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May 28, 2010

BP Unfiltered

This Week in Minor League History: May 24 - May 30

by Geoff Young

If you're a fan of no-hitters hurled by semi-obscure right-handed pitchers, you've come to the right place.

May 24

1969: Right-hander Aurelio Lopez, pitching for the Minatitlan Diablos Rojos of the Mexican Southeast League, no-hit the Carmen Camaroneros. Lopez later would enjoy big-league success, winning 62 games and saving 93 more, mainly as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

1984: Greensboro Hornets right-hander Brad Arnsberg no-hit the Savannah Cardinals. Arnsberg went 12-5 on the season, his first as a pro. He went on to win 9 games and save 6 in the big leagues. His best showing came in 1990, when he went 6-1 with a 2.15 ERA for the Texas Rangers. Arnsberg has spent most of the past decade working as a pitching coach for the Expos, Marlins, Blue Jays, and Astros.

1989: Visalia Oaks right-hander Willie Banks no-hit the Palm Springs Angels. Banks, the third player selected in the 1987 draft (behind Ken Griffey Jr. and Mark Merchant, ahead of Mike Harkey and Jack McDowell), would go on to pitch for seven different teams over parts of nine big-league seasons, earning 33 wins in the process.

May 25

1952: San Diego Padres right-hander Jack Salveson won his 200th Pacific Coast League game. Salveson spent 18 seasons in the minors, compiling a 224-185 record. His best seasons came in 1936, when he went 21-7 for the Los Angeles Angels, and in 1942, when he went 24-12 for the Oakland Oaks. Salveson added nine more wins in the big leagues, where he spent parts of five seasons spread across 1933-1945.

1973: Right-hander Bob Forsch, pitching for the Tulsa Oilers, no-hit the Denver Bears. We've previously covered Forsch in this space.

1976: Oklahoma City 89ers right-hander John Montague no-hit the Omaha Royals. Montague led the American Association with 14 wins that year. He had enjoyed some success with the Montreal Expos a couple years earlier and earned a return trip to the big leagues on the basis of his performance in '76... Well, that and the fact that the expansion Mariners were desperate for pitching. Montague won 24 games and saved 21 over parts of seven seasons with four teams.

May 26

1940: Okay, this one isn't semi-obscure. Virgil Trucks tossed another no-hitter (third in as many professional seasons). We've discussed him here as well. Trucks' latest opus was a seven-inning job for the Beaumont Exporters over the Tulsa Oilers.

1952: Right-hander Bill Bell, then 18 years old, spun his second consecutive no-hitter for the Bristol Twins. He beat the Bluefield Blue-Grays, 4-0, striking out 20 in the process. He would go on to fashion an 11-3 record and pace the Appalachian League with a 2.09 ERA. Bell made four appearances with the parent Pittsburgh Pirates that same year, as well as one more in 1952, before returning to the minors and eventually retiring at age 25.

1978: Springfield Redbirds right-hander Silvio Martinez no-hit the Omaha Royals. Martinez won 31 big-league games, 15 of them with the Cardinals in 1979. His main claim to fame is that he was once traded for Goose Gossage.

1984: Vancouver Canadians right-hander Juan Eichelberger no-hit the Portland Beavers. Eichelberger, who already had 24 of his 26 eventual big-league wins under his belt, was on his way back down and ultimately out of baseball. He finished the season, his first in the minors since 1980, at 8-11 for Vancouver with a 4.96 ERA. After a few more years in the Braves system, including a brief stint with the big club in 1988 (alongside a young Tom Glavine and John Smoltz), Eichelberger called it a career.

May 27

1885: From Johnson and Wolff's Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (2nd ed.): "A game between Allentown and Lancaster was postponed on account of only one attendee being in the stands. A large parade kept people away." Large parade. The Marlins will have to remember that the next time they need an excuse.

1956: Leesburg Braves left-hander Tony Komisar entered with the bases loaded and nobody out in the final inning of a seven-inning game. Komisar "made one pitch, which was hit into a triple play." Nice work if you can get it, eh?

May 28

1989: Vancouver Canadians right-hander Tom Drees threw his second straight no-hitter, beating the Edmonton Trappers, 1-0. Drees, a 26-year-old journeyman, would hurl a third no-hitter in August and finish the season 12-11 while walking more batters than he struck out. Drees' big-league career consisted of four relief appearances with the White Sox in 1991. His line: 7.1 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 4 HR, 6 BB, 2 K.

1996: Bowie Baysox right-hander Calvin Maduro no-hit the Portland Sea Dogs. Maduro was viewed as a prospect once upon a time, but it never worked out for him. He posted a 10-19 record with a 5.78 ERA over parts of five seasons with the Phillies and Orioles.

May 29

1907: R.A. Bandy of the Oklahoma City Mets beat the Hutchinson Salt Packers, 2-1. Bandy worked all 23 innings. Ouch.

1964: St. Petersburg Saints left-hander Mike Kekich struck out 11 straight Miami Marlins in a Florida State League contest. Kekich would go on to win 39 big-league games, not that anyone remembers him for his pitching exploits.

1971: Reno Silver Sox right-hander Jim Kern no-hit the San Jose Bees. Kern would finish the season 7-9 with a 6.57 ERA and a cool 100 walks in 100 innings. Kern's walk totals over the next three seasons: 73, 129, 104. Then someone got the bright idea of moving him to the bullpen, where he found some semblance of control and a career. Kern made 416 big-league appearances, winning 53 and saving 88, mostly with the Indians and Rangers.

May 30

1915: St. Joseph Drummers right-hander Dazzy Vance no-hit the Wichita Wolves. Vance finished the season 17-15 and led the Western League with 199 strikeouts. He made his big-league debut that year, going 0-4 with the Pirates and Yankees. He made another brief cameo for the Yankees in 1918, but didn't get a legitimate shot until 1922, when he went 18-12 for Brooklyn and led the National League with 134 strikeouts. Vance would lead the league in strikeouts each of the next six years and go on to win 197 games... not bad for a guy who had zero coming into his age 31 season. Vance was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955, perhaps waiting a little longer than he should have to be so honored.

1927: Fred Merkle's Reading Keystones beat the Baltimore Orioles, snapping a 32-game losing streak. The Keystones, who burned through three managers, finished the season 43-123, a full 68 games back of the front-running Buffalo Bisons. One player from that team went on to enjoy a fine career: Catcher Spud Davis, who hit .308 and knocked 11 homers that year, played in more than 1400 big-league games and was quite the offensive force for most of that stretch.

1934: Lou Frierson of the Paris Pirates (later the Lufkin Lumbermen) hit five home runs in a game. The 27-year-old Frierson led the West Dixie League with 40 homers. Although he never reached the big leagues, he did hit .319 with 180 home runs over a 10-year minor-league career.

1971: Danville Warriors southpaw Bill Travers no-hit the Quad Cities Angels. That Danville squad featured some good young players. In addition to the 18-year-old Travers, who went on to 65 games in the big leagues (despite getting precious little help from his teammates in 1976), the Warriors also featured 19-year-old catcher Darrell Porter and 20-year-old outfielder Gorman Thomas (who led the Midwest League with 31 homers and 170 strikeouts).

1976: Ah, the last of our semi-obscure right-handers... Rick Langford, then of the Charleston Charlies, no-hit the Memphis Blues. Langford would get into 12 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates later that year before being shipped to Oakland as part of the package for Phil Garner. With the A's, Langford won 73 games from 1977 to 1986. He also lost 106, including an American League leading 19 in his rookie campaign of 1977. Langford led the AL with 28 complete games as part of Billy Martin's infamous 1980 team. He later went on to become a successful pitching coach. On a personal note, I have a soft spot for Langford because he was involved in one of the first fantasy trades I ever made... or didn't make. The other owner backed out when he realized I wasn't offering Mark Langston.

* * *

And there you have it. Another week of wackiness in the minor leagues...

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