Thank you Mrs. Furst for handing over your transistor radio that night.
My friend Gary and I were staying home that night and his Grandmother was in charge on Aug. 13, 1969. Evidently there wasn’t much on TV that night so we were going to listen to the Orioles-Athletics game on the radio.
It was a Wednesday night and 10-game winner Jim Palmer would battle Oakland’s Chuck Dobson. This is when the Athletics were just getting good with players like Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando and Bert Campaneris.
And when Palmer opened the game by fanning Campaneris, I remarked to Gary that he (Palmer) needed 8 and two-thirds innings to go to get a no-hitter.
It was a harmless remark at the time and little did we know at the time, we would be stuck by that radio the entire night. With two outs in that first inning, Palmer’s perfect game vanished with a walk to Bando.
The game progressed. Dobson’s no-hitter ended when O’s leadoff hitter Don Buford tripled. The Birds jumped up 1-0.
We were still counting down the no-hitter in the third when of all things, Paul Blair made an error in center field. I didn’t think that was even possible. He used to catch everything.
By the fourth, Palmer was getting some support from his team’s offense and his bat was helping as well. His second hit of the game was a run-scoring double. He even was thrown out of the plate in this frame. But his Birds were up 3-0.
In the sixth, his no-hitter was still alive but it wasn’t pretty. There was another Orioles error, this time by infielder Bobby Floyd, and a walk to Jackson but again no hits went up on the board. We were down to 9 outs. We the listeners that is.
When the A’s went down in order in the seventh, it was getting exciting. And then Palmer had to sit and watch his offense do some damage. In the Orioles half of the seventh, five runs went up on the board.
Instead of pitching to the hot-hitting Palmer, the A’s just walked him. Yes, they walked the pitcher. There were run-scoring hits from Buford and Frank Robinson. The telling blow was a three-run blast off the bat of Brooks Robinson. It was 8-0 and the only mystery was whether or not Palmer would get his no-hitter.
Peaking ahead it looked like the ninth inning would present the most challenges. But he still had six outs to go and our little game of counting down the outs was getting serious.
Pinch-hitter Bob Johnson, led off the eighth inning for Oakland. Heck, he was my first favorite player back when he played for the Senators. He hit 12 homers for the 1962 Washington team and then was dealt off to the O’s. Fading Bob Johnson grounded out to Brooks at third. Five outs to go.
Palmer fanned Campaneris looking and got Danny Tartabull to fly to Frank in right field.
There were three outs to go in Palmer’s no-hit bid. And Reggie Jackson was due in the ninth.
Jackson batted only once in this game. That’s because Palmer walked him the other times. And with an eight-run lead in the ninth, Palmer again gave Jackson a free pass.
Bando lined one but right at Blair in center. Two outs to go. Danny Cater bounced one at Floyd at shortstop and they got the force on Jackson. One out to go.
But this wasn’t meant to be easy. Suddenly, Palmer couldn’t throw strikes. He issued back to back walks to Dick Green and Tommie Reynolds. The sacks were loaded and the no-hitter was alive.
And look who was coming up. Another former Orioles player in catcher Larry Haney. I’m sure he caught Palmer somewhere along the way. He must have known what Palmer would be throwing. Haney grounded to Floyd. Another force play. Game over. Palmer had his six-walk, two error no-hitter and my friend and I had counted it down.
Mrs. Furst thought we had killed her battery with the two hours and twenty minute game but she realized that we had listened on FM and her battery was still kicking. Thank you Mrs. Furst for your help in listening to American League history.