July 10, 1947 – Don Black Overcomes Personal Demons to Pitch No Hitter
Don Black was on his last chance. In 1945 he had been suspended by the As for being so drunk that he passed out in a bowl of split pea soup. Disappointing results and continued personal struggles let Connie Mack to trade Black from the As to the Indians following the 1945 season.
Black had flashes of brilliance in 1946, but had been optioned to minor league Milwaukee for the later part of the season.
In 1946, Bill Veeck purchased the Indians and began making many of the innovations that he is known for. He immediately reached an agreement to broadcast all games on the radio. In 1947 he hired hired Larry Doby, breaking the color barrier in the American League. He moved the team to Municipal Stadium full-time, and he began mentoring Don Black.
Veeck himself was a recovering alcoholic and a proponent of Alcoholics Anonymous. Veeck agreed to pay off Don Black’s outstanding debts if he would enter A.A. “Listen, give this thing a good try,” he told Black. “You won’t have to worry about your debts. I’m paying them all off. The only man you’re going to owe is me, and I’m not going to be tough on you.”
Not even five months after he joined A.A., Black was pitching behind Bob Feller as the Indians’ No. 2 starter.
On July 10th, Black was facing his old team in the first half of a double-header. The twin bill had attracted a rather large crowd for a weekday, despite the threat of rain in the forecast.
Black walked the first two Philadelphia batters on eight wide–nearly wild–pitches. After striking out Elmer Valo, Ferris Fain grounded out, but advanced the runners. Eddie Joost was left on third when Sam Chapman grounded out to end the inning. That is the farthest any A’s baserunner would make it this afternoon.
He pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, and then the heavens opened up. During the rain delay, Black remarked to some reporters, “Gee, I’m wild tonight. I don’t seem to have it. I hope I can stick it out.”
After a 45 minute delay, he did more than stick it out. After Jim Hegan broke the ice in the bottom of the second with an RBI single, Black helped out his own cause by scoring Joe Gordon with a sacrifice bunt. Tribe center fielder George Metkovich then drove in Hegan with an RBI single of his own.
In the top of the third, with Barney McKoskey on base after a walk, Elmer Valo launched a ball to deep right field. Joe Gordon sprinted toward the wall and made a dramatic over-the-shoulder catch.
His slider was moving brilliantly and fooling A’s hitters, but Black’s tendency to be a little wild was almost his undoing. After walking Ferris Fain in the top of the 6th, Lou Boudreau made a mound visit. “I went over … when he walked Fain to tell him to slow down a little. We all knew he was going for the no-hitter.
Wiping sweat from his brow after every third pitch, Black faced the A’s 4 -5- and 6 hitters in the top of the ninth. The final out was a grounder back to the mound. Black fielded the ball, took a few steps toward first, and tossed the ball to Eddie Robinson to complete the no hitter.
47,871 fans erupted in jubilation at the feat. It was the largest crowd to date to witness a no hitter in the majors.
Later, Don Black reflected on the game “Never a drink made,” he said, “could give me the belt I got out of that game.”