One of several promising young pitchers traded away by the impatient Yankees in the 1980s, Deshaies pitched a no-hitter for Nashville (Southern League) in 1984 before leading the International League in ERA at Columbus the same season. He became the 1,000th player ever to play for the Yankees that September, but was shelled in two major-league starts and traded to Houston for 40-year-old Joe Niekro.
Deshaies went 12-5 with a 3.25 ERA as a rookie for the NL West-winning Astros in 1986, and on September 23rd he set a major-league record by striking out the first eight Dodgers he faced before journeyman Larry See (whom manager Tommy Lasorda had chosen to pinch-hit for starting pitcher Dennis Powell to break the string) popped out. Deshaies struggled in 1987, but still posted an 11-6 record, and in 1988 he lowered his ERA to 3.00, although his record slipped to 11-14. His fortunes improved the following season, as he set career bests with 15 wins and a 2.91 ERA, teaming up with Houston ace Mike Scott to form one of the most imposing duos in baseball. On June 1st of the year, Deshaies came within four outs of no-hitter against Los Angeles before Mickey Hatcher lined a two-out single off his glove. Dodgers' hurler Mike Morgan said of the performance, "You couldn't hit him with a tennis racket."
In October 1991 Deshaies filed for free agency after combining for just 12 wins against 24 losses the previous two seasons. After failing in a spring training bid to make the A's, he wound up spending the season with the Padres, but won just four times in 15 starts. After seeming to right his career with 13 wins for Minnesota and San Francisco in 1993, Deshaies bombed in a return trip to the Twins the next season and was out of baseball following two starts for the Phillies in 1995.
A notoriously poor hitter, Deshaies retired owning the most at-bats of any player without an extra-base hit. Despite his sub-.500 career record, Deshaies, who went on to become an Astros' broadcaster, publicly campaigned to receive just one Hall of Fame vote when he became eligible in January 2001. His efforts were rewarded when Houston Chronicle columnist John Lopez cast a vote for him. "I wasn't trying to make fun of the process or demean the Hall of Fame," Lopez said. "I know he's not a Hall of Famer in terms of numbers. It was a tip of the cap to a guy who was an everyman ballplayer." For his part, Deshaies said, "I'm shaking the confetti out of my hair. We ran a successful campaign. We went for one vote and one vote was what we got." (SCL/AGL)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»September 15, 1985: The Yankees trade minor league pitcher Jim Deshaies and two other minor leaguers to be named later to the Astros for 40-year-old Joe Niekro, reuniting the Niekro brothers as teammates for the first time since 1974 with the Braves.
»May 26, 1986: Houston's Jim Deshaies records his first ML win, striking out 10 Cardinals in seven innings in the Astros' 4–1 victory.
»May 28, 1986: In his 2nd start for the White Sox since being recalled from Triple A Buffalo, Joe Cowley ties a major-league record by striking out the first seven Rangers he faces, but still surrenders six runs in 4 1/3 innings and loses 6–3. He finishes with eight strikeouts. Cowley's K record will be broken by Jim Deshaies before the season's end.
»September 23, 1986: Houston's Jim Deshaies strikes out the first eight batters on the way to a 2-hit 4–0 win over the Dodgers. Deshaies breaks the major-league record of 7, last tied by Joe Cowley on May 28th. He finishes with 10 strikeouts.
»September 20, 1993: Giants P Jim Deshaies goes 0-for-2 in a 7-2 win over the Astros. In doing so, he sets a major league record by going 372 career at bats without having an extra-base hit. The old mark had been set by Virgil Barnes.