The last two southpaws to throw no-hitters for Boston also happen to be cancer survivors.
"I know what he went through with the lymphoma, because I, too, had lymphoma," Parnell told MLB.com on Tuesday afternoon. "It's not the easiest thing to get over because it takes a lot of strength out of you. But he was able to recoup his strength, thank goodness, and use it to greater advantage in pitching."
Parnell, an avid sports fan, was in his Louisiana home, watching his New Orleans Hornets lose a disappointing Game 7 in the NBA Western Conference semifinals to the San Antonio Spurs, when he began flipping back and forth on his TV on Monday night to the Red Sox-Royals game.
While the Hornets might have disappointed, what was unfolding in Boston brought him back to Fenway Park on July 14, 1956, when he held the White Sox hitless in a 4-0 Red Sox win.
"I remember right through ballgame that I was going for it," Parnell recalled. "I've heard a lot of pitchers say they don't know they were going for it. I don't see how that could be possible, because you've got that big scoreboard right there in the ballpark. It tells you what's happening.
"You remember if a guy gets a base hit off you. Then, from the seventh inning on, the fans are a constant reminder. So there's no way to avoid knowing you're going for one."
Parnell, who turns 86 on June 13, recalled one moment in particular when he knew he had a chance at immortality.
|"I know what he went through with the lymphoma, because I, too, had lymphoma. It's not the easiest thing to get over because it takes a lot of strength out of you. But he was able to recoup his strength, thank goodness, and use it to greater advantage in pitching."|
|-- Mel Parnell, on Jon Lester|
"In my no-hitter in the seventh inning," Parnell said, "Jackie Jensen came to me and says, 'Look fella, you're going for a no-hitter, just don't let them hit the ball to right, because I don't want to be the guy to mess it up for you.'"
Parnell, however, remained focused on the task at hand.
"I said, 'Jackie forget about it. All I'm looking for is the win. If it happens, it happens,'" Parnell said.
While Parnell has never met Lester, the fact that the 24-year-old overcame the same illness that he dealt with in his life made Lester a winner in his eyes.
"I think he's an outstanding young fella," Parnell said. "He's got great stuff. I don't know him personally, and from what I understand, he's a very level-headed youngster.
"I think this young fella's going to be around. The Red Sox are very fortunate in having two good, young prospects right now, he and [Clay] Buchholz. These two young guys are going to be around for quite a few years, I'm sure."
Asked if he sees a lot of himself in the young Lester, Parnell agreed there are parallels.
"I think so," Parnell said. "He throws a lot overhand, and I did, too. There is some similarity between us."
And now, more than ever.
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.