The timeline is slightly murky but …

By the time young collectors got their sweaty little hands on the 1969 Topps Jim Maloney baseball card (#362), they likely were holding a piece of history.

See, on April 30 of that year, Maloney took the mound for the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field and threw a no-hitter against the Houston Astros.

It was a thoroughly humiliating day for the ‘Stros, who not only failed to collect a safety, but also struck out 13 times. Oh, and Houston pitchers Wade Blasingame, Jim Ray, Skip Guinn, and Danny Coombs combined to give up 10 runs.

(Though Guinn kept Cincy off the board for two full innings.)

A no-hitter is always big news, but this one was even more significant, as it was the third no-no of Maloney’s career.

1969 topps jim maloney

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Back in 1965, the big left-hander turned the trick twice — in extra innings, no less — on June 14 against the New York Mets and on August 19 against the Chicago Cubs.

Maloney’s 1969 gem thus thrust him into select company, making him one of just five pitchers at the time to have tossed at least three no-hitters. The others were Sandy Koufax (4), Cy Young (3), Bob Feller (3), and Larry Corcoran (3).

A few years later, of course, Nolan Ryan would make them all look silly by authoring his third no-hitter … then his fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh.

But the same year Ryan pitched his last no-no (1991, if you’re keeping score), changes were a-brewin’.

In particular, the MLB Committee for Statistical Accuracy ruled that games in which a pitcher no-hit the competition for nine innings but then allowed a hit in extra frames would no longer be classified as no-hitters.

And that spelled trouble for Jim Maloney and his historic 1969 Topps baseball card.

Because, you see, that first no-no in 1965 was an oddball. Maloney indeed held the Mets hitless for nine innings — ten innings, even — but then gave up a home run to Johnny Lewis to open the 11th.

(Maloney also gave up a single to Roy McMillan after striking out Ron Swoboda and before Jesse Gonder hit into an inning-ending double play.)

That lead held for New York, and Maloney lost the game even though he threw a no-hitter.

Then, unceremoniously, he lost the no-hitter itself 22 years later.

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to stay in the game.

For Maloney, though, the indignities didn’t start with that voided no-hitter. After a fine 12-5, 2.77 showing in that summer of 1969, Maloney made just seven appearances in 1970 thanks to an Achilles injury.

Cincinnati traded him to the California Angels that December in exchange for Greg Garrett, and the Halos released him after an 0-3, 5.04 showing.

At age 31, Maloney was done in the Major Leagues.

And so, a few years later, instead of helping his teammates drive the Big Read Machine, Maloney unwittingly waited for his no-no demotion.

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