Terry Tosses a No-No

courtesy of mlb.com

courtesy of mlb.com

1990 had not been a particularly memorable year for Terry Mulholland. He was 6-6 with a 4.34 ERA on the season, and as he took the Vet Stadium mound on August 15th against a Giants team led by Will Clark and Matt Williams,  he didn’t feel particularly great.

“It wasn’t a great warmup,” Mulholland said. “I didn’t throw more than a handful of balls over the plate. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the way I was pitching.”

But once the umpire yelled “Play Ball!” it was quickly apparent that he had something special. He struck out the first two batters, and mowed down the Giants lineup through the first six innings, with not a single Giant reaching first base.

Mulholland’s family, who were watching from their home in Uniontown, PA with Terry’s maternal grandparents, could feel the excitement rising. “We stayed with that tradition of not saying ‘no-hitter'” Terry’s father said. “We’re not even superstitious, but baseball players do it that way in the dugout, so we did too.”

Then, in the top of the 7th, a minor blemish. Charlie Hayes scooped up a Rich Parker grounder and threw it erratically to first. The throw pulled Kruk off the bag, and an error was charged to Hayes. Still, Mulholland had his no-hitter intact, and he enticed Dave Anderson to ground into a double play, eliminating Parker, then covered the bag on a grounder to Krukker to end the inning.

By that point, the crowd of 32, 156 at the Vet was going wild. The Phils had taken a comfortable 6-0 lead, so the only drama left was whether or not Mulholland would get his no-no. He goaded three Giants in the 8th to hit lazy fly balls into the outfield, and he was three outs away from becoming the first Phillie to throw a no-hitter in front of a home crowd since Red Donahue had shut down the Boston Beaneaters at the Baker Bowl in 1898.

Pinch hitter Bill Bathe led off the 9th by grounding out to Charlie Hayes. Then Juan Uribe sent a weak dribbler to short. Out #2. Up to the plate stepped a pinch hitter, future Hall of Famer Gary Carter. Mulholland quickly ran the count to 1-2. The crowd began to chant “TER-RY! TER-RY!” Mulholland began to feel the pressure, and took a timeout to gather his thoughts. “My right leg was beginning to feel kind of wobbly,” he said later. “I didn’t feel 100 percent behind the next pitch, so I huddled with myself.”

courtesy of dickallenhof.blogspot.com

courtesy of dickallenhof.blogspot.com

Two pitches later, Carter sent a screamer down the third base line, at the man whose earlier error had spoiled the perfect game. “It was a hard shot down the line,” Mulholland said. “I couldn’t tell if it was going to be fair or foul and [Hayes] didn’t have time to make that decision.” Hayes shot his left glove arm across his body, and reeled in the rope (You can watch the play here). It was done. Terry Mulholland had pitched the first no-hitter in Vet Stadium history, against the team that had traded him to the Phils less than a year earlier.

”You can’t realize what went through my mind when he caught that ball. It was such a rush of emotion. I’m not usually an emotional guy, but I knew the significance of that.”

Meanwhile, back in Uniontown, his parents were soaking it all in. “We all just looked at the zeros,” said the senior Terry Mulholland, “and said, ‘Isn’t that great?'”

Here’s the boxscore from that game. 

Tommy Greene’s No-No

When he walked off the field after pitching the 13th-16th innings in a wild 1-0 win over the Cubs on May 17th, 1991, Tommy Greene must have thought that things couldn’t get any crazier. A week later, they would. The 24-year old spot starter/long reliever was pressed into duty on May 23rd when Danny Cox went down with an injury. He was forced to face a tough Montreal Expos lineup that included Marquis Grissom, Andres Galarrage, and Larry Walker.

Greene was a high school phenom, and in his senior year of high school he went 15-2 with a 0.22 ERA. He was a first round pick by the Atlanta Braves, but never found success in their farm system. So when the Phillies went after Dale Murphy in 1991, the Braves were willing to throw Tommy Greene into the mix. Murphy never amounted to much in Phillies red, but Tommy Greene ended up being a steal (the Braves got Jeff Parrett).

A mere 8,833 fans were on hand to watch the Tommy Greene vs. Oil Can Boyd matchup, but those fans got to see history made. Greene, with all of 6 career wins coming into the game, showed the form that two years later would help lead the Phillies to the World Series. He completely shut down the Expos that Thursday afternoon, never even getting in trouble or needing a brilliant defensive stop to get his no-no, in the process becoming the first pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter outside the United States. Greene talked about the last out with Phillies Insider in 2008:

“I backed off the mound before the last pitch [to Tim Wallach] and thought about Leo [Mazzone]. He was my pitching coach in the minors with the Braves. Three times under him, I lost a no-hitter with two out in the ninth. I remembered him saying, ‘When are you going to finish off one?’”

Montreal third baseman Tim Wallach grounded back to Greene, who raised both arms in the air, trotted toward first and flipped the ball to Jordan for the final out. Before he knew it, Greene was surrounded by his jubilant teammates.

After the game, Tommy Greene was told he had a phone call from the Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, who told the gullible country boy that they should get together for a drink next time he was in town. “Aw shucks,” said Greene before the entire clubhouse burst into hysterics, letting Greene know he had been duped and that it was one of the clubbies on the other end of the line.

After an injury plagued 1992, Greene  showed why he had been a number one pick with his 1993 performance. He was 16-4 with a 3.42 ERA. He was 6th in Cy Young voting. Despite struggling in that year’s postseason, the Phillies rewarded him with a $2 million payday. Expectations for the big right hander were sky high. They were never to be fulfilled.

Greene started the 1994 season against the Colorado Rockies, and came out after 5 innings with shoulder stiffness. Though Greene sounded glum after the game, manager Jim Fregosi remarked, “I don’t have any concerns right now.” He should have. Greene would win only 2 more major league games. The shoulder never fully healed. The Phillies gave up on him after the 1995 season. The Astros gave him a cup of coffee in 1997, but after a mere 9 innings he was gone, out of the game of baseball. But for one day in 1991, he was the King of the Hill, one of only 8 Phillies since 1900 to not let a single batter reach base via a base hit.

RELATED: 1993 Inquirer profile of Tommy Greene.

Bobo Holloman: Baseball’s Most Spectacular Flash in the Pan Ever

I was thrilled when I realized that Bobo Holloman’s May 6th, 1953 no-hitter came against the Philadelphia A’s, because it meant I’d have an excuse to write about it. I have always found it to be one of the quirkiest, strangest anomalies in baseball history: a 29 year old rookie becomes the only man to ever throw a no-hitter in his first major league start, then is out of the league less than three months later, never to return. Here’s how it happened.

Following World War II, young Alva Lee “Bobo” Holloman decided to try his hand at baseball. After 7 years of bouncing around the minors, he finally got his call to the Show. He threw a few innings of relief for the St. Louis Browns, and after a few weeks nagged manager Marty Marion into letting him start a game. On May 6th, he got his wish, as the Browns were taking on the Philadelphia A’s in a remarkably forgettable match-up; the A’s would finish the season 41.5 games out of first, the Browns 46.5 games out of first. St. Louis would move to Baltimore at the end of the season. The A’s would move to Kansas City after the 1954 season. Furthermore, the weather was lousy that night. Therefore a mere 2,473 fans ventured out to old Sportsman’s Park. Browns’ owner Bill Veeck described Bobo’s no-no:

Everything he threw up was belted and everywhere the ball went, there was a Brownie there to catch it. It was such a hot and humid heavy night that long fly balls that seemed to be heading out of the park would die and be caught against the fence. Just as Bobo looked as if he was tiring, a shower would sweep across the field, delaying the game long enough for him to get a rest. Allie Clark hit one into the left field stands that curved foul at the last second. A bunt just rolled foul on the last spin. Our fielding was superb. The game went into the final innings and nobody had got a base hit off Big Bobo. On the final out of the eighth inning, Billy Hunter made an impossibe diving stop on a ground ball behind second base and an even more impossible throw. With two out in the ninth, a ground ball was rifled down the first base line — right at our first baseman, Vic Wertz. Big Bobo had pitched the quaintest no-hitter in the history of the game.

And Holloman wasn’t only the pitching star that night. He had also 2 hits and 3 RBIs. Remarkably, they would be the only hits and RBIs of his career. He would pitch erratically over the next two months, recording 2 more wins but 7 losses, and in late July he was sold to a minor league team named the Toronto Maple Leafs (pretty original, eh?). He failed to regain his form, played for 5 minor league teams, and by the end of 1954, he was through with baseball. He went to work driving a truck and later started an advertising firm.

His career numbers are as pedestrian as you can get: 3-7, with a 5.23 ERA. But his legacy endures. Why? Because he is still considered the only MLB pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first start (a couple of pitchers did it in the 1890s before the mound was moved back to its current 60’6″). Only one pitcher has come close since. In 1967, Red Sox pitcher Billy Rohr of the Boston Red Sox had  a no-hitter with two outs in the 9th, but Elston Howard singled to spoil his bid. And we’ll end with a trivia question: what current Major Leaguer threw a no-hitter in his 2nd start, in 2007?