a perfect game and he didn’t strikeout every man he faced. Necciai gave up a walk and a hit batter, while two men got aboard on an error and passed ball. In fact it was the passed ball by catcher Harry Dunlap that allowed Necciai to get his dubious mark. The young pitcher had only 23 k’s going into the last frame where he struck out four due to a base runner reaching first after a strikeout on Dunlap’s miscue.
Ron would follow up his phenomenal performance by striking out 24 in a 2-hitter his next time out. He went on to blow away 109 hitters in 43 innings with Bristol before being promoted to Durham of the Carolina League where in struck out 172 in 126 innings giving him an incredible 281 in only 169 innings of work.
His amazing season was rewarded with a call up to the big club in August where his unbelievable roll came to a sudden and complete stop. He was crushed in his first major league start on August 10th, 1952 by the Cubs in a 9-5 loss, but followed it up the next night in a wonderful 3 inning relief sting, mowing down the first three batters he faced and 6 of nine for the game.
The Right-hander did have some nice performances, a 4-3 win vs. the Braves on August 24th for his only major league victory and two close losses to Ken Raffensberger of Cincinnati 1-0 September 3rd and 3-2 the last game of the season, but in between his contests resembled games more like his first start losing to the Phils 10-5, the Cards 12-5 and the Braves in an embarrassing 16-0 defeat on September 12th.
After the season the nervous hurler, who was a heavy smoker who once said he could down two packs in 4 innings of work and suffered from bleeding ulcers that were so bad, he almost didn’t take the mound the night of his legendary 27 strikeout gem, was drafted into the military. After he came out, he suffered a sore shoulder, which turned out to be a torn rotator cuff. Without the option of Tommy John surgery, which of course hadn’t been done at that time, Necciai’s career in the majors was done prematurely and very unsuccessfully.
Despite the fact he never lived up to the incredible hype Rickey laid upon him, he still holds a mark that to this day has not been broken, which was perhaps the greatest game ever hurled.
* Pittsburgh Pirates (1952)
Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1952
Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia