1999: Milton’s No Hitter

Most of this is taken from something I originally wrote in 2008. I did do some updating, however.

Just about everything was negative for the Twins in 1999. They were well on their way to a seventh consecutive losing season, and hadn’t really had anything to get excited about in recent memory. On a Saturday morning in September, Eric Milton gave the Twins’ organization and its fans something to cheer about.

The game started at 11 AM local time due to a scheduling conflict with the University of Minnesota football team. The early start, combined with the Twins’ performance over the past few years added up to an announced crowd of just over 11,000, despite the fact that the game was not being televised due to MLB rules. The early start had an effect on the game as well. The Angels, who were far from an offensive juggernaut in 1999, had most of their best players watching from the bench, including Mo Vaughn, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, and Jim Edmonds. Even the middle-of-the-road starters were getting a break. Gar DiSarcina and Randy Velarde were not used on this day either. While they weren’t world beaters, they were better than the replacement level or below players that were in the lineup.

Starting Lineups

Anaheim Angels Minnesota Twins
1 Jeff DaVanon RF 1 Jacque Jones CF
2 Orlando Palmeiro CF 2 Denny Hocking SS
3 Todd Greene LF 3 Matt Lawton RF
4 Troy Glaus 3B 4 Terry Steinbach C
5 Steve Decker DH 5 Todd Walker DH
6 Matt Luke 1B 6 Corey Koskie 3B
7 Bret Hemphill C 7 Torii Hunter LF
8 Trent Durrington 2B 8 Doug Mientkiewicz 1B
9 Andy Sheets SS 9 Cleatus Davidson 2B
Ramon Ortiz P Eric Milton P

Troy Glaus may be a recognizable name now, but in 1999 he had yet to make a name for himself.

The Twins’ offense did its part early, scoring four runs off of Anaheim starter (and future Twins) Ramon Ortiz in the first two innings. Milton walked Orlando Palmiero in the first inning, and walked Jeff Davanon in the third, but worked around those walks and was looking pretty good with five strikeouts through three innings.

In about the sixth inning, catcher Terry Steinbach got a feeling, quoted here by LaVelle E. Neal III in the Star Tribune:

I was sitting there and I had this feeling that anything can happen,” said Steinbach, who was with Oakland in 1990 when he caught Dave Stewart’s no-hitter. “You don’t want to get too carried away with it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, keep moving the ball in and out and see where it goes.”

The sixth inning was when the crowd began to buzz as well. When Milton finished off a pesky at bat against Andy Sheets by blowing him away with a high fastball for the strikeout, the Metrodome crowd started to get the same feeling as Steinbach.

Neal noted that Milton’s fastball was in the low 90’s the entire game, and that his control was near perfect throughout. Denny Hocking’s two-run home run in the fifth had given the Twins a 6-0 lead, so the drama rested solely on Milton’s shoulders.

Milton sent down the Angels in order in the seventh inning, including two more strikeouts to bring his game total to 11. The eighth was another quick inning, and Milton added one more strikeout to the total when he caught Matt Luke looking.

In the middle of the eighth inning, the Twins did their regular trivia promotion. The question: “Who threw the first no-hitter in Twins history?” The bit gave Tom Kelly some negativity for the post game.

“That was quite upsetting,” Twins manager Tom Kelly said. “I know it was for the players. I don’t know if [Milton] saw it, but the players were very upset. I don’t know what possessed them to do that today of all days, unless it was a coincidence.”

If Milton saw it, the question didn’t seem to bother him, as he went about his business of getting Angels out. The lefty recorded the first two outs of the ninth inning, and only Jeff Davanon stood between Milton and a no-hitter.

With the count full, Milton blew his money pitch by Davanon, a fastball for strike three to end the game.

Box

Minnesota Twins            IP     H   R  ER   BB  SO  HR    ERA    
E Milton, W (7-11)          9     0   0   0    2  13   0   4.64
		           BF  Pit-Str   GB-FB  GmSc  IR-IS
			   28  122-78     4-9     98    -

Anaheim’s interim manager Joe Maddon was the subject of a lot of criticism for leaving his big bats on the bench late in the game. To his credit, he managed to the best interests of his team, rather than to break up a no-hitter. Down 7-0, he didn’t feel that bringing in the starters who were supposed to have a day off was the best move for the team.

Milton took care of those batters he did face, however, and recorded the top Bill James Game Score in team history, a 98. Still, its considered one of the least impressive no-hitters in history.

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