Blyleven no-hits Angels in homecoming

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

Bert Blyleven grew up in Garden Grove, Calif., less than 10 miles from Anaheim Stadium.

So while the Sept. 22, 1977, contest wasn’t a home game for Blyleven’s Texas Rangers, it felt like it for Blyleven – who celebrated by pitching a no-hitter.

Blyleven left 28 tickets for family and friends for that night’s game, which turned out to be a relatively significant portion of the 8,031 fans in attendance that Thursday night. The Rangers scored three runs in the third inning and led 6-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, making the outcome all but assured.

So one by one, the Angels fans turned into Rangers fans. The crowd gave Blyleven a standing ovation when he took the mound for the ninth inning.

“I wish I could have thrown it in Arlington for the fans there,” Blyleven told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But if I had to pick another spot, this would be it. (The fans) were super.”

Blyleven allowed just two baserunners – one on a third-inning error by shortstop Bert Campaneris and another on a walk to Carlos May with two outs in the ninth. The Angels struck several well-hit balls against Blyleven, including a second-inning blast by Bobby Bonds that appeared to have home run distance before Dave May caught it on the warning track.

“He’s the kind of pitcher you expect to throw a no-hitter,” Bonds said. “He’s got an excellent curve and he throws hard.”

In the next half inning following Bonds’ long fly ball, the Rangers gave Blyleven all the run support he would need when Mike Hargrove singled in Jim Sundberg and Toby Harrah singled home Hargrove and Claudell Washington.

Sundberg played a role throughout the no-hitter as Blyleven’s catcher, helping preserve the gem by making sure Blyleven went with his strength.

“I wasn’t going to take any chances,” said Sundberg, who called for curveballs on every pitch in the eighth and ninth innings. “I figured if he was going to lose it, they’d have to hit his best pitch.”

It was no coincidence that Blyleven recorded three of his seven strikeouts in the final two innings. But during that time, Blyleven also battled a painful groin injury that had bothered him all season.

“I pulled it a little bit in the first,” said Blyleven, who had not pitched in 15 days due to the groin pull. “But I really pulled it good in the eighth…the worst this season. I was hurting, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve waited too long for this.”

Blyleven retired Ron Jackson and Willie Aikens to start the ninth. After walking Carlos May, rookie Thad Bosley came to the plate.

Bosley went down swinging to end the game, fanning for the third time on the night.

“It was like the world stopped when Thad Bosley swung at that last pitch,” Blyleven told the Associated Press.

Blyleven celebrated the no-hitter with his family and friends at a restaurant in Santa Ana, just outside the city limits of Garden Grove. The groin injury prevented him from pitching again that season – and the no-hitter would be the last game he pitched for the Rangers, who sent him to the Pirates on Dec. 8, 1977, as part of a four-team trade that brought Al Oliver and Jon Matlack to Texas.

In Pittsburgh, Blyleven would become a teammate of Jim Bibby, whose no-hitter on July 30, 1973, was the last by a Rangers pitcher prior to Blyleven’s. Blyleven and Bibby would help the Pirates win the 1979 World Series.

Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series