With history on the line, can a true O’s fan root against the home team?
By Christopher Heun
When Clay Buchholz no-hit the Birds last Saturday night in just his second major league start, I was instantly reminded of another rookie who threw a no-hitter in Memorial Stadium 16 years ago. It was a game I attended.
By the late innings of Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter on Aug. 11, 1991, I was unsure of whether to root for history or for the home team to break it up. I have three clear memories of that day: that it was a Sunday afternoon, that Cal Ripken grounded into a double play to end it and that Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All the Luck” played over the loudspeakers after the final out was recorded.
Turns out I have a bad memory. All I got right was the day of the week. I looked up the final box score and play-by-play on retrosheet.org (search by box score, then by year, then by team, then by game log) and found out that with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Cal walked. Perhaps my memory of pleading for him not to make the last out has warped slightly in my conscience. (Both he and Dewey Evans reached base twice that day, odd for a game without any hits.)
As for the music after the game, I don’t know of a resource – on the Web or anyplace else – that would record such trivia.
But according to Baseball Almanac, even Alavarez admitted that fortune was on his side that afternoon. The site quotes him as saying, “Let’s just say I got a couple lucky breaks today. That ball stayed in and they hit some bullets right at people.”
Like Buchholz, it was just the second major league start for Alvarez. In his first, he failed to retire any of the five batters he faced and was yanked from the game. Only one other pitcher since 1900 has thrown a no-hitter in his first or second start in the big leagues: Bobo Hollomon did it in his debut on May 6, 1953, for the St. Louis Browns at home against the Philadelphia A’s.
A few more facts about the Alvarez game: For a team that would finish in sixth place, (67-95), the 1991 Orioles still drew 40,455 that day. Maybe the final season in Memorial Stadium had something to do with it.
It wasn’t the only no-no for the Orioles that year. Nearly a month earlier, on July 13, 1991, Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson combined to no-hit the Athletics in Oakland.
A former Memorial Stadium usher gives a detailed description of the Alvarez no-no here.