For eight innings Wednesday night, zero after zero went up on the scoreboard, but San Francisco Giant pitcher Trevor Wilson managed to ignore the situation.
He refused to look at the scoreboard. He ignored the nervousness of his teammates. He didn’t pay attention to the fans.
“I didn’t want to jinx myself,” Wilson would later say after the Giants’ 6-0 victory over the Padres.
Trevor Kirk Wilson, who had never pitched longer than 6 2/3 innings in his major league career, was three outs away from baseball history. No one had gotten a hit off him in eight innings. And only a wild pitch on a strikeout in the fifth inning had spoiled his perfect game.
But when Wilson stepped out onto the field in the ninth inning, everything hit him at once. He thought about what his idol, Sandy Koufax, might think. He thought about what his parents, sitting in the stands at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, must be feeling.
Home plate suddenly looked 60 miles away, not 60 feet, six inches.
“When I got out there in the ninth, I couldn’t believe how nervous I was after playing 12 years in the game,” Giant catcher Terry Kennedy said, “so I can just imagine what he was going through.”
The batter was Mike Pagliarulo, who had not had a hit in his past 10 at-bats, but with the way Wilson was feeling, it might as well have been Babe Ruth.
“It wasn’t so much that I was overwhelmed by it all,” Wilson said, “but I was choking up a little bit. I just said, ‘Well, Lord, if this is meant to be, it’s meant to be.’ ”
The first pitch was a low fastball. Ball one.
The next pitch was a high fastball, and Pagliarulo swung and missed, eliciting a loud cheer from the crowd of 29,173.
Kennedy, who had caught four games in which his pitcher had a no-hitter through eighth innings but came away empty, didn’t like what he was seeing, and went to the mound.
“I told him he was rushing it just a bit as he was releasing it,” Kennedy said. “I could have gone out sooner but he likes to work in a pattern. I could tell he was nervous, but heck, he couldn’t have been any more nervous than I was.”
Next pitch: Inside curveball, 2-1.
Next pitch: High fastball, 3-1.
Kennedy had no choice but to call a fastball on the next pitch. Wilson knew it. The fans knew it. And, so did Pagliarulo.
The fastball came low and inside, Pagliarulo swung, and sent a looping shot into shallow right-center.
“It was the most helpless feeling in the world,” Giant right fielder Mike Kingery said. “As an outfielder, I would have dove at anything trying to preserve it, but there’s nothing you can do on a ball like that.”
As the ball dropped, Wilson said his feeling was not anger, or even exasperation, but just relief. The pressure finally was off. Now he could go back to pitching.
“It took a moment for Wilson to regain his composure, falling behind 1-0 to Garry Templeton, and then being called for a balk by Doug Harvey that Kennedy still can’t believe, but he then settled down and retired the next three batters as easily as he did the first 24.
It was the first one-hitter by a Giant pitcher since Aug. 10, 1988, and the first against the Padres since Aug. 29, 1988 by David Cone of the New York Mets. And, of course, it was the first one-hitter, complete game, shutout, and the greatest game of Wilson’s career.”
Disappointed about losing the no-hitter, big guy?
“You’ve got to be kidding,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about the no-hitter, I’m worried about my major league career.”
After all, this is the same guy who has been in Phoenix, playing for the Giants’ triple-A team, until May 30. This is the same guy who owned an 0-2 record and 13.50 ERA this spring, allowing 15 hits and five walks in 4 2/3 innings. This is the same guy who made his major league debut Sept. 5, 1988 against the Padres, and not only lost, but was humiliated when Keith Moreland turned a cartwheel crossing home plate after hitting a home run.
“I think that’s why no one was disappointed, I certainly wasn’t,” said Paul Wilson, who drove down from Ontario with his wife and five friends to watch his son. “When he gave up that hit, I just said, ‘Oh, well, it would have been too much of a dream, anyway.’
“I was so nervous sitting up there, I couldn’t stand it. And my wife was so nervous, she was running around the stadium taking pictures. Even when I managed him in Little Leagues, I was nervous, so I guess I’ll always feel that way.”
The crazy part of the evening was that even while Wilson was throwing a no-hitter, for a while, it wasn’t quite good enough. You see, Padre starter Ed Whitson was throwing a shutout for the six innings as well, allowing just two harmless singles.
But the Giants finally scored two runs in the seventh, and when Matt Williams belted a three-run homer in the eighth, building the Giants’ lead to 6-0, the only suspense remaining was whether Wilson could pull it off.
“No one said a word on the bench,” Kennedy said. “I remember some fan in the front row said, ‘Hey, you ever catch a no-hitter?’ I didn’t even look up. I didn’t want to talk about it.”
The only time anyone mentioned it to Wilson was when he batted in the eighth, and some fan yelled, ‘Hey, Trevor, do you know you have a no-hitter?’ Of course, the same fan also left the stadium after Williams’ homer in the eighth, knowing that the game of the game was no longer in jeopardy.
Heck, even Whitson knew that.
“It’s hard to beat somebody that’s perfect,” he said.
Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened to Whitson. In 1981, while Whitson was with the Giants, Montreal Expo pitcher Charlie Lea threw a no-hitter against him.
The crowd, apparently not caring to see a bit of baseball history, actually cheered loudly when Pagliarulo broke up the no-hitter. Pagliarulo, however, showed no emotion, and refused to discuss his villain act afterward.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “We lost. The story’s over there. That kid’s the story.”
Said Kennedy: “You know, the great thing about this game is that he’s the guy who got us to .500 (30-30). I never thought we’d have a prayer of seeing .500 again. But he got us there.
“This won’t be the last time you hear of him.”
Former Padre pitcher Dave Leiper, who underwent open heart surgery in April, said Wednesday that he expects to be throwing again in a couple of weeks, and back in uniform in August. “I’m feeling great,” said Leiper, who was signed by the Oakland Athletics in the off-season. “I’m working out hard six times a week, and I figure by August I’ll be pitching again. I can’t wait to get back in uniform.” . . . The Padre players were a bit perturbed Wednesday when they were provided memos by the city that they are prohibited from leaving their cars in the enclosed gated area in the stadium parking lot. Instead, the area will be cleared out, and provided for Jehovah Witness leaders for their upcoming convention. . . . Andy Strasberg, Padre director of marketing, just returned from Fargo, N.D., where he attended a benefit golf tournament for former Yankee great Roger Maris. Strasberg, one of the top baseball collectors on the West Coast, says he’s Maris’ No. 1 fan. . . . The Padres are having a luncheon June 21 for outgoing owner Joan Kroc. . . . Padre catcher Mark Parent is scheduled to make his second start in four days today in the series’ final against the Giants. “Theoretically, I’d like to catch him two times a week,” Padre Manager Jack McKeon said, “but with all of our off days, I just haven’t been able to do that.” . . . Outfielder Mike Kingery, who was recalled when right fielder Kevin Bass went on the disabled list, has become of the most pleasant surprises for the Giants this season. Kingery was signed April 14 as a free agent, spent six weeks with their triple-A team in Phoenix where he batted .240, and now is batting .467 (seven for 15) with seven RBIs in 10 games. “Everything’s turned out great,” said Kingery, who chose free agency when the Seattle Mariners outrighted him to Calgary. “There wasn’t a whole of interest, to tell you the truth, when I was available. And really, I thought it would be best for me to stay in the American League. But now, after being up here for a few weeks and seeing how the National League works, I’ve found that really I’m a National League player. The only thing that’s tough getting used to is the rent ($1,400 a month) I’m paying in the Bay area.” . . . Third baseman Eddie Williams, of the Padres’ triple-A team in Las Vegas, continues to tear up the Pacific Coast League. He’s hitting .325 with 12 homers and 48 RBIs. Outfielder Thomas Howard also has been performing well, batting .338 with two homers and 19 RBIs. Las Vegas reliever John Davis is pitching better, according to McKeon, despite his 1-1 record and 5.68 ERA. Davis has allowed 33 hits and 22 walks in 31 2/3 innings, striking out 32. . . . The Padres’ Bruce Hurst (3-5) is scheduled to face Francisco Oliveras (0-0) at 1:05 p.m. today, concluding the home stand. The Padres then will begin a 13-game trip starting Friday against the Dodgers. The pitching matchups for that series: Andy Benes (6-4) vs. Fernando Valenzuela (4-5) on Friday; Mike Dunne (0-2) vs. Ramon Martinez (6-3) on Saturday; and Dennis Rasmussen (6-3) vs. Mike Morgan (6-5) on Sunday.