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.”
LHP Clayton Richard (released by the Cubs earlier this month) is pitching very well as a starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres and could be a good candidate to get traded to a contender looking for a veteran SP before tomorrow night's post-season roster eligibility deadline.
Because they released him, the Cubs are paying most of Richard's 2016 salary (the Cubs are on the hooks for $2M, minus the pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum salary that is paid by the Padres).
it is honestly awesome (for real) that anyone would even have a strong opinion on AZL playoffs. i guess if you invest enough time watching it, you want to see a fair/just playoff structure.
plus, the kids deserve it.
The AZL team with the best record over the course of the full 2016 AZL season and the only AZL team to play .600 ball (the AZL Dodgers) did not qualify for the AZL playoffs, and the AZL East Division team with the best record over the course of the full season (the AZL Athletics) did not qualify for the AZL playoffs, either.
That's because of the ridiculous "split season" schedule most of the minor leagues now play, a stupid system that rewards mediocrity at the expense of the worthy.
Despite good movement on his fastball, I think location kept him from getting Ks. Left some pitches up and away that got hammered up and away. Then of course Travis Wood gave up the 2-run double in the 7th, but both runs counted against Arrieta.
"i'm gonna make you my main squeeze one day, bro. save the date."
This level of discourse is #charming.
I would be having this discussion with anyone who (a) blathered on ad nauseum about the topic. (See, "Olt, Mike, not given an opportunity") or (b) responded directly to what I posted (which you did).
Have a nice day.
what would you do without me? aside from having your posting content here cut by 75%+?
i'm gonna make you my main squeeze one day, bro. save the date.
In this instance, yes, I care more about the result of this big thing that isn't really a big thing.
Fangraphs WAR #s include baserunning and Hamilton is elite at that. He leads in SBs with the 54 and and has an 87% rate which is really good. I'm sure once he gets on base he's able to take the extra base quite often too. Both those things will up his overall WAR value.
The differences between BR and FG WAR is pretty well documented online and thus If there are discrepancies it's fairly easy to figure out why. It's fairly well accepted that BR WAR is fine as a snapshot but FG is better at predicting future value.
i have no doubt at all you quit reading at that point. you're very enamored with outcomes without caring what it takes to get there.
the fact it's exploitable, especially without someone to cover the running game for him, as well it's evolution in how people are testing possible exploits is interesting to some people...to me...i'm some people...hurrah.
some people want to check the boxscore to see who won, some want to know how it went down.
I read it as him saying it's not really that much of a concern and that the one time it really cost Lester, vs. K.C., was an anomaly.
if jeff says it, it's cool...when i say it, it's straight from the mouth of hitler.
aside from the lack of jeff touching on the insane leads runners take and lester's inability to throw if he's fielding, this is a lot of what i've said about the issue.
exploitable, needs his own personal catcher to control his shortcomings, relies on his ability to get outs along with his personal catcher keeping runners in check before things become further exploited...
That would be Rice Krispy Treat
Butterfinger or Baby Ruth?
I saw the first three innings and the last three, so I didn't see Arrieta get hit. His stuff looked nasty at first...what happened? Any insight from anyone who watched?
That question came from CRUNCH's cousin.