Welcome back, fans! I hope that you had a good Thanksgiving. I know that going over Twins History isn’t as juicy as all the news we have had lately from a Cave extension, Astudillo saying good-bye and potential trades. History is important to our future and while we are looking ahead at potential arms for our line up, looking back over pitchers that made an impact on our team. I am learning a lot about where we came from and what has changed and hasn’t in this organization.
Onto our next no-hitter! Were you right? Did you guess Eric Milton? It may come as a shock to some, but Milty had a great no hitter which included an on fire offense. Some of the choices are more of an internal battle than others - but laying out stats and guidelines help me narrow down my choices.
No-No Number 2: Eric "Milty" Milton - 1999
The Pitcher: Eric Milton
The Date: September 11, 1999
The Opponent: Anaheim Angels
The Stadium: Metrodome
The Pitcher's Background and Story
Eric Milton was born in Pennsylvania in 1975 in a small town called Bellfone, where he attended the local high school. Milton left home to play ball and attend the University of Maryland. He had three strong seasons for the Terrapins, and in the summers he played collegiate summer ball in the Cape Cod Baseball League. In 2004, he was inducted into the Cape Cod’s Hall of Fame.
In 1996, Milton was selected with the 20th overall pick by the New York Yankees.; He left college to chase his MLB dream. Milton only played one season with the Yankees minors before being traded to the Twins. Milton was part of a trade that sent Chuck Knoblach to the Yankees for Brian Buchanan, Cristian Guzman, Danny Mota, and cash. His MLB debut was on April 5, 1998, as a Minnesota Twin. He pitched against the Kansas City Royals, and had six scoreless innings to record his first major-league win.
The Twins were having another lackluster season in 1999. They were on a losing streak and carrying a 59-82 record. Even with guys like David Ortiz, Brad Radke, Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Jaque Jones, they were clearly a young, inexperienced team taking their lumps.. That day was something different.
It was not a typical day in Twins territory on September 11, 1999. The Twins were starting at 11:00am instead of a typical Saturday night game.
Dating back to the Twins' inaugural season in 1961, there was an agreement that they would change the schedule so fans could leave their game and make it to the Gophers football home opener. This schedule began at The Met and continued when the Metrodome opened. When the Gophers and Twins were home on the same day, the Twins would move their games up to noon central time. It sounds like a huge inconvenience, as the Dome had to be converted from a baseball field to a football field in a matter of hours, but the teams made it work.
Terry Steinbach was behind the plate. Steinbach helped Milton navigate the game. Immediately the chemistry was on point. Milton started the game by getting Jeff Davanon out on four pitches. The 24-year-old lefty remained in control for the remainder of the game. He walked a few hitters but was able to maintain control of the game with his fastball.
Milton was putting on a show and had no clue that he was working on a no-hitter. Superstition was running rampant through the Twins dugout. Milton said at one point a kid brought him Gatorade and sat next to him. When the kid got up to walk away, Milton said, "Hey, what are you doing? You have to come back."
The Anaheim Angels and the Twins were not having great seasons, respectively. Both teams were well below .500. There was nothing happening for either team that would have predicted this being a no-hitter. The Angels were struggling to get along with their manager Terry Collins. Collins had a reputation for a volatile temper that collided with his players leading them to undermine his authority. This issue had a significant impact on the field, and players admit it was hard to play and have cohesion with the conflict looming. That was not the only thing that was against the Angels at that time. Due to the early start time and the September rosters - Joe Maddon, the new Angels manager that replaced Terry Collins, had four call-up players that had their MLB debut that day and only two starters in the line-up that day: Troy Glaus and Orlando Palmeiro. Needless to say, there was a lot going against the Angels, but that does not cheapen the no-no for Eric Milton.
How many pitchers pitched
Milton was the only Twins pitcher that pitched that day. He threw all nine innings, striking out 13 batters, with his fastball reportedly touching 94 mph. As Milton stared down the batter's box with his first no-no in progress, Steinbach behind the plate had already seen a no-hitter in his career. Even with control and a mean fast ball, Milton only allowed two walks and nothing else to the Angels.
Home or Away
The Twins hosted the game versus the Angels at the Metrodome when they were splitting the building with the Golden Gophers football team. Sharing a field meant more pressure to get through the game promptly to turn the area into a gridiron. The Dome held 60,000 people, but only 11,222 showed up to cheer on the Twins. Given their record, I am not surprised. Thanks to the acoustics of the Dome, we know that it could get loud. However, once Milton realized what was going on and his spidey sense kicked in that this may be a no-hitter around the sixth or seventh inning, he said, "It sounded like 20,000" people were in there, and that's part of what kept me going”.
Did the pitcher hit
In Major League Baseball, the Designated Hitter rule had been in place for more than 20 years. Even though Milty did not have to hit, the offense was on fire. Terry Steinbach set the tone in the bottom of the first inning. He hit a triple to right field which scored Matt Lawton and gave the Twins a lead.
The Twins offense scored seven runs by the end of the game, the highest number of runs of any Twins no-hitters.
Even though he didn’t have many at-bats with the Twins, Milton when he was traded to the Phillies in exchange for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto and Bobby Korecky in 2004. He wasn't a great hitter, but with 209 plate appearances, he posted a .166 batting average, above average of pitchers.
This no-hitter was fun to research and write about. From Milton’s superstition to other fun facts I learned, such as the ill-timed "Wheel of Fortune" promotion. A fan had to fill in the letters of a puzzle on the scoreboard to unveil the answer to the question of "Who pitched the first no-hitter for the Twins?" (Jack Kralick) The question had been developed before the game and went unchanged despite the no-hit bid.
Eric Milton says that this no-hitter isn't on the top of his list of achievements. That Moment was his 2002 American League Divisional Series win against the Oakland A's, where he held them to only two earned runs after pitching seven innings. Milton threw second no-hitter in 2004 with the Phillies.
Would this have been your second choice? Would it have even been in your top three? Does the DH make a difference to you in how you view pitching? Let me know your thoughts.
I look forward to discussions!