A Day In Wrigley Field History: April 16, 1972

Louis Requena/Major League Baseball

History was made on this cold and drizzly Sunday at Wrigley Field.

The start of the 1972 baseball season was delayed a week by a players' strike, the first such event in major-league history. Thus the Cubs' opener that year was played on a chilly Saturday afternoon in front of just 17,401, the smallest gathering for a home opener since 1967.

The next day was even colder, and drizzly, and just 9,583 showed up at Wrigley Field on a day when the temperature didn't break 40 degrees.

Those who braved the awful weather that day (I wasn't one of them) got to see history, a no-hitter thrown by Burt Hooton against the Phillies in what was just his fourth major-league start.

Bob Logan's recap in the Tribune began with quotes from seven people involved with or witnessing this feat:

"To think we almost called it off," sighed Vice President John Holland of the Cubs.

"He just walked to the mound in the first inning and took charge," marveled Manager Frank Lucchesi of the Phillies.

"I went out to talk to him in the seventh inning and he looked at me as if to say, 'What are you doing here?'", chuckled Acting Manager Pete Reiser of the Cubs.

"Congratulate him for me and tell him to stop by the office in the morning to sign a new contract with a $2,500 raise -- and give Randy Hundley $500 for catching him," ordered Owner Phil Wrigley of the Cubs in a phone call to Holland.

"You have to compare his knuckle-curve to a Sandy Koufax curve ball," Hundley pointed out. "It starts at your head and winds up on the ground."

"Here's Fergie Jenkins winning 20 games five years in a row and he never had one of those things," philosophized Phil Regan, the Cubs' bullpen veteran. "Then along comes this kid and does it in his fifth [actually fourth] major league start."

"I was kind of burned up about walking seven batters," Burt Hooton said in a calm, serious tone. "It's true that I dreamed about pitching a no-hitter last [Saturday] night, but in my dream, I didn't walk anybody. And first, I dreamed I hit a home run."

The seven walks Hooton allowed that day are among the most ever by a pitcher who threw a no-hitter. Just 11 no-nos have been thrown with that many walks, including Edwin Jackson's in 2010 (Jackson walked eight). But Hooton was never really in trouble; one walk was erased on a double play, the other via a caught-stealing; just one Phillies runner reached second base.

Hooton's no-hitter, people thought at the time, presaged a stellar Cubs career. It wasn't to be, as you know; Hooton had a decent year in 1972 (though got no Rookie of the Year votes even with a 2.80 ERA and 135 ERA+), was somewhat worse in 1973 and 1974 and then when he got off to a bad start in 1975, was dumped to the Dodgers for Eddie Solomon and Geoff Zahn. The Cubs could have used him in the years (1977-79) when they were on the margins of contention. Instead, Hooton pitched in three World Series for the Dodgers, getting a ring in 1981. He finished second in Cy Young voting in 1978.

Meanwhile, this was the fifth no-hitter thrown by a Cubs pitcher since 1955 (Sam Jones, Don Cardwell and a pair by Ken Holtzman preceding Hooton's). Milt Pappas would make it six later in 1972, but it took 36 years, until Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter in 2008, before a Cub would throw another.

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