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Former Cubs Pitcher Milt Pappas Dies At 76

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Milt is the last Cubs pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Wrigley Field.

Milt Pappas in 1999
Milt Pappas in 1999
Michael L Abramson/Getty Images

Milt Pappas pitched for the Cubs from 1970 through 1973, going 51-41 with a 3.33 ERA and one very famous game. I'll get to that in a moment, but first I have this sad news to pass along:

Former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas was found dead in his Beecher home Tuesday afternoon.

Pappas, 76, died of natural causes, according to the Beecher Police Department.

Police officers were sent to Pappas’ home about 12:15 p.m. and found him deceased.

Pappas threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres September 2, 1972, and it likely should have been a perfect game. On a 3-2 pitch to pinch-hitter Larry Stahl with two out in the ninth, Bruce Froemming called ball four on a very close pitch after Pappas had retired the first 26 hitters. The score was 8-0, and many veteran umpires would likely have given Pappas the benefit of the doubt and rung Stahl up. Froemming, who umpired for decades, was a young umpire in his second full season at the time. The next batter, Garry Jestadt, popped out to second base to complete the no-hitter. Here's video:

It's the last no-hitter pitched by a Cub at Wrigley Field, now almost 44 years ago. Personal story: we had some cousins from England visiting at the time and were going to go to the game that day, to show them baseball. But it rained all morning and, in that pre-radar era, we didn't think they'd play, so we didn't go. Oh, well.

Pappas also pitched for the Orioles, Reds and Braves and before his no-no was best known for being the piece that Baltimore sent to Cincinnati for Frank Robinson before the 1966 season, a year when F-Robby won the A.L. MVP and the Orioles won the World Series. He was a two-time All-Star with Baltimore, finished ninth in N.L. Cy Young voting in 1972, posted 46.8 career bWar, and according to his baseball-reference page, had a career comparable to Jim Perry, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser and Catfish Hunter, all very good pitchers. Hershiser is, I think, a very good modern comp.

Pappas was in spring training with the Cubs in 1974, and at age 35 really had nothing left. He was released just before the season started, one win short of having 100 wins in both leagues.

Pappas, who grew up in Michigan, settled in the Chicago area after his playing career ended, and years later was involved in controversy when his wife disappeared in 1982. Five years after that her body was found in her car, submerged in a suburban pond, and the death was ruled accidental.

Milt Pappas would have turned 77 next month. I met him a couple of times and though he was always pleasant and affable, he insisted that pitch to Stahl was strike three, and I think he was right. Rest in peace, Milt.