Earl Wilson, question-mark pitcher of the Boston Red Sox, last night pitched a no-hit game.
Before a stunned crowd of 14,002 at Fenway Park, the 26-year-old righthander – who had won only nine games in his big league career – held Los Angeles hitless and triumphed, 2 to 0.
Only four Los Angeles batters reached base, all on bases on balls.
Wilson, first Negro ever to pitch for the Red Sox, became the first player of his race to pitch a no-hit game in the American League.
It was the first no-hit game by a Red Sox pitcher in six years, and the first by a Red Sox righthander since Howard Ehmke – fabled hurler of another era – pitched one for the Red Sox at Shibe Park, Philadelphia, in 1923.
By a Red Sox righthander on the home grounds at Fenway Park, it was the first since Ernie Shore pitched his perfect game against Washington in 1917.
By coincidence, Wilson was pitching against Bo Belinsky, who – until last night – was the only man to pitch a no-hitter in the American League in four seasons.
Belinsky pitched superbly himself. He yielded only one run – and that was a home run, that decided the game, by Wilson.
Including Belinsky’s only previous game here – which he won with a two-hit shutout, May 20 – Belinsky retired 25 Red Sox batters without a hit until Wilson hit last night’s home run with one down in the third inning.
Belinsky, before retiring for a pinch-hitter in the eighth, yielded only three hits. Belinsky, in his seven innings, struck out 10 batters. Wilson fanned five.
The game’s only other run, by the Red Sox in the fourth, was unearned.
Since Wilson, who’ll be 27 on Oct. 2, came up to the Red Sox in the Summer of 1959, he had pitched only two complete games. And, until last night, he had failed to go the distance a single time this year.
He had more speed and stuff than any other Red Sox pitcher. But when he was wild and, when starting, he usually faded two-thirds of the way through the game.
Last night, he didn’t fade. He simply got better.
And though he walked four men – one in the second, two in the fifth, and one in the sixth – he had enough control, and exceptional speed. He also showed he could mix his pitches a bit.
The no-hit game – richly earned – was aided by fielding plays by third baseman Frank Malzone and shortstop Ed Bressoud.
Against Joe Knope, leading off in the eighth, Malzone went to the top step of the third base dugout, waited, then – with perfect timing – reached with one hand and caught a foul fly over dugout.
The crowd was tense as the Angels came to bat in the ninth.
But Wilson – equal to the occasion – was firing bullets.
He got two strikes on Billy Moran, ninth-inning leadoff man who entered the game as the tenth leading hitter in the American League. Moran then hit a ball that looked as though it might be a Texas League into short left.
But Bressoud raced out, going a bit toward the foul line, and caught it for out No. 1.
Next came Leon Wagner, a lefthanded hitter and the leading home run hitter in the league. One the 1-0 pitch, Wagner skied to Gary Geiger in medium center for out No. 2.
There was one man left – the Angel clean-up hitter, also a lefthanded swinger, Lee Thomas.
Wilson’s first pitch was a foul for strike one.
Two strikes from a no-hit game.
Then came a high fast ball – ball one.
Wilson’s next pitch, a fast ball, came in like a bullet – on the high, inside corner of the strike zone.
Plate umpire Harry Schwartz signaled “strike two.”
Thomas barely tipped the next pitch, as it sailed over the shoulder of catcher Bob Tillman to the screen of the grandstand.
The count remained one-and-two.
Then came what proved to be the final pitch of the game.
Thomas hit it on the fly deep to center. Would it reach the wall? The crowd rose to its feet.
But Gary Geiger – who always plays deep anyway – moved out to the edge of the grass, just inside the warning path, and caught it for the final out.