Burt's No-Hooter; the Class of '72
On April 16, 1972 I was about six weeks shy of high school graduation. It was a Sunday and that afternoon I was hanging out at Pete’s West End Super Service, a gas station down the street from a buddy’s house.
Pete was a chain-smoking, leathery old Cub fan who wore a cap like the ones cops wear. It had a DX patch embroidered on the front. The Cub games always blared from a tabletop radio in the garage bay. Des Moines didn’t have an affiliate station on the Cub radio network then, so we took what we could get through the static beaming from the WGN flagship.
My pal, a devout Cardinal disciple at the time, would later become both a Cub fan and a Catholic priest. Given some of the ways he and I misspent our youth together it’s hard to say which of his epiphanies was the unlikeliest.
The baseball season had gotten off to a late start, taking a called strike from the players’ union that lasted about two weeks. That day’s game at Wrigley Field against the Phillies was only the Cubs’ second of the year. It was cold with a stiff wind blowing at the pitchers’ backs. Fewer than 10,000 had bothered to show up.
On the mound was Burt Hooton, making just the fourth start of a big league career that would eventually feature 151 wins, among other numbers. Drafted the summer before out of the University of Texas, Hooton had sparkled in Triple A when the Cubs’ outpost at that level was in Tacoma, still a decade and half a continent away from Des Moines.
So impressive was Hooton in his first professional summer that he was called up to Chicago in September of 1971 to make three starts. In one of them he fanned 15; in the last of them he shutout Tom Seaver and the Mets.
Hooton wasn’t particularly sharp this time. He ended up walking seven. But when he carried a no-hitter deep into the game, Pete was bug-eyed, the way he always got when the games were dramatic. I can remember times when a ding-ding would signal that a customer had driven up to the pumps at a crucial moment in a game and Pete would mumble a cuss before sticking his head out the door and waving them away, hollering his apologetic explanation as to the circumstances. It was a luxury he could afford as the hub of the neighborhood, even in those days before self-service became the norm.
When the last two Phillies struck out and the rookie’s no-hitter was accomplished, all of us Cub fans at Pete’s, both young and old, figured we were really onto something…
Saturday night, 39 years later, Hooton was in Des Moines as the pitching coach for the Oklahoma City Redhawks. The crowd topped the one in attendance that long-ago day at Wrigley Field. It was quite a bit warmer too. Hooton’s memories of that particular game are as depreciated as he and I.
“I remember Kessinger made a great play, leaping to grab a line drive. I don’t remember who hit it, though. Luzinski crushed one that shoulda been on the street but the wind blew it back and Monday caught it against the vines.”
When I told him that an account I read credited Billy Williams with a sparkling play he couldn’t recall it, but he was quick to acknowledge that defense was maybe more responsible for the no-no than he was, noting that he walked as many as he fanned. What about his pitch count, I wanted to know. One archive attributed 120 pitches to him on a cold day in his first start of the season.
“Nobody knew how many pitches I threw,” he said, “because nobody kept track.”
Was there any talk with Leo Durocher or pitching coach Larry Jansen about pulling a young phenom with a no-hitter working as a precautionary measure? None that Hooton remembers, but he does have some memories about the general way the Cubs handled him before eventually shipping him to the Dodgers.
“When I came to the big leagues I threw a four-seam fastball, a curveball [his ballyhooed “knuckle-curve” which he claims was accidentally discovered while experimenting with grips playing catch, the way lots of pitchers’ pitches are, he says] and a changeup. I started off pretty well with those, but in three and a half years with the Cubs I had four pitching coaches and they all said I needed to throw a sinker and a slider. The problem was, I listened to ‘em. Then I got traded to the Dodgers and the best coach I ever had [Red Adams] who told me to go back to what got me there in the first place and I won 18 games that year.”
Not surprisingly, Hooton’s philosophy now as a coach reflects Adams’ influence.
“A lot of these guys today have been coached and supervised too much and I end up kind of deconstructing them back to basics. They don’t know who Hank Aaron was but they know all about radar guns and pitch counts which are the two worst things that ever happened, if you ask me.”
Any other thoughts about how the game has changed?
“The quality of baseball in Triple A ain’t what it used to be. Hell, Rick Sutcliffe was pitcher-of-the year three straight times in this league. Think about that.”
I did think about it. I even looked it up and it couldn’t possibly have happened since Sutcliffe only played two seasons for Albuquerque, one of them rather poorly, before joining the Dodgers in 1979 and becoming Rookie-of-the-Year. I wish it had been true though, since Hooton seemed generally to be of the same old-school mind I am about bygone days.
But he was right about the last thing I asked him. What happened in his second start of 1972?
“We got beat by Seaver, 2-0. I pitched better that day then I did in the no-hitter.”
vogelbomb debut for tacoma (AAA SEA)... 3-3, 1bb, 1 HR, 1 double...DH'd.
while he mostly played 1st considerably more than DH for AAA CHC, DJ Peterson is probably going to see most of the time at 1st for AAA SEA.
Carl Jr.! Very nice!
Baez with another "WTF?" play trying a delayed steal with a runner on 3rd and one out.. Remarkable talent, needs to make better decisions.
m.montgomery up in the pen with a man on 2nd, 2 out, and rondon 20 pitches into the inning.
...and rondon ends it 22 pitches in with a popout to RF.
I gotta say with the crappy defense the Brewers have displayed outside of Fowler I'm pretty disappointed the offense hasn't shown more and Rizzo seems to be very swing happy lately. That said my god am I happy Madden has finally given Carl Edwards a chance after multiple times up with nothing. I don't think he could handle a starting role with his body frame but his stuff plays so well in a relief role and he seems to be able to handle high stress situations very well.
2nd at bat. Fowler is good for the Cubs run differential.
welcome back fowler.
More slow news...
Did Davey Martinez have to bring the shotgun?
glad to see almora going to AAA to get work.
.265/.291/.422 through 86PA...2hr, 7 doubles.
i don't expect too much of an improvement when he's taking over CF next year, but the team doesn't really need him right now as much as they need him to get regular work (imo).
CHITOWNMVP01: The Cubs MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) has had one slot open since 7/6 (when RHRP Joel Peralta was Designated for Assignment).
The problem with the September roster is all of the pitching changes. They should find a way to limit pitchers to twelve except for extra inning games. More pinch hitters or pinch runners do little to slow the game down and are more fun than endless calls to the bullpen. I also think the fans get cheated when they use position players to pitch because employed a half dozen pitchers with righty-lefty switches. Having as few as four positions players on the bench to start a game also leads to some pretty ugly defensive substitutions.
CHITOWNMVP01: Joe Nathan's 30-day Article XIX-C minor league rehab assignment expires tomorrow, but he doesn't have to be reinstated from the 60-day DL tomorrow.
Also, I think 40 man roster should be full, not at 39, unless I counted wrong. I'm in a hurry to leave the house.
Dexter Fowler is back! "You go, we go!"
He's being activated for tonight's game. Almora down and Montgomery replaces Patton.
Also, doesn't Nathan have to be activated tomorrow? Pitchers aren't allowed to spend more than 30 days of rehab and he was sent to rehab assignment on June 23rd. Tomorrow is July 23rd.
Yeah, last night was a bummer. I clicked on the espn Gamecast just in time to see the 5-2 score change to 5-5.
Their next 10 are Dodgers, Mets and Marlins.
Slow news day...