Hello, Twins Fans! When I was younger, my maternal grandparents used to say, "Hello Sportsfan!" and I loved that. It would not apply to me until I was much older since I grew up in theater and music. Baseball was never far from me though. I went to countless games in the summer with KidStop (If you know - you know), and I remember watching Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Chuck Knoblauch and loving the feeling of the crowd roaring inside the Metrodome. A lot of you have shared similar experiences with me after reading the previous no-hitter articles.
Jamie Johnson, who is a follower of TwinsDaily, had the experience of attending both of the no-hitters at the Dome and told me how it felt to him:
"When I was a kid, we lived in Winona, and my Dad worked at Winona State. I was a big baseball fan, but my dad didn't like driving in the cities. Winona State had buses that would go up 2-3 times a year to Twins games. In my first game in 1988 as an 11-year-old, I will never forget the first time I walked through the tunnel and saw the field. I know it was only the Metrodome, but to a kid, it was amazing! I always looked forward to those couple of times a year going to games. I was 17 years old (at the first no-hitter), and I will never forget the vibe that was starting to happen as everyone realized what was happening. Those last few innings, everyone was on their feet for every pitch, high-fiving each other after each out. We always sat out in left center field, lower deck. One of my best memories! Everyone was so excited. I have lost count of how many games I have been to over the years, but obviously, this is one game that stands out."
These moments are what baseball is all about and for Jamie, getting to experience BOTH no-hitters at the Metrodome is an extraordinary memory (and incredibly unlikely!). Minnesota sports made more memories last week. The Vikings beat the Packers, and the Gophers beat the Badgers. So it's a perfect time to talk about the second no-hitter in Metrodome history where the Twins stuck it to the Brewers.
No-No Number 4: Scott Erickson - 1994
The Pitcher: Scott Erickson
The Date: April 27, 1994
The Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers
The Stadium: Metrodome (First No-Hitter in the Metrodome)
The Pitcher's Background and Story
Scott Erickson grew up on the west coast in sunny Long Beach, California. where he returned to retire after his 15-year stint as a pitcher in Major League Baseball. While attending both San Jose Junior College and the University of Arizona, not only did he graduate with degrees, he played ball. While attending Arizona, Erickson set a school record for wins with an 18-3 record, had the most wins in the country (18), most innings pitched (175), and complete games (14). He was only there for a year, but his impressive numbers and hard work earned him a unanimous First Team All-American honor, and he was inducted into the Arizona Wildcat Hall of Fame.
Erickson was drafted four times before he signed with the Twins in 1989. Whether it was to get selected higher in the draft or a desire to pitch in college, the 21-year-old was ready to prove to the other scouts and organizations that even though his fastball was only hitting in the 80's, he was right where he needed to be for the Twins. Erickson worked hard to develop his slider and honed his two fastballs and a changeup that made him sometimes unhittable.
The outcome of the game and his ability to focus and work hard to get where he wanted to be shocked not only him but also others." The thing that impresses me is his ability to concentrate through the pressure of a nine-inning game," said [Jack] Morris (in a June 1991 New York Times interview). "That's a great trait for a young pitcher, and it has a lot to do with his success. He gets into his little world."
1994 was a challenging year for baseball and left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. The American and National League decided to realign the teams and add a central division. The Twins struggled to an 8-14 record by the time the game against the Royals took place. They finished the season at 53-60 and in fourth place in the AL.
Later the strike took away the post season and the World Series. The drama of the strike overshadowed the accomplishments of many teams and players, including Scott Erickson's no-hitter. This particular game was a gem, but overall it was a mediocre-at-best season for the Twins and Erickson, who led baseball with 19 losses.
The Metrodome was sparsely filled. A mere 17,988 fans filled the stadium. It was still early in the season. There was nothing special or crazy about this game, the stadium or the teams.
Before the game, he wasn't feeling that great. Nothing said this would be a no-hitter; there was no precursor to routine or even a belief that the Twins could manage a win. In an interview after the game Erickson shared, "I haven't changed anything since my last three starts," he said. "I had a better slider today, reminiscent of years past."
He did say at one-point once he realized after the sixth or seventh inning he treated each inning as if it was the first inning.
His catcher Matt Walbeck recalled the game as his favorite memory with the Twins in a Twins Daily story, “My biggest memory, my happiest moment playing for the Twins, was catching Scott Erickson’s no-hitter. By far. That was my career highlight.”
The Milwaukee Brewers were not faring any better than the Twins. The Brewers had an awful 1993 season, and the decision to re-brand was a year into the making, but it was just putting lipstick on a pig. The new colors were supposed to bring a vibe, and the new logo was "so cool" one team official was "concerned it would fall victim to gang usage." The Brewers fans, though? They disagreed. In a poll taken by the local newspaper, only 20% of 300 fans polled liked the new colors and logo.
There was just nothing Milwaukee could do right from their logo to their gameplay. They finished their season 53-62, 5th in the American League Central Division but fairing better than the Twins sitting at 11-9 when they came to the Dome. When they made it to the Metrodome, they had a slew of problems. However, they also had some positives like injured players from 1993 that were starting to bounce back and make improvements that helped carry the team after the all-star break.
The Twins had a line-up that still lingered from the 1991 World Series, players like: Chuck Knoblach, Kirby Puckett, and Kent Hrbek. It’s not that Milwaukee didn’t have a great line up, they had two stand out players who seemed to carry the team throughout the season, Greg Vaughn paced Milwaukee with 19 home runs Dave Nilsson drove in 69 runs and topped batters with significant playing time by hitting .275. Even with two all star hitters, they weren't a team that was feared coming into the Dome that day in April.
How many pitchers pitched
Scott Erickson was the only Twins pitcher that game. Erickson exploded into the Twins pitching scene in 1991, helping the Twins get to their 1991 World Series. Since then, he struggled; in fact, he was the most hittable pitcher in 1993.
Erickson walked four batters and struck out five while throwing 128 pitches. 128 pitches! That blew my mind. His catcher, Matt Walbeck, noticed he continued to get stronger throughout the game. He was confident, and his fastball was moving faster than ever. Not a single hit, run, or error. Scott Erickson was on fire.
Home or Away
The game was at the Dome, and the crowd was small, but by the time they were loud, they realized what was going on. In the ninth inning - all 17,988 people were on their feet cheering for Erickson.
He shut down the Brewers for nine innings, completing the first no-hitter in the Metrodome and breaking the Twins 27-year no-hitter drought
Did the pitcher hit
Scott Erickson did not hit in this game. He left that to the all-star lineup. The offense was able to capitalize on Brewers pitching , scoring six runs. Kent Hrbek homered. Kirby Puckett hit a ground-rule double, and Chuck Knoblauch singled in a run. By the fourth inning, the Twins were up 5-0, but that did not slow down the pace of Erickson, or the Twins bats, which scored one more run to seal the deal.
The Twins wore down the pitching of the Brewers, forcing them to bring four pitchers to the mound throughout the game after starting pitcher Jaime Navarro gave up the five runs to the Twins.
Wrap it up!
Scott Erickson had one of the best no-hitter performances that I have researched. I know I ranked his no-hitter at #3 out of five Twins no-hitters, but I have to be fair to my criteria, and allowing for four walks is not a massive deal in the grand scheme. The fact that it was the first no-hitter in the Metrodome is also exciting.
A no-hitter on artificial turf was impressive in itself, but the Dome was also the place to hit "home runs," so to see that much control and focus on pulling off the no-hitter was indeed against the odds and statistics.
The fans that were there for that game experienced the rush of emotions. They erupted in noise when Greg Vaughn’s fly ball landed in left fielder Alex Cole’s glove for the last out. Those fans will never forget the pitcher that beat the odds in a season when the chips were down.
I look forward to discussions!