Bosman’s No-Hitter Represented Peak of his Career
Vince Guerrieri | On 21, Jul 2020
This week, Did The Tribe Win Last Night looks back to Dick Bosman’s bid for perfection in his no-hitter thrown 46 years ago this week. This story was originally published by Vince Guerrieri on July 15, 2014. – BT
When Dick Bosman took the hill for a start on a warm Friday night in 1974 at Cleveland Stadium, he treated it no differently than any other game – even though it was against the two-time defending champion Oakland Athletics.
Bosman, in his second year with the Indians, had watched Gaylord Perry lose 2-1 the night before, and knew what he had to do.
“You’re going to have to be sharp, stingy and hope the boys can score a couple for you and you can make it stand up,” Bosman said. “When I came to the park, I was in my own realm. I was zoned in already.”
Bosman made one mistake that night, July 19, 1974, but he did pretty well for himself. That night 40 years ago, he no-hit one of the best dynasties in baseball – and he had the good fortune to do it in front of his family, which had made the trip down from Wisconsin.
“It just fell into place that they were going to be there that weekend,” Bosman said.
Bosman’s father, George, was looking forward to seeing his son pitch – and an exhibition by the King and His Court, a traveling softball team. George Bosman was a pretty good amateur softball player in his own right, and later had a softball diamond in their hometown of Kenosha named for him. Bosman signed as an amateur free agent with the Pirates, but ended up getting picked up by San Francisco, and went to spring training with the Giants in 1964. The team at that time included future Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Perry, a future teammate in Cleveland.
“I was 19 years old,” Bosman said. “I had no idea what I was doing.”
Bosman didn’t make the team, and spent a couple more years in the minors. He finally got his shot in the big leagues with the Washington Senators in 1966, and spent two months in the District before being sent back down to the minors. He bounced between the minors and Washington in 1967, but the following year, he was in the majors to stay.
In 1969, Ted Williams became manager of the Senators, which went 86-76, the best record the new Senators ever had. Williams was named American League Manager of the Year, and one of the reasons the Senators were improved was Bosman, who went 14-5. The Senators finished 23 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the new American League East, but it was no small point of pride to Bosman that he beat out Orioles aces Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar for the earned run average crown, with a 2.19 mark.
Bosman credited Williams with his improvement.
“I realized I could pitch in the big leagues and I could pitch pretty damn good, and I realized that because of Ted,” Bosman said. “He took me under his wing. I was just a kid trying to get by until he came along. I was a sinker-slider pitcher who learned how to exploit hitters’ weaknesses because the greatest hitter ever taught me how to do it.”
The following year, he went 16-12 for the Senators, and he started the last Senators game in 1971, and the first game of the Texas Rangers in 1972. On May 10, 1973, Bosman was dealt to the Indians. The team was going nowhere fast – and neither was he. “My 1973 stats were awful,” he said.
Bosman went 1-8 for an Indians team that went 71-91 in 1973, and was lucky to be on the team when they broke camp, and he knew it. “We went north with more pitchers than we needed,” he said.
Manager Ken Aspromonte had gone to the mat for Bosman, who spent a lot of time in the bullpen, including a relief appearance in the infamous 10-cent beer night. By July, Bosman had worked himself back into the starting rotation, and was ready for the Athletics.
Bosman was firing BBs, setting down the first nine Athletics he faced. In the bottom of the third, Joe Lis staked Bosman to a lead, hitting a two-run home run over the left field fence. Bosman struck out Bill North to lead off the fourth, and Bert Campaneris grounded to Buddy Bell at third for the second out. Up stepped Sal Bando, who hit a comebacker to Bosman.
“It was a play that I’d made many times in my career, and frankly, I had more time than I thought I had,” Bosman said. “I could have gathered myself more.”
Bosman’s throw pulled first baseman Tommy McCraw off the bag, and Bando took second. Reggie Jackson struck out to end the inning and Bosman became the answer to a trivia question. He remains the only pitcher ever to lose a perfect game on his own error.
“Does it bug me? Not a bit,” Bosman said. “Hell, it was the fourth inning. I was just trying to survive at that point.”
The Indians tacked on two more runs in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead. As the game wore on, Bosman realized what he was doing. He’d pitched four career one-hitters – including one with the Senators against the Indians, and one at Yankee Stadium that was broken up in the eighth inning.
“After the fifth, after the sixth, my feeling was that I wasn’t going to screw this one up,” Bosman said. “I was confident in myself that day that I wasn’t going to make a physical mistake.”
George Bosman told the Plain Dealer that he started getting really nervous around the sixth inning, but his son continued to set Athletics batters down. John Ellis – relieving everyday catcher Dave Duncan behind the plate – continued calling for fastballs, and the A’s remained stymied by them.
Bosman came out in the ninth to face Dick Green, and got him to hit a chopper to Bell at third. Athletics manager Alvin Dark sent Jesus Alou up to pinch-hit. He grounded out to Jack Brohamer at second base. North stepped up for his fourth try at Bosman that night.
North hit a fastball deep to left field, but it curved foul. Bosman threw another fastball, which North fouled off behind home plate. Bosman was planning to throw him another fastball away, and then come inside with a slider to strike him out. But North swung at the fastball, Bosman’s 79th pitch of the game – and missed.
“It was on a pitch I hadn’t intended to strike him out on,” Bosman said. “It was the setup pitch that beat him.”
More than 24,000 fans went crazy. Bosman fought his way to the dugout, where the first person he saw was his father, who had either been escorted by or gotten through security to be there. He was then handed a microphone to address the crowd.
“I was pretty much temporarily insane by then,” he said. “Those people in Cleveland … the year before, I scuffled and I had a hard time for a while, and I don’t remember getting booed. I had to thank them for that.”
Bosman was the most popular man in Cleveland that night. He was mobbed by media after the game. Lis, who was virtually ignored after hitting a two-run home run, asked, not entirely in jest, “Doesn’t anyone want to talk to me?”
But Bosman had one regret. He missed the King and His Court, who played after the game.
“I was looking forward to seeing him,” he said.
For Bosman, the game was a triumph. It was the pinnacle of his career, and came after what was probably the worst year of it.
“A lot of people had written me off,” he said. “A lot of people said, ‘he had a couple pretty good years in Washington but that was it.’ It really extended my career for another three years.”
The Athletics went on to win their third straight World Series, beating the Dodgers. Oddly enough, it was the second straight World Series they won after being no-hit.
In 1975, the Athletics won their fourth straight American League Western Division crown – with the help of Dick Bosman. The A’s traded for him, and he went 15-6 combined in 1975 and 1976 for them. The Athletics cut Bosman in spring training in 1977. He’s been a major league pitching coach for several teams – including the Rangers – and has been with the Tampa Bay Rays for more than a decade, currently serving as their senior pitching coordinator. He finds it particularly rewarding to work with young pitchers, in the hopes that they’ll avoid the career path he took.
“They say it’s easier to get to the big leagues than to stay there,” Bosman said. “I got to the big leagues before I should have gotten to the big leagues.”
[editor’s note: Bosman walked away from baseball, on his own terms this time, at the end of the 2018 season. He shared with his hometown Kenosha Times in a phone interview from Tampa that “It’s time. I’ve been in the game for 56 years. At some point, it’s up to the young guys to take over. While I’ve totally enjoyed all the years, I’m 74 years old. My wife (Pam) and I haven’t taken a bona fide vacation, maybe ever. We’ve been married 49 years (on October 4). I think it’s time to do some of those things.” – BT]
Photo: The Plain Dealer