(c) Houston Astros
Wilson Fans 15, No-Hits Braves
by John Wilson, Houston Chronicle
June 18, 1967 - by John Wilson, Houston Chronicle
Some time in the distant future when the quality of Houston no-hitters is evaluated, they will measure
them against the one Don Wilson pitched Sunday.
The 22-year-old rookie righthander, who said he was "petrified" whenhe went to the mound in
the ninth inning, simply overpowered the Atlanta Braves for a 2-0 victory that was Houston's third
no-hitter in its six years in the National League.
Houston's Don Nottebart hurled a no-hitter against Philadelphia
here on May 17, 1963, which the Astros won, 4-1. Then Ken Johnson
lost a no-hitter to Cincinnati here, 1-0, on April 23, 1964.
Wilson struck out 15, setting a two-game Astro record of 28 strikeouts, as he went the distance for the second straight game.
Only three Braves reached base, Denis Menke on walks in the fifth and eighth innings, and
Henry Aaron on a walk in the seventh.
The Braves had only one near-hit in the afternoon. Felipe Alou cracked a sharp grounder to third baseman Bob Aspromonte's
left and the Houston infielder went to the ground with the ball, gloved it cleanly, stood up and threw Alou out at first. That was for
the third out in the sixth inning.
If Aspromonte had not made the play, the ball would have had to go as a hit.
Aspromonte also made what may have been the other key play for Wilson. Alou popped a foul in the ninth inning, but catcher
Dave Adlesh turned the wrong way and never picked up the ball in the Dome ceiling. Aspromonte
raced in from third and made the catch, almost behind the plate.
"Before the game I had told Aspro the ball was hard to pick up in here in the daytime and if he could see it, to come after it," Adlesh said.
"I saw Dave turn the wrong way and so I kept coming after the ball," Aspromonte said.
Wilson said getting Alou as the top man in the ninth gave him a lift. He shook Aspromonte's hand several times after the game, breaking
into a huge smile every time. In fact, smiling came easy for the Louisiana-born, California-reared righthander. It was quite an afternoon
for him and for the Astros.
Roy Hofheinz, owner of the team, missed the game, one of the few times this year he had been absent. He was preparing for a trip.
But he was on the phone to Manager Grady Hatton and Spec Richardson, the business manager, before they could get to the
clubroom after the game. Wilson's contract was to be scrapped and he was to get one for a $1000 raise today, Hofheinz said.
Wilson got his chance to jump from the Texas League to the majors this season because of his control. And in the spring he said he did
not consider himself an overpowering pitcher, but thought of himself more as a control pitcher.
However, some people believe he is throwing harder as the season goes along. Others say it merely is that his ball is moving more.
And to see the swinging strikes the Braves took against him Sunday, it was obvious Wilson had something on the ball.
"I've never had a better fastball," Wilson said.
He struck out Aaron for the last out of the game.
"He just threw that last one right by me," admitted Aaron, who still is one of the great hitters of all time. Henry added, "It's young
guys like this that make me want to retire."
Houston Manager Grady Hatton said he thought Wilson threw the last pitch to Aaron as hard as any pitch he had thrown the entire game.
"I am amazed at the game he threw," Hatton said. "He had thrown 155 pitches against San Francisco in his last start and we had brought him
back on three days' rest where we have been on a five-man rotation. I was dying in the dugout -- this is just too hard on a manager. I should
get extra pay, too."
Retires First 14
Wilson retired the first 14 in a row before he walked Menke in the fifth. The next inning, Aspromonte made the fine play on Alou. And in
the seventh Wilson walked Aaron. In the ninth, he walked Menke again to lead off but struck out the side, including pinch-hitters
Rico Carty and Charlie Lau.
Houston scored its two runs in the fourth. Sonny Jackson's single and Jim Wynn's
double brought in the first one, which turned out to be the only one needed.
Wynn's double was into the rightfield corner, his second two-baser.
He had hit a line drive off the leftfield screen in the first inning. It had missed only by a few feet of being a home run, which would have been h
his 10th of the month.
Wynn scored in the fourth on Eddie Mathews' infield out after Rusty Staub had singled.
Drops 13 Knucklers
This was against Phil Niekro, the Braves' knuckleballer who did a commendable job and gave catcher Bob Uecker a battling job behind the plate.
Uecker dropped 13 of Niekro's dancing knucklers, two on strike-three counts on which the batter reached first safely.
Wilson said the Braves started yelling at him about the no-hitter along about the sixth or seventh inning. But he doesn't remember hearing much in the ninth.
In fact, he says he was concentrating so hard in the ninth he doesn't remember hearing too much.
"I could hear the fans when I walked out for the ninth," he said. "They gave me an ovation. But after that I don't remember hearing too much. In the eighth
I had looked at the scoreboard to see who would be coming up. I didn't want to face Aaron again. But when I walked Menke that meant it would be Alou, Tito Francona,
and Aaron in the ninth.
No Walk For Hank
"When Aaron came up I told myself 'he's either going to hit it and break up the no-hitter or I'm going to get him out'. I wasn't going to walk him."
Hatton, down in the runway leading to the dugout, put down his cigarette when Don got three balls on Aaron. If he walked him, Hatton was going out, not to take Don
out but just to talk to him. It turned out to be unnecessary.
Hatton had gone to the mound once during the game, when Wilson had seemed to be struggling. But Don got back in the groove.
As Don started to leave the dugout for the mound in the ninth inning, Hatton told him, "Just relax and throw your best stuff; don't try to start pitching now,
you've gone too far for that."
He meant for Wilson not to start trying to nip at the corners of the plate and to get cute. He had pitched eight no-hit innings with his strong stuff and the
thing to do was not let up.
110 of Wilson's 143 Tosses 'Fast'
Wilson threw 143 pitches Sunday in his no-hit game against the Atlanta Braves. According to Houston's pitching chart, 110 of Wilson's pitches were fast balls,
75 for strikes and 35 for balls. He threw 31 sliders, 15 for strikes and 16 for balls. Wilson also threw one curve ball and one change-up.
No-Hitter Rookie First Since 1934
Wilson's no-hitter was the first by a rookie in the National League since Paul "Daffy" Dean blanked the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 21, 1934.
The last American League rookie to pitch a no-hitter was Bobo Holloman, who pitched one for the St. Louis Browns in 1953.
The Braves had not been the victims of a no-hitter since Cliff Chambers of Pittsburgh shut them off in 1951 when the Braves were still in Boston.
The 22-year old righthander is the youngest rookie ever to hurl a no-hitter and the younger pitcher to pitch a no-hitter in the majors since Bob Feller in 1940. Feller also was 22.
Thought About Past
Wilson this year had led games 2-0 in the sixth, 2-0 and 3-0 in the eighth, and 1-0 in the ninth and not won a one of them.
But last week he went nine innings against the San Francisco Giants. It was his third win of the season and Hatton had stuck with him through a tough game.
"I thought about that," Wilson admitted. "I thought about that I 'had gone nine against the Giants and that they could hit as good as this team.'"
St. Louis now comes into town for two games, the first one at 8 tonight. Cincinnati follows for one game, after which the Astros leave on a six-game road trip.