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.”
Going from a first place team to a third place team is a painful process.
Cards already whining
Cardinals look a little road-weary on getaway day http://espn.go.com/blog/st-louis-cardinals//post/_...
-via ESPN http://es.pn/app
dee gordon (MIA) suspended 80 days for PEDs. wow.
"excessive testosterone and Clostebol"
hell of a late-night news flash.
Seems like a bizarre pick -- they moved up 2 spots to pick up a guy who was not dominant in college. According to the talking heads, supposedly a great athlete (but an unpolished football player). So was Alonzo Spellman. And the guy who could jump out of a pool. Bears have missed the playoffs 5 straight years and 8 of the last 9. And they made Marc Trestman an NFL head coach. Maybe they can hire Theo in his free time. Sheesh.
And then the Bears pick an undersized linebacker with very few sacks in his college career and very little ability to shed blocks and the draft becomes less of a joy.
Watching the NFL Draft on ESPN with the mute on is one of the greatest joys in my small life. Being able to not hear Roger Goodell, Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, and Mel Kiper in quick order is just somehow immensely satisfying. I hope by the time the Bears pick they have Steven AAAAAAAAAAAAA Smith and Skip Bayless on so I can not hear them too.
even if the cubs lose feder, he's easily replaceable with a cash/low-end-ptbnl trade...plus, taylor davis is wasting time down in AA and he could pop up to AAA to back up w.conteras.
Tim Federowicz is out of minor league options, so Outright Assignment Waivers would be needed before he can be sent back to Iowa. He also has the right to elect free-agency if outrighted, but he probably wouldn't elect to be a FA if outrighted unless the Cubs shit on him somehow while he's up with the big club (not likely).
But it is possible that another MLB club could claim Federowicz if the Cubs place him on waivers, which would leave Willson Contreras as pretty much the only other option if a catcher goes on the DL again later in the season.
CRAIG: D. J. Wilson is hitting 083/115/167 in six Cactus League EXST games (26 PA), but his K-rate is only 11.5% and he has somehow managed to drive-in five runs along the way (he's tied for second on the team in RBI), so it's not like he's swinging & missing a lot. He does seem to be feeling for the ball a bit, however, which has resulted in too much weak contact and not enough line drives.
Bryant sprained ankle MRI tomorrow
Cubs did a lot of that today: 2-for-17 with RISP.
Man, what an ugly baseball game - Cubs receive 11 walks and Bryant reached twice by HBP, the Brewers pitchers threw almost 200 pitches (199 pitches...in 8 innings!), they even walked Baez (first one of the year), Cubs scored twice when Brewers botched routine DP balls, Cahill walks three guys with a 6-run lead, forcing Maddon to waste Strop, the weather sucked again, etc. Happy with the win, but that was really tough to watch.
"Some of the most racist things I've ever heard have come out of people that are on the air at ESPN," Schilling said Wednesday on "Breitbart News Patriot Forum." He was fired by ESPN last week.
“In the end for me it felt like that rule applied to me and me alone because I was conservative … Bigots are calling me a bigot. A bigot is someone who refuses to accept a different opinion. I will accept anyone’s opinion.”
Rolled scoring on Rizzo double
Re ZOBRIST -
Today's game is what I was referring to re Zobrist and RISP struggles. He did come through with his patented single to drive in a run - but also left the bases loaded, and two men on, no outs (called 3rd).
So, I hope he can pick that part of his game up when they start playing the better teams...