Don Wilson Hurls 2nd No-Hitter of Career
by John Wilson, Houston Chronicle
Grim Don Wilson, an angry 24-year-old righthander throwing flames past Cincinnati bats, turned all of the Houston Astros' frustration into one magnificent game Thursday night and pitched the second no-hit, no-run game of his three-year major league career.
The Astros ended an eight-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over the Reds, the no-hitter coming back-to-back with Jim Maloney's masterpiece in which he had goose-egged the Astros the night before.
It was the second time in major league history that teams have exchanged no-hitters in successive games. Last Sept. 17 and 18 at San Francisco, the Giants' Gaylord Perry and St. Louis Cards' Ray Washburn had done the same thing.
Wilson's first no-hitter came on June 18, 1967, in the Astrodome against Atlanta. The score was 2-0.
No one had suffered more than Wilson through the team's terrible start that had seen it win only four of its first 24 games. His usual good humor almost totally disappeared as he was driven from the mound in losing his last two starts.
During the long losing streak Wilson had said he would "bust anyone in the mouth who tells me the Astros are quitters." When he came to ancient Crosley Field Thursday afternoon, he was a quiet, serious young man with a look of almost forbidding grimness.
At times in the past, Wilson has not been effective when he tried too hard and did not relax.
But such was not the case Thursday night, when he directed his determination into a super effort on the mound. His pitches blazed to the plate with such velocity that the Reds hit only one ball on the ground all night. Alex Johnson grounded out to third in the first inning, and the other 26 outs were recorded on 13 strikeouts and 13 flies. Infielders, including the catcher, caught six popups and the outfielders handled seven chances.
Only two balls were hit hard, both in the eighth inning, but there never was anything that put an undue strain on the fielders.
After the game, Wilson, much more satisfied than elated, said he was particularly glad to pitch the game against Cincinnati. The Reds had beaten Houston 11-5, 14-0, and 10-0 in three previous games this year.
"They were laughing at us and making fun of us," Don said. Cincinnati seems to bring out the best in Wilson. In two successive games last year he struck out 18 and 16 Reds. The 18 strike-out mark joined him with Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller as the only pitchers ever to register 18 "K's" in a single game.
Wilson also had scored his first major league win against the Reds, in the only game he pitched when he was called up at the tail end of the 1966 season, his second year in organized ball.
Don struck out 13 Thursday night, the same number Maloney had whiffed the night before, and two less than he did in his game against Atlanta. He walked six and hit one batter.
Wilson's control strayed a few times as he obviously was straining every fiber to bring in the no-hitter, but always managed to straighten out and feed the batters sizzling heat over the plate that they just couldn't handle.
The ninth inning came down to the usual heart-pumping climax of every no-hitter. Wilson ran the count on the first three batters to 3-2, as he had done to the first three hitters of the inning before.
Tony Perez went down swinging in the ninth after fouling off one 3-2 pitch. John Bench hit a lazy fly to center on the 3-2. Fred Whitfield walked on a 3-2 pitch.
And then Tommy Helms popped up Wilson's first effort, third baseman Doug Rader waiting in almost unbearable anxiety for the ball to come down.
Wilson had already leaped up from the mound and thrown his hands in the air when Helms' swing sent the ball high in the air.
The Astros had gone through 13 innings without a hit until Rader slammed a home run against the left field screen to open the fourth inning. That stretched back to Jim Wynn's single in the eighth inning Atlanta Tuesday night, through Jim Maloney's no-hitter here Wednesday, and three hitless innings Thursday night by Jim Merritt.
After Rader's homer the inning before, Houston gave Wilson a 3-0 lead with a pair of runs in the fifth.
Joe Morgan opened the round with a walk and advanced to second on Wynn's single after Jesus Alou had popped up a bunt attempt. With two down, Denis Menke smashed a drive off the left field wall just out of reach of Alex Johnson's grasping glove. Both runners fled home.
The Astros made it 4-0 in the eighth. Curt Blefary opened the inning with a triple off the center field fence. Don Bryant beat out a hit to short when Blefary held at third, forcing Chico Ruiz to come up ready to throw to the plate after making a fine diving stop.
Wilson then sent Rose almost to the center field wall for his well-tagged ball that got Blefary home without a play.
Wilson walked John Bench in the second inning and he hit him with his first pitch in the fifth. He walked Pete Rose in the sixth on a 3-2 pitch after Rose fouled one off. Whitfield became the fourth baserunner when Wilson walked him on four pitches with two out in the seventh.
The eighth inning was an agony of dramatic tenseness as Wilson lost pinch hitter Jimmy Stewart on a 3-2 count. He then struck out pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp on a 3-2 pitch after first running the count to 2-0 on him.
Manager Harry Walker trotted to the mound with the count 2-0 and talked to Wilson. The big righthander then ran the count to 3-2 on his third straight batter, Rose, who fouled off three straight pitches before walking. Catcher Don Bryant dropped one of the fouls for an error.
But Wilson got out of the inning on Bob Tolan's liner to right, the first all night a Red had hit the ball hard, and Alex Johnson's fly to center.
When Don Wilson marched to the mound in Cincinnati's ancient Crosley Field on the night of May 1, 1969, his Houston teammates knew he was mad. He acknowledged their attempts at conversation with barely audible grunts. He was determined and dead serious.
The source of his anger wasn't the no-hit, no-run game that Jim Maloney had pitched for the Reds the night before. Nor was it the Astros' eight-game losing streak or their terrible start. (They had won only four of twenty-four games since the start of the season.) Wilson's vendetta with Cincinnati stemmed from a 14-0 shellacking the Astros had taken from the Reds at the Astrodome on April 22, nine days before. The 24-year-old right-hander claimed that in the 14-0 loss, Cincinnati players had tried to humiliate the Astros in front of the home fans.
"They were ahead fourteen to nothing, and Johnny Bench was calling for breaking pitches on three-and-one counts," Wilson charged. "Pete Rose was still running for extra bases. They weren't satisfied to win; they wanted to make us look ridiculous. In the dugout they were laughing at us. They were even sticking out their tongues and turning their caps around backward -- making fun of us. You just don't do that in my book. Nobody is going to do that to our club and get away with it."
Wilson had started that game. He was so upset afterward that he called the Cincinnati clubhouse to talk to Bench, who told him the Reds were just playing the game the way it had to be played and had no special desire to humiliate the Astros. Wilson wasn't satisfied.
In his next start, he was knocked out of the box in San Francisco. When he arrived at Cincinnati's Crosley Field on the afternoon of May 1, he had worked himself into such a lather that his teammates worried he might not pitch well. After missing a pitch during batting practice, he turned and slammed his bat against the cage.
Once the game started, Wilson funneled his anger and frustration into a flaming fastball. He walked six batters and hit another but struck out thirteen. The one he hit was Johnny Bench. No one in the Reds' dugout thought it was an accident. Wilson himself was hit by a Jim Merritt pitch and on two other occasions was forced to evade high hard ones. In the fifth inning, after Wilson had ducked a Merritt delivery, Reds manager Dave Bristol yelled to him, "Gutless, Gutless!"
"You're a gutless bastard, Bristol," Wilson yelled back.
Wilson carried on the verbal feud with the Reds' players throughout the early innings of the game. "They didn't have much to say in the late innings, though," says Wilson. "I was throwing the ball down their throats."
"I was determined to beat them... even to pitch a no-hitter against them. I was thinking about it from the first inning on. There were a couple of times my legs were shaking so much I had to step off the mound. I never wanted anything so bad in all my life as to pitch that no-hitter."
Entering the final two innings, Wilson had his no-hitter in sight. Firing as hard as he could, he ran the count to three and two on the first three hitters he faced in the eighth. Pinch hitter Jimmy Stewart walked, and pinch hitter Jim Beauchamp struck out. Pete Rose raised a foul pop-up that catcher Don Bryant staggered under and dropped. Wilson walked Rose, but he got Bobby Tolan and Alex Johnson on the two hardest hit balls of the night, the first to right field and the second to center.
Then came the dramatic ninth. Again Wilson ran the count to three and two on the first three batters. He struck out Tony Perez and retired Bench on a fly to center, but he walked Fred Whitfield. Tommy Helms then stepped to the plate and, swinging on the first pitch, hit a sky-high pop to third base. Wilson leaped off the mound and threw up his hands as he saw the ball land in the glove of third baseman Doug Rader. Wilson had his cherished no-hitter and a 4-0 victory over the Reds.
Don's teammates rushed to the mound with congratulations, but Wilson wasn't smiling. He was heading for the Cincinnati dugout snarling, "I'm going to get those bums." Wilson's teammates were forced to restrain him.
"I was pretty far out," he confessed when the incident was recalled to him. "I'm glad the boys stopped me. I hate to think what might have happened had they let me go after them."
"I never saw a guy more psyched up -- or more mad -- in my life than Wilson was that night," said Harry Walker, manager of the Houston club at the time. "He pitched like he had a personal grudge with every member of the Cincinnati team. He wouldn't talk to anybody on the bench. The guys were afraid to go near him. They left him alone."
The back-to-back no-hitters of Maloney and Wilson, marked the second time in major league history that teams had exchanged no-hitters in successive games. the Giants' Gaylord Perry and the Cardinals' Ray Washburn had done it on September 17 and 18 in 1968 at San Francisco. But theirs was a relatively gentlemanly affair. In Cincinnati on May 2, no one cared to contemplate what would have happened had Wilson lost.
Jim Maloney is carried off the field after
his no-hitter from the previous day
Game of 5/1/1969 -- Houston at Cincinnati Courtesy of Retrosheet Houston AB R H RBI Cincinnati AB R H RBI Morgan J, 2b 3 1 1 0 Rose P, cf 2 0 0 0 Alou J, lf 5 0 0 0 Tolan B, rf 4 0 0 0 Wynn J, cf 4 1 1 0 Johnson A, lf 4 0 0 0 Rader D, 3b 5 1 1 1 Perez T, 3b 4 0 0 0 Menke D, ss 4 0 2 2 Bench J, c 2 0 0 0 Miller N, rf 4 0 0 0 Whitfield F, 1b 2 0 0 0 Blefary C, 1b 3 1 2 0 Helms T, 2b 4 0 0 0 Bryant D, c 4 0 2 0 Chaney D, ss 2 0 0 0 Wilson D, p 2 0 0 1 Carroll C, p 0 0 0 0 Stewart J, ph-ss 0 0 0 0 Merritt J, p 1 0 0 0 Ruiz C, ss 1 0 0 0 Beauchamp J, ph 1 0 0 0 Noriega J, p 0 0 0 0 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 34 4 9 4 27 0 0 0 Houston 000 120 010 -- 4 Cincinnati 000 000 000 -- 0 Houston IP H R ER BB SO Wilson D (W) 9.0 0 0 0 6 13 Cincinnati IP H R ER BB SO Merritt J (L) 5.2 6 3 3 3 3 Carroll C 2.1 3 1 1 0 1 Noriega J 1.0 0 0 0 1 2 Game winning RBI -- none E -- Helms T, Tolan B, Bryant D DP -- Cincinnati 1 LOB -- Houston 10, Cincinnati 7 2B -- Menke D 3B -- Blefary C HR -- Rader D SB -- Bench J SH -- Morgan J SF -- Wilson D HBP -- by Merritt J (Wilson D), by Wilson D (Bench J) T -- 2:32 A -- 4042
Play by Play
Game of Thursday, 5/1/1969 -- Houston Astros at Cincinnati Reds Starting Lineups: Houston Cincinnati 1. 2b Joe Morgan cf Pete Rose 2. lf Jesus Alou rf Bobby Tolan 3. cf Jim Wynn lf Alex Johnson 4. 3b Doug Rader 3b Tony Perez 5. ss Denis Menke c Johnny Bench 6. rf Norm Miller 1b Fred Whitfield 7. 1b Curt Blefary 2b Tommy Helms 8. c Don Bryant ss Darrel Chaney 9. p Don Wilson p Jim Merritt ASTROS 1ST: J.Morgan flied to P.Rose-cf; J.Alou grounded out (T.Helms-2b to F.Whitfield-1b); J.Wynn struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 0, Reds 0. REDS 1ST: P.Rose struck out; B.Tolan struck out; A.Johnson grounded out (D.Rader-3b to C.Blefary-1b); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 0, Reds 0. ASTROS 2ND: D.Rader flied to A.Johnson-lf; D.Menke flied to P.Rose-cf; N.Miller reached on an error by T.Helms-2b [N.Miller to first]; C.Blefary walked [N.Miller to second]; D.Bryant flied to P.Rose-cf; 0 R, 0 H, 1 E, 2 LOB. Astros 0, Reds 0. REDS 2ND: T.Perez flied to J.Alou-lf; J.Bench walked; J.Bench stole second; F.Whitfield struck out; T.Helms struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Reds 0. ASTROS 3RD: D.Wilson was hit by a pitch; J.Morgan out on a sacrifice bunt (J.Merritt-p to F.Whitfield-1b) [D.Wilson to second]; J.Alou popped to J.Bench-c in foul territory; J.Wynn struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Reds 0. REDS 3RD: D.Chaney popped to D.Rader-3b in foul territory; J.Merritt struck out; P.Rose popped to D.Bryant-c in foul territory; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 0, Reds 0. ASTROS 4TH: D.Rader homered to leftfield; D.Menke walked; N.Miller lined to T.Helms-2b; C.Blefary singled to right field [D.Menke to third (error by B.Tolan-rf)]; D.Bryant struck out; D.Wilson popped to D.Chaney-ss; 1 R, 2 H, 1 E, 2 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. REDS 4TH: B.Tolan popped to J.Morgan-2b; A.Johnson struck out; T.Perez popped to C.Blefary-1b in foul territory; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Reds 0. ASTROS 5TH: J.Morgan walked; J.Alou popped to J.Bench-c in foul territory; J.Wynn singled to left field [J.Morgan to second]; D.Rader flied to A.Johnson-lf; D.Menke doubled to left field [J.Morgan scored, J.Wynn scored]; N.Miller popped to T.Helms-2b; 2 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. REDS 5TH: J.Bench was hit by a pitch; F.Whitfield struck out; T.Helms flied to J.Wynn-cf; D.Chaney was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. ASTROS 6TH: C.Blefary flied to P.Rose-cf; D.Bryant singled to left field; On a bunt D.Wilson popped to J.Bench-c in foul territory; J.Morgan singled to right field [D.Bryant to second]; C.CARROLL REPLACED D.CHANEY (PITCHING); C.RUIZ REPLACED J.MERRITT (PLAYING SS); J.Alou grounded out (F.Whitfield-1b unassisted); 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. REDS 6TH: C.Ruiz was called out on strikes; P.Rose walked; B.Tolan popped to D.Menke-ss; A.Johnson flied to J.Wynn-cf; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. ASTROS 7TH: J.Wynn grounded out (C.Carroll-p to F.Whitfield-1b); D.Rader was called out on strikes; D.Menke singled to shortstop; N.Miller lined to P.Rose-cf; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. REDS 7TH: T.Perez flied to N.Miller-rf; J.Bench struck out; F.Whitfield walked; T.Helms struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 3, Reds 0. ASTROS 8TH: C.Blefary tripled to center field; D.Bryant singled to shortstop; D.Wilson out on a sacrifice fly to P.Rose-cf [C.Blefary scored]; J.Morgan grounded into a double play (C.Ruiz-ss to T.Helms-2b to F.Whitfield-1b) [D.Bryant out at second]; 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 4, Reds 0. REDS 8TH: J.STEWART BATTED FOR C.CARROLL; J.Stewart walked; J.BEAUCHAMP BATTED FOR C.RUIZ; J.Beauchamp struck out; D.Bryant-c dropped a foul fly hit by P.Rose; P.Rose walked [J.Stewart to second]; B.Tolan flied to N.Miller-rf; A.Johnson flied to J.Wynn-cf; 0 R, 0 H, 1 E, 2 LOB. Astros 4, Reds 0. ASTROS 9TH: J.STEWART STAYED IN GAME (PLAYING SS); J.NORIEGA REPLACED J.BEAUCHAMP (PITCHING); J.Alou grounded out (T.Helms-2b to F.Whitfield-1b); J.Wynn walked; D.Rader struck out; D.Menke was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 4, Reds 0. REDS 9TH: T.Perez struck out; J.Bench flied to J.Wynn-cf; F.Whitfield walked; T.Helms popped to D.Rader-3b in foul territory; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 4, Reds 0. Final Totals R H E LOB Astros 4 9 1 10 Reds 0 0 2 7