“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” ~ Casey Stengel
On July 13, 1991, in a game in Oakland versus the A’s, Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Bob Milacki threw a no-hitter.
So did Orioles reliever Mike Flanagan.
And, so did Orioles relievers Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson.
It was a four-pitcher no-hitter.
Not unheard of, but kind of rare.
In a game that prides itself on the power of teamwork, there’s an awful lot of focus on individual performance in baseball.
So, you may sniff a bit and say, “Hmm, four pitchers to get through a game? That’s no big deal.”
But, you’re wrong.
No hit is no hit. And, the A’s, including Jose Canseco, Harold Baines, Mark McGwire, and a young Mike Bordick, no hit that day.
(Baines and Bordick went on to play for the Orioles, and Bordick is, today, a color guy for Orioles games on television.)
Sure, there are a few of you Giants and Dodgers fans who are so used to no-hitters that you’re a bit surprised to learn that one team has never even had one.
(Sorry, San Diego Padres … it’s still you.)
Seven pitchers had no-hitters last season – five came after the All-Star Break.
Just one this season so far. (Congratulations, former Oriole, reigning Cy Young, and current Cub Jake Arrieta!)
But, see! Even I have wandered off into the land of individual excellence and in less than 200 words, I’ve abandoned those four Orioles pitchers – including two (Milacki and Williamson) that even seasoned Orioles fans don’t really remember – and this is supposed to be about them.
Since becoming the Baltimore Orioles in 1954, there have been only five Orioles no-hitters.
Hoyt Wilhelm versus the Yankees in 1958.
Steve Barber and Stu Miller versus the Tigers in 1967.
Tom Phoebus versus the Red Sox in 1968.
Jim Palmer versus the A’s in 1969.
And, Milacki, Flanny, Williamson, and Olson 25 years ago this past week.
(For the cruel readers out there – and I know some of you by name – I know what you’re asking, so here … the Orioles have been on the receiving end of a no-hitter seven times, most recently last season.)
13 Jul 1991: Pitcher Greg Olson of the Baltimore Orioles prepares to throw the ball as the scoreboard behind him shows that he has pitched a no-hitter during a game against the Oakland Athletics. (Getty Images)
See, even Getty Images can’t get the game straight. Olson threw one no-hit inning. Milacki threw six. Flanny and Williamson, one each.
(Oh, and it’s Gregg Olson, not Greg Olson.)
BALTIMORE, MD – CIRCA 1991: (L-R) Paul Kilgus #17, Mike Flanagan #46, Mark Williamson #32 and Gregg Olson #30 of the Baltimore Orioles pose together for this portrait prior to the start of a Major League Baseball game circa 1991 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. (Getty Images)
Oh, for crying out loud. That’s Bob Milacki on the left, not Paul Kilgus.
Come on people, how hard can it be? These four pitchers threw a combined no-hitter!
(Kilgus did, indeed, pitch briefly for the Orioles in 1991, but I had to look that up to make sure. Fun Fact: he looks nothing like Bob Milacki.)
Milacki was cruising through six when he was hit on the hand by a comebacker.
That might have done in both Milacki and the no-hitter. But, the ball ricocheted off his hand and bounced right to first baseman Randy Milligan for the out.
Milacki’s day was done. Although bruised and swelling, his hand wasn’t badly injured, and he argued to stay in the game, to no avail.
“I thought I could still pitch with it,” he said afterwards. “They didn’t want me to risk it. I was very disappointed. You never want to come out of a game like that.”
The Orioles scored just two runs – catcher Chris Hoiles batted in beloved utility guy Chito Martinez in the fifth and outfielder Mike Devereaux homered in the sixth.
Flanagan, Williamson, and Olson each pitched one hitless inning. The game ended. The Orioles won.
Thanks to Orioles closer Gregg Olson, who shared this 30-second recap online. Otherwise I’d have no video to share.
“There was no raucous celebration,” The Baltimore Sun reported the next day. After striking out Harold Baines to end the game, “Olson walked off the mound the same way he did after each of his first 18 saves. The Orioles took the field slowly, as if they still were trying to digest what had happened.”
“It kind of seemed like nobody knew what was happening,” Olson told The Sun. “There weren’t really any diving plays or great plays to save it. Bob Milacki is the guy who deserves all the credit. If he had been out there [in the ninth], there would have been a dog pile on the mound.”
“Perhaps it was the [Oakland] crowd that set the tone,” The Sun continued. “Fans began leaving the stadium before the game was over, apparently unimpressed over only the second four-pitcher no-hitter in major-league history.”
(There have been other multi-pitcher no-hitters, including a couple six-pitcher affairs, since then.)
The Orioles are surrounded by former players today – like Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Rick Dempsey, and Cal Ripken – who stay close to the team and remind fans of the O’s two World Series championships (in ‘66 and ‘83).
This season the O’s are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their 1966 trophy with special events and promotions.
So, maybe the 25th anniversary of that understated, but still wonderful, four-man no-hitter has gotten lost. And, that’s a shame.
Because nothing says teamwork like a no-hitter shared.
There have been 295 no-hitters in major league baseball. Babe Ruth threw one. And, yes, dear Orioles readers, Ubaldo Jimenez threw one for the Rockies in 2010.
And, on July 13, 1991, Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson threw one, too.