Sunday, July 26, 2015

1972: The Last No-Hitter of Its Kind (until 2015)

 *This post is part of an on-going series cataloging surviving broadcast footage from 1972.

Milt Pappas' no-hitter/near perfect game stood as a rare feat in two ways for nearly 43 years.  In 1972, Pappas became the first pitcher since 1908 to lose a perfect game bid on the 27th batter without giving up a hit.  Not since Hooks Wiltse's HBP in 1908 had a free base been issued to the 27th batter.  The walk by Pappas would be the last of its kind until June 2015, when Max Scherzer's perfect game bid was spoiled with 26 outs by Jose Tabata's elbow pad.

Even with that inglorious drought ended, Pappas still held the distinction of throwing the most recent no-hitter in the 'friendly confines' of Wrigley Field.  That feat now belongs to left hander, Cole Hamels, who no-hit the Cubs on July 25, 2015.  

For Pappas, his day in the sun was near the end of a long, weird career.  This eventful no-hitter was one of the final chapters in a career of prominent lowlights (being on the wrong lopsided end of the Frank Robinson to Baltimore trade/admitting to giving up Roger Maris' 59th homerun out of spite towards Ford Frick) and highlights (striking out the side on only 9 pitches).

The memorable 9th inning and more, after the jump.

By September 2, 1972, the Cubs found themselves 11 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League East.  The Padres, in their fourth year of existence, were a nightmarish 46-80.  The Padres were so woeful, they only had 2 position players accumulate more than 1.0 fWAR (Nate Colbert, Leron Lee)

I have heard rumors that highlights from the earlier innings (not complete game) exist, however I have not personally seen them.  Heading into the final frame, Pappas had retired 24 straight batters with 6 strikeouts, 8 flyouts and 10 groundouts.  

The first hitter, John Jeter, begins the wild 9th inning driving a 1-1 flyball into the left-center gap.  On this rainy Saturday afternoon, centerfielder Billy North appears to lose his footing on the Wrigley grass (and its history of wonderful drainage) and the perfect game seems lost.  

In a flash, however, Billy Williams comes flying in to snare the hooking liner chest high to record the 25th out.  For pure drama, the switch to the baseline camera by WGN makes this play seem even more amazing than it probably was based on how easily Williams eventually comes up with it.  Jack Brickhouse, on the call as always, credits the cameramen for catching this play.

On the first pitch following Williams' heroics, Padres catcher Fred Kendall pulls a line drive into the Cubs bullpen down the left field line.  If the Wrigley faithfuls' hearts had begun to find their normal rhythm after the previous lineout, this ball flirting with the chalk surely sent them back over the edge.  Kendall grounded the next pitch to Don Kessinger and Pappas had 26 outs.

The Padres sent Larry Stahl to pinch hit for the relief pitcher.  Pappas threw Stahl a fastball on the first pitch, a wide one on the second pitch and a fastball across the plate on the third pitch.  Stahl only swung at the two fastballs.  Pappas would throw him two more sliders, despite Stahl being late on what appeared to be the two fastballs near the plate he saw.  In the postgame, Pappas said he thought Froemming "could have called one of those sliders a strike"

"Now, here comes one of the most fateful pitches of the year"  - Jack Brickhouse

After being ahead of the pinch-hitter Stahl 1-2, Pappas decided to throw only sliders. On the 3-2 delivery, Pappas threw essentially the same pitch/same location he threw on 1-2 and 2-2.  It may have been a little closer, it may not have.  In the eyes of umpire Bruce Froemming, it was not a strike.  

WGN's camera work in this instance leaves us with an imperfect view.  Had they used the centerfield camera, we would know once and for all whether the pitch was in fact in the strikezone.  The high-behind-home angle does, however, give us a view of whether the hitter went around.  Even with my Cardinals fan eyes, I'd say the hitter does not in fact check his swing.  This probably should have been a perfect game on a swinging strike.  In today's game, the catcher would have asked for an appeal on the check swing and it would have been a strikeout.

It was not and Pappas almost went from history to infamy, getting himself ejected with one batter left in a no-hitter.  Clearly enraged, the Cubs pitcher hurls a few obscenities in towards homeplate over the second-year umpire's call.  Froemming says that on that day in 1972, he told the Cubs catcher Randy Hundley, "If he comes down here, Randy, tell him to just keep walking."

Pappas was able to collect himself.  For the first time all day, he had to pitch from the stretch.  Former Cub, Garry Jestadt was the next pinch-hitter. On a 1-1 count, Pappas quick-pitched Jestadt and got him to pop-up to the second baseman to secure the second Cubs no-hitter of the season.   

Cubs third baseman, Ron Santo, is among one of the first teammates to congratulate Pappas.  Also in the scrum is a retired Ernie Banks, in uniform as a coach.  In review, the 9th inning of this game featured the 25th out coming after the centerfielder fell down, the 26th out coming after the hitter nearly hit a ball on the chalk down the left field line and the 27th out coming after the previous hitter was walked on a 3-2 count in a perfect game bid.  Only the Cubs. 

The majority of this footage comes from a 1977 WGN produced program titled "Memorable Moments in Chicago Sports History".  The broadcast footage has Jack Brickhouse providing play-by-play throughout.  Interestingly enough, the Pappas-Froemming altercation was cut from the highlight show footage.  Froemming's smirk and stroll back from the mound can be seen in this MLB Network clip available on  It should be noted that in this clip, MLB Network's Bob Costas appears to incorrectly state that Pappas had Stahl 0-2.

The total amount of the footage for the 9th inning is about five minutes and forty seconds.  Not included in that runtime is the footage of Froemming telling Pappas to calm down, nor is the postgame interview with Jim West shown.  

You can see the Pappas/West on-field interview here courtesy of  Pappas in later years would seem rather bitter about the no-call to the 27th hitter, however immediately after the game he seemed rather grateful that he was able to finally throw a no-hitter. 

Before we end this entry, I would be remiss if I didn't make mention of the Padres uniforms.  Sansabelt with a button-up top and in yellow?  Glorious.  

This would be the bridge to some of the Padres most famous uniforms.  In 1973, they would ditch the all brown caps on the road in favor of the 'Taco Bell' caps.  These full-yellow uniforms would be short lived, only being worn during the 1972 and 1973 seasons.  While the yellow-on-yellow is not the greatest look, the Padres should embrace their heritage and #BringBackTheBrown .

1 comment:

  1. MLB has just posted a new clip to YouTube, featuring the play that ends the Padres' 8th. Derrel Thomas is at the plate.

    Rob (twib77)