One of Bristol’s most prominent sports stars, Ron Necciai, played for the Bristol Twins in the Class D Appalachian League back in 1952.
Nicknamed “Rocket Ron,” Necciai, who was from Gallatin, Penn., played at old Shaw Stadium in Bristol, Va., and on May 13, 1952, accomplished a feat that landed him in the history books.
That day, pitching despite dealing with painful stomach ulcers, the right-handed Necciai struck out 27 batters while throwing a 7–0 no-hitter against the Welch Miners. He is still the only pitcher ever to do so in a nine-inning, professional-league game. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minors, called it “the greatest individual performance in the history of baseball.”
Four hitters reached base during that game – on a walk, an error hit batsman, and a passed ball, which resulted in a four-strikeout ninth inning. Only two batters put the ball in play: one grounded out to first base in the fourth inning and the other reached based in the ninth on the error.
In his next start, Necciai threw a 24-strikeout two-hitter. He struck out 109 hitters in 43 innings with Bristol during that season. He quickly climbed the organization’s ranks and was called up to the major leagues to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates in August 1952.
At 20 years old, Necciai posted a 1–6 record with 31 strikeouts and a 7.08 ERA in 542⁄3 innings pitched from August 10 to September 28, 1952, the lone season of his major league career.
Necciai was drafted into the United States Army in 1953 before being released on a medical discharge a couple of months later. Afterward, he returned to baseball but was plagued by a torn rotator cuff and his long battle with stomach ulcers. He spent the years between 1953 and 1955 in various lower levels of professional baseball but could never overcome his injuries. He ultimately had a successful career in the sporting goods industry.
“The greatest all around pitcher I ever saw never was a major league regular,” Branch Rickey said. “He had the best fastball; he had all the learning aptitudes; he was great. He was Ron Necciai from Monongahela.” Rickey claimed Necciai rivaled Christy Mathewson and Dizzy Dean.
You can learn more about “Rocket Ron” Necciai, his historic achievement and life from George Stone’s book, available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Rocket-Ron-George-Stone/dp/0741448998
Necciai, now 89 years old, returned to Bristol in 1983 to throw the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day. He came back in 1999 to unveil a plaque at DeVault Stadium commemorating his incredible feat.