(c) Houston Astros
Long-suffering Dierker pitches no-hitter
by Dick Peebles, Houston Chronicle
At age 29 and after 12 seasons of pitching in the National League, Larry Dierker had given up all hopes of ever hurling a no-hitter. Then came Friday night. He shut out
the Montreal Expos without a hit as the Astros won their second straight, 6-0, before a wildly cheering crowd of 14,380 in the Astrodome.
"Early in my career when I was throwing nasty I thought I might throw a no-hitter," said Dierker as he sat in the training room of the Astro clubhouse with his right elbow resting in a tub of ice. "But in recent
years I haven't had the real nasty fastball. I didn't think I would ever do it."
"Oh, you can throw a no-hitter without an overpowering fastball. Ken Holtzman did it. He didn't strike out a batter, but when Don Wilson got his, he blew the ball past the hitters."
In winning his eighth game of the season against as many losses, Dierker threw mostly fast balls, mixing in an occasional slider. In the late innings as he smelled a no-hit game, Dierker was really throwing smoke. His fast ball
was rising and he challenged every hitter that came to the plate.
Dierker finished with eight strikeouts, two of them in the ninth inning as the crowd was standing and cheering his every move. The Astros exploded in one loud roar when Mike Jorgensen grounded to first baseman
Bob Watson for the final out.
"I knew Jorgensen was going to hit the ball to me," said Watson. "I grabbed the ball and raced to the bag. There was no way I was going to risk making a throw to Larry."
After Watson raced across the bag ahead of Jorgensen, Dierker leaped wildly into the air and came down with both feet on the first base bag. He was engulfed by teammates who were as happy as Dierker.
Four Expos reached base, all on walks. Andre Thornton walked in the second and seventh innings, Larry Parrish in the fifth and Pete MacKannin in the fifth.
"You have to be lucky to pitch a no-hitter," Dierker admitted, "and I was lucky tonight. Everybody on the team made great plays behind me."
Actually there were just three outstanding defensive gems that kept Dierker's date with destiny. The toughest was turned in by second baseman Rob Andrews in the fourth inning when he raced
to his right, made a backhand stop of a ball hit sharply by Jim Lyttle to the right of second, whirled and while in the air threw to first base for the out.
Jose Cruz, playing in center field for the injured Cesar Cedeno, made the other two game-savers. He went back to the warning track in center in the
seventh to haul down Jorgensen's towering drive, and he raced deep to right center in the eighth to grab Jose Morales' high fly ball.
The rest of the time Dierker, who is now 11-5 against Montreal in his career, had the Expos popping up or beating the ball into the ground.
When did he think he might throw a no-hitter?
"After the second inning," he said with a laugh. "I seldom get by the first two innings without giving up a hit. Seriously, I began to think about it in the seventh. I had trouble in the fifth with my control, but when I
came out in the sixth I suddenly had my stuff again. And for the rest of the game all I did was rush it in there."
Dierker, who had pitched two one-hitters earlier in his career, was given only silent moral support from his teammates on the bench between innings, as they feared they might jinx him.
"I was never nervous on the mound," said Dierker, "but I was (nervous) in the dugout. Nobody said anything. I was trying to crack jokes to loosen them up. I couldn't sit still during those final innings. I paced up and down
in the dugout while we were at bat."
"That's right," agreed Manager Bill Virdon. "Nobody said anything to Larry on the bench, except, 'Go get 'em,' everytime he left the bench."
The crowd really didn't become aware that it was sitting in on history, the first no-hitter in the major leagues this year, until the seventh inning. That's when Dierker fanned MacKanin for the final out, while the
"foamer" light was lit. Fans rushed out for their free beer and then came back to witness the fifth no-hitter by a Houston hurler.
Dierker received a standing ovation from the crown when he came to bat in the eighth inning to face young Joe Kerrigan, making his first major league appearance. Dierker struck out, but was applauded wildly.
As Dierker took the mound in the last of the ninth, the crowd came to its feet and remained.
He struck out Pepe Mangual on four pitches for the first out.
"My third pitch was a slider and I thought it was a strike, but the umpire called it a ball," said Dierker.
His first two pitches to Lyttle were balls and the crowd booed the calls. Then came three straight strikes, setting off
thunderous applause. Dierker pounded his first into his glove nervously as his infielders tossed around the ball.
Now up to the plate stepped Jorgensen, a left-handed batter with a .241 average. He grounded the first pitch to Watson and the ball game was
over. Dierker had pitched his way into immortality.
It was the fifth no-hitter by a Houston pitcher. Don Nottebart had the first against the Phillies on May 17, 1963;
Ken Johnson got the second April 23, 1964 against the Reds; and the late Don Wilson had
two, the first over the Braves, June 18, 1967 and the second against the Reds May 1, 1969.
It was the first no-hitter ever pitched against the Expos. Andy Messersmith of the Braves had a no-hitter for eight and two-thirds innings earlier this season, only to have Pepe Mangual
spoil it with a single.
The Astros backed up Dierker's historic effort with an 11-hit attack against four Montreal pitchers.
Catcher Ed Herrmann batted in two runs, including his first National League homer to lead off the fourth. Andrews, Cruz, Roger Metzer and
Dierker also batted in runs.
Don Stanhouse, who pitched the first three and two thirds inngs, was the loser. He was followed on the hill by Don Carrithers, Dan Warthen, and Kerrigan.
After two runs in the second inning, Dierker was home free.
Dierker gets new contract worth additional $2,500
by Dick Peebles, Houston Chronicle
Larry Dierker, the only 20-game winner in the history of the Houston Astros and one of the highest salaried players on the National League team, has a new and fatter contract today.
Tal Smith, general manager of the Astros, tore up Dierker's 1976 contract Friday night after the 29-year-old righthander pitched a no-hitter against the Montreal Expos in the Astrodome.
"Larry's now making $2,500 more this season than he was before the start of Friday's game," said Smith, who was just as happy over Dierker's performance as the Astros' winningnest pitcher was.
Two other times in his 12-year career Dierker came close to no-hitters, only to see his dream explode in his face.
The first was May 29, 1971, at San Diego. The second was June 19, 1972 against the Mets. Eddie Broussard broke up one with a line-drive single in the ninth. Felix Millan ruined the second by
beating out a hit to short with two out in the ninth.
"After that, I never thought I would pitch a no-hitter," said Dierker, who had a 20-13 record in 1969. But destiny had other plans.
For Ed Herrmann, who caught Dierker in Friday's 6-0 triumph at the Astrodome, it was a second no-hitter. He was behind the plate in 1967 for the
Chicago White Sox when Joel Hoerlen pitched a no-hitter against Detroit.
"Dierker was tremendous tonight," praised Herrmann. "He stayed with mostly fast balls, especially in the final innings."
"One thing that he was doing tonight after the first few innings was he was challenging the hitters and that's what you have to do if it's Cincinnati or Montreal. And I'm not taking
anything away from the Expo batters."
"But in some other games, instead of challenging the hitters, Larry would try to get too cute. He'd pick at the corners. Then he'd get behind, have to come in with his fast ball and,
they'd be laying for it. Tonight he was ahead of the hitters."
The no-hitter was a pleasant surprise to Astro pitching coach Mel Wright, but the victory wasn't. When he arrived at the Astrodome Friday afternoon, he predicted that Dierker, who
was beaten by Cincinnati in his last start, would pitch a good game. That he did.
Game of 7/9/1976 -- Montreal at Houston
Courtesy of Retrosheet
Montreal AB R H RBI Houston AB R H RBI
Mangual P, cf 4 0 0 0 Gross G, rf 4 0 0 0
Lyttle J, rf 4 0 0 0 Andrews R, 2b 4 0 2 1
Jorgensen M, lf 4 0 0 0 Cabell E, 3b 4 0 1 0
Thornton A, 1b 1 0 0 0 Watson B, 1b 3 2 2 0
Parrish L, 3b 2 0 0 0 Cruz J, cf 4 1 2 1
Mackanin P, 2b 2 0 0 0 Johnson C, lf 4 1 0 0
Johnson L, c 2 0 0 0 Howard W, lf 0 0 0 0
Foote B, ph 1 0 0 0 Herrmann E, c 3 1 2 2
Kerrigan J, p 0 0 0 0 Metzger R, ss 3 1 2 1
Frias P, ss 2 0 0 0 Dierker L, p 3 0 0 1
Foli T, ph-ss 1 0 0 0
Stanhouse D, p 1 0 0 0
Carrithers D, p 0 0 0 0
Dwyer J, ph 1 0 0 0
Warthen D, p 0 0 0 0
Morales J, ph-c 1 0 0 0
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
26 0 0 0 32 6 11 6
Montreal 000 000 000 -- 0
Houston 020 220 00x -- 6
Montreal IP H R ER BB SO
Stanhouse D (L) 3.2 6 4 4 4 0
Carrithers D 1.1 3 2 1 0 1
Warthen D 2.0 2 0 0 0 1
Kerrigan J 1.0 0 0 0 0 1
Houston IP H R ER BB SO
Dierker L (W) 9.0 0 0 0 4 8
Game winning RBI -- none
E -- Stanhouse D, Parrish L
DP -- Montreal 3, Houston 1
LOB -- Montreal 3, Houston 7
2B -- Cruz J
HR -- Herrmann E
SB -- Thornton A, Watson B
SF -- Dierker L
WP -- Stanhouse D
T -- 2:26
A -- 12511
Play by Play
Game of Friday, 7/9/1976 -- Montreal Expos at Houston Astros
1. cf Pepe Mangual rf Greg Gross
2. rf Jim Lyttle 2b Rob Andrews
3. lf Mike Jorgensen 3b Enos Cabell
4. 1b Andre Thornton 1b Bob Watson
5. 3b Larry Parrish cf Jose Cruz
6. 2b Pete Mackanin lf Cliff Johnson
7. c Larry Johnson c Ed Herrmann
8. ss Pepe Frias ss Roger Metzger
9. p Don Stanhouse p Larry Dierker
EXPOS 1ST: P.Mangual flied to G.Gross-rf; J.Lyttle flied to
C.Johnson-lf; M.Jorgensen grounded out (B.Watson-1b to
L.Dierker-p); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 0.
ASTROS 1ST: G.Gross reached on an error by D.Stanhouse-p
(P.Mackanin-2b to P.Frias-ss) [G.Gross out at second]; R.Andrews
flied to P.Mangual-cf; E.Cabell grounded out (P.Frias-ss to
A.Thornton-1b); 0 R, 0 H, 1 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 0.
EXPOS 2ND: A.Thornton walked; A.Thornton stole second;
L.Parrish struck out; P.Mackanin lined into a double play
(L.Dierker-p to R.Andrews-2b) [A.Thornton out at second]; 0 R, 0
H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 0.
ASTROS 2ND: B.Watson walked; J.Cruz doubled [B.Watson scored];
D.Stanhouse threw a wild pitch [J.Cruz to third]; C.Johnson
grounded out (P.Frias-ss to A.Thornton-1b); E.Herrmann walked;
R.Metzger walked [E.Herrmann to second]; L.Dierker out on a
sacrifice fly to J.Lyttle-rf [J.Cruz scored]; G.Gross walked
[E.Herrmann to third, R.Metzger to second]; R.Andrews grounded
out (P.Frias-ss to A.Thornton-1b); 2 R, 1 H, 0 E, 3 LOB. Expos
0, Astros 2.
EXPOS 3RD: L.Johnson grounded out (R.Metzger-ss to
B.Watson-1b); P.Frias popped to R.Metzger-ss; D.Stanhouse struck
out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 2.
ASTROS 3RD: E.Cabell singled; B.Watson singled [E.Cabell to
second]; J.Cruz grounded into a double play (P.Mackanin-2b to
A.Thornton-1b) [E.Cabell to third, B.Watson out at second];
C.Johnson grounded out (L.Parrish-3b to A.Thornton-1b); 0 R, 2
H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 2.
EXPOS 4TH: P.Mangual grounded out (E.Cabell-3b to B.Watson-1b);
J.Lyttle grounded out (R.Andrews-2b to B.Watson-1b); M.Jorgensen
flied to C.Johnson-lf; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 2.
ASTROS 4TH: E.Herrmann homered; R.Metzger singled; L.Dierker
grounded out (P.Frias-ss to A.Thornton-1b) [R.Metzger to
second]; G.Gross grounded out (P.Mackanin-2b to A.Thornton-1b)
[R.Metzger to third]; R.Andrews singled [R.Metzger scored];
D.CARRITHERS REPLACED D.STANHOUSE (PITCHING); E.Cabell flied to
J.Lyttle-rf; 2 R, 3 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 4.
EXPOS 5TH: A.Thornton struck out; L.Parrish walked; P.Mackanin
walked [L.Parrish to second]; L.Johnson flied to G.Gross-rf
[L.Parrish to third]; P.Frias struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 2 LOB.
Expos 0, Astros 4.
ASTROS 5TH: B.Watson singled; B.Watson stole second; J.Cruz
struck out; C.Johnson reached on an error by L.Parrish-3b
[C.Johnson to first]; E.Herrmann singled [B.Watson scored,
C.Johnson to second]; R.Metzger singled [C.Johnson scored
(unearned), E.Herrmann to second]; L.Dierker grounded into a
double play (P.Mackanin-2b to P.Frias-ss to A.Thornton-1b)
[R.Metzger out at second]; 2 R (1 ER), 3 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. Expos
0, Astros 6.
EXPOS 6TH: J.DWYER BATTED FOR D.CARRITHERS; J.Dwyer flied to
J.Cruz-cf; P.Mangual struck out; J.Lyttle grounded out
(R.Metzger-ss to B.Watson-1b); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0,
ASTROS 6TH: D.WARTHEN REPLACED J.DWYER (PITCHING); G.Gross
struck out; R.Andrews singled; E.Cabell flied to M.Jorgensen-lf;
B.Watson flied to M.Jorgensen-lf; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Expos
0, Astros 6.
EXPOS 7TH: M.Jorgensen flied to J.Cruz-cf; A.Thornton walked;
L.Parrish forced A.Thornton (E.Cabell-3b to R.Andrews-2b)
[L.Parrish to first]; P.Mackanin struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1
LOB. Expos 0, Astros 6.
ASTROS 7TH: J.Cruz singled; C.Johnson grounded into a double
play (P.Mackanin-2b to A.Thornton-1b) [J.Cruz out at second];
E.Herrmann popped to P.Mackanin-2b; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos
0, Astros 6.
EXPOS 8TH: W.HOWARD REPLACED C.JOHNSON (PLAYING LF); B.FOOTE
BATTED FOR L.JOHNSON; B.Foote grounded out (E.Cabell-3b to
B.Watson-1b); T.FOLI BATTED FOR P.FRIAS; T.Foli grounded out
(R.Metzger-ss to B.Watson-1b); J.MORALES BATTED FOR D.WARTHEN;
J.Morales flied to J.Cruz-cf; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0,
ASTROS 8TH: J.KERRIGAN REPLACED B.FOOTE (PITCHING); T.FOLI
STAYED IN GAME (PLAYING SS); J.MORALES STAYED IN GAME (PLAYING
C); R.Metzger grounded out (P.Mackanin-2b to A.Thornton-1b);
Debut game for Joe Kerrigan; L.Dierker struck out; G.Gross flied
to M.Jorgensen-lf; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 6.
EXPOS 9TH: P.Mangual struck out; J.Lyttle struck out;
M.Jorgensen grounded out (B.Watson-1b unassisted); 0 R, 0 H, 0
E, 0 LOB. Expos 0, Astros 6.
Final Totals R H E LOB
Expos 0 0 2 3
Astros 6 11 0 7