Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Barber's Near No-No Ended In Nightmare Fashion

I hate for this blog to be a source for baseball obituaries (see the Art Fowler post beneath this), but I would be remiss not to mention the passing of lefthander Steve Barber, who died yesterday at the age of 67.

Barber holds significance in Detroit, because it was against the Tigers in 1967 that, while pitching for the Orioles, he tossed a no-hitter. And lost.

Well, nearly a no-hitter. Barber was staked to a 1-0 lead after eight innings on April 30, 1967 in Baltimore. What happened next was the stuff of pitcher's nightmares.

According to retrosheet.org, Norm Cash led off the ninth with a walk, the eighth issued by Barber. Dick Tracewski ran for Cash. Ray Oyler, one of the worst hitters in modern baseball history, also walked. Pitcher Earl Wilson bunted the runners over, and after Willie Horton (batting for Dick McAuliffe) popped out, Barber was one out away from his no-no.

But with Mickey Stanley at the plate, Barber uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Tracewski with the tying run, and sending pinch-runner Jake Wood to third. Incredibly, Orioles manager Hank Bauer left Barber and his nine walks in the ballgame. But after walking Stanley (Barber's 10th base on balls), Barber was finally removed, for Stu Miller, whose claim to fame was being blown off the pitcher's mound during an All-Star game in San Francisco's windy Candlestick Park.

Miller induced a ground ball from Don Wert, but shortstop Mark Belanger made an error on it, allowing Wood to score with the go-ahead run. When the dust had settled, the Tigers went into the bottom of the ninth with a 2-1 lead -- and no hits.

Fred Gladding worked a perfect ninth, and preserved the wild, unusual win.

The line score read thusly:

Detroit: 2 runs, 0 hits, 1 error, 11 LOB (all those walks that didn't score earlier)
Baltimore: 1 run, 2 hits, 2 errors, 4 LOB

Barber's outing didn't rival that of Pittsburgh's Harvey Haddix, who pitched 12 perfect innings in 1959 yet lost in the 13th inning to the Braves, but when you pitch 8.2 innings of hitless ball, you should win, right? Obviously Barber's wildness contributed greatly, along with Bauer's tardiness in removing him.

The '67 Tigers' luck would run out, though, during the season's final weekend, when they lost a heartbreaking pennant chase to the Red Sox. The season ended with McAuliffe, who had not hit into a double play all year, grounding into one.

But on 4/30/67, the Tigers managed to beat the Orioles without so much as a single base hit.

RIP, Steve Barber.


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