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.”
good...he's been stinking up the durham bulls for a couple years now.
Rays DFA Hak-Ju Lee.
Olt for Lee and the circle of life is complete
dusty would have to start baez because both lastella + castro would be pitching because all the other pitcher's arms would have fallen off months ago. it would piss dusty off because baez is a rookie and theo couldn't go out and get him a 39 year old DH to play 2nd. i imagine it would be a 2-box-of-toothpicks night.
lou would have quit his job already, so that's irrelevant and a trick question.
just a theoretical thought...if Dusty was manager (WWDD) or if Lou (WWLD) was manager...
would Javy Baez be in tonight's lineup?
my thought is:
Dusty... Bonifacio would have been brought up and started at 2B
Lou..."I like playing the kids, really I do, but but but Jonathan Herrera really needs to play to stay sharp."
He was replying to tweet who said error should have been hit
Added a 'recent comments' block to the bottom of every 'story' page. Thought it might be helpful. Comments welcome
Jeff Russell and Rafael Soriano DFA's to make room for the callups (Berry and Cahill)
The next 4 weeks should answer this for us. If Castro starts hitting again and neither Baez or La Stella perform, he'd be on a playoff roster. If not, and one of those other two guys does well, I wouldn't be surprised if he was left off. A key error or mental lapse in a one game playoff would be killer and he is too prone to them.
To put a finer point on it, Baez playing second and hitting 7th tonight.
"This is the show. We have certain expectations here. That's why you don't play." from a Tweet from Arrieta. I who do you think he is talking about.
"This is the show. We have certain expectations here. That's why you don't play." --Jake Arrieta on Twitter.
I'll check back in on a day that Starlin doesn't make three errors. But for now I would say him not making the playoff roster is a stretch. Who do you trust more than Starlin to be a RH backup middle infielder? Herrera has no bat at all, and Baez has been in AAA all season and may be as error prone as Castro and may strike out a giant proportion of the time he's at the plate. I'm also less than convinced that La Stella will step in and be a significant contributor. Starlin is at least a big part of the 2B picture for the remainder of the year.
Sadly, nothing is sticking to the wall. The only thing still lingering is the smell from their pitching outings.
i think they were just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.
they wanted to push for the post-season without giving up anything. thank gawd for the cubs winning tear and SF's failure tear...hopefully that holds up until the season ends.
once we're into the post-season (if that happens) then it doesn't matter about the 4-5 slot pitchers. arguably, the pen is much more important at that point when it comes to anyone but the top-3 starters.
Signing Haren was very curious, at best. An over-the-hill fly ball pitcher can survive at Wrigley in April, May & June, when it's cold and the wind tends to blow in (i.e. the ballpark plays "big"). But, signing him to pitch at Wrigley in July, August & Sept., when it's warm and the wind tends to blow out...well, Theo, what did you expect? Gotta believe the Reds will be running up to the plate to get their swings against Haren tonight.
Come on, offense -- we're gonna need another 6-7 runs tonight!
...or they could wait until tomorrow and haren can be DFA'd...maybe...probably not...sigh.
gotta imagine j.russell is on his way out at the very least.