Former Boston Red Sox captain Jason Varitek will forever be in the record books thanks to his ability to navigate a pitcher to achieving greatness.
Things have been pretty good for the Red Sox and the Fenway Faithful since the turn of the century. We’ve had several division titles, AL Pennants, and World Series titles added to the trophy case. There is one thing that Boston has also done in recent times that won’t be spoken about as much, and that’s the no-hitter.
The Red Sox have added four no-hitters to their total tally since 2001 and they all have a common thread to them. It wasn’t the pitcher, it wasn’t the manager, but it was a specific player. The one component that all four feats had in common was that Jason Varitek was sitting behind the plate. Boston’s former team captain spent season after season as the Red Sox catcher, and his skill and knowledge didn’t go unnoticed.
There are two men sitting atop the no-hitter mountain as far as catchers are concerned, Carlos Ruiz and Boston’s own Jason Varitek. The duo has the distinct honor of sharing the record for having the most no-hitters caught, at four. In the history of the game, these are the only two catchers to have that many no-nos under their belts.
When you say it out loud it’s a bit unfathomable. We’re over a century into this thing and only two players have ever done this? Wild! Tek spent 15 years in the Majors and has a laundry list of accomplishments for his hard work. The three-time All-Star has two World Series rings as a member of the 2004 and 2007 championship teams, as well as, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
If and when Cooperstown comes calling, though, it’ll be for his work during the first eight seasons of the 2000s. He guided Hideo Nomo to Boston’s first no-hitter since Dave Morehead achieved the goal 36 years prior. I’ll admit the only thing I remember from Nomo’s no-no is that it happened and that it was against the Orioles. I have a memory of watching the game but I couldn’t tell you anything beyond that.
Next would come Derek Lowe‘s no-hitter in April of 2002. This one is planted firmly in my mind for the fact that it was so close to being a perfect game. D-Lowe allowed just two baserunners through the entire game. A walk to Brent Abernathy and then a fielder’s choice for Russ Johnson was all that stood between the right-hander and the highest achievement for a pitcher.
In what may be the most historic of the four under Varitek’s watch came in 2007 with Clay Buchholz on the mound. Boston’s lanky righty was making just his second Major League start for the Red Sox and it’s one he’ll never forget. Buck is one of three pitchers to toss a no-hitter in either his first or second big league start. That’s pretty damn cool when you put it into perspective.
Though he would make his debut earlier in the year, he wouldn’t make an impact until a late-season September promotion. The Red Sox were in the driver’s seat for the AL East and would win the division when all was said and done. It took Buchholz 115 pitches to complete his no-hitter, allowing just three walks while striking out 9.
It was another masterful call from Tek behind the plate as he wasn’t dealing with a veteran like with Nomo and Lowe. He had a kid on the mound making the second start of his career late in the season with October baseball coming up fast. He kept Clay cool and calm on the hill and was able to keep him on the same page to earn the achievement.
The fourth and final member of the “Varitek No-Hit Club,” is southpaw Jon Lester. This one is my favorite of the four and it’s not even close. Lester is easily one of if not the best homegrown pitching product Boston has seen in a long time. He was set to be the future of the organization until he, unfortunately, was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2006.
Luckily, he received fantastic health care and through treatment was able to defeat the disease. Lester would return to the Red Sox during the 2007 season and would prove to be a catalyst for the team. Fast-forward a few months and he would start the World Series clincher against Colorado. His efforts that night would play a massive role in the Red Sox raising another Commissioner’s Trophy.
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Lester’s no-hitter would come during the 2008 season against the Royals at Fenway Park. The southpaw would labor a bit to get the job done, needing 130 pitches to strike out 9 and walk a pair. I won’t speak for Lester in any way, shape, or form but this had to be the cherry on the sundae. In the span of 18 months, he would defeat cancer, win a World Series, and throw a no-hitter. Absolutely magical!
Similar to Buchholz, Tek had a younger pitcher on the mound and one that has already conquered so much in his life. He helped Jon manage the Kansas City waters to get to their destination of the no-hitter. Varitek’s veteran presence was like a lighthouse guiding a ship home during a storm, always reliable and trusting.
Jason Varitek was and is the definition of a leader in every aspect of the term. On the field and off, during his playing days and in retirement, he is still highly respected by those around him. He still has a relationship with the team and can be seen sitting in the dugout at Fenway Park and on the field for practice on off-days. Tek’s tireless work throughout his career is what led him to such a fantastic accomplishment and very well could earn him a spot in Cooperstown.