Bill Butler: King of the Auto-play No-Hitter

Bill Butler
Bill Butler is the only author of two no-hitters in my replay project.
I still remember the moment. I stared at the 12″ monitor on a desk in the corner of a spare bedroom. The monitor was wider than it was high. The winter chill crept through the window next to me. On the monitor was Baseball for Windows, the computer version of the APBA card-and-dice game that I played as a kid. The software came with three seasons, complete with as-played season schedules, one of which was 1971. The card-and-dice seasons of my childhood never eclipsed a 40-game mark. An adolescent attention span. A new baseball season would grab my attention before I could complete reliving the previous season through dice. But now, now I know that a complete season replay is within my grasp through the power of a personal computer. With a single click of a mouse, the Oakland A’s began to play the Washington Senators at RFK Stadium. The first step of my journey through baseball history via replays. A journey that was soon reach the two decade mark.

That initial replay was definitely a work-in-progress in many ways. I began to dabble in HTML and to create an online record of the replay. I soon began visiting the local library and printing off box scores from the archived newspaper microfiche. I played most of the games myself, as I still do, but from time to time, I would auto-play the remaining games of a day so that I could move to the next game or series of interest to me. One and a half months into the replay (in replay time, not actual), the first no-hitter was recorded, and I missed it. In an auto-played game, Bill Butler of the Kansas City Royals no-hit those Oakland A’s. The only record remaining of the game is this line on the replay’s web site:

“But on May 15th, lefty Bill Butler in an emergency start grabbed the headlines by no-hitting the mighty Athletics 3-0.”

Bill Butler, not to be confused with the portly DH who would play for the same Royals a decade later, would always be remembered as my first no-hitter. Soon thereafter, Wilbur Wood no-hit the Angels. In July of the replayed 1971, the Cubs’ Milt Pappas would reach perfection at Dodger Stadium and I was there for each of the batters he retired. Regardless, Bill Butler was the first, memorable, maybe because the recollection was always followed by the thought “who the hell was Bill Butler?”.

It’s now a spring night. A school night. I’m in my office in the basement. The monitor is now a 42″ flat-screen television. The computer game is now Diamond Mind Baseball. It’s 1969 again for me, not 1971. Sleepily, I decide to auto play the remaining American League games for the day. The pennant races are all in the National League. Need to keep things moving along. Time to go to bed. The Mets have caught the Pirates in the NL East. And then, I see it. The Yankees’ line score: 0 0 1. Final score, 2-0 Royals. Ten innings. Oh, it’s a combined no-hitter, right? Wrong. There he is again. That familiar name.

Butler 10.0 0 0 0 1 10

Beautiful.

The Worst of the Worst

As the second half of my 1969 replay begins, I must confess how impressed I have been at the complete ineptitude of the 1969 San Diego Padres. Through July 25th of the replay, the Padres are 29-71, a .290 winning percentage, and on pace for a 115 losses. Naturally, this arouses thoughts of another National League expansion team from the 1960’s: the New York Mets of 1962. That inaugural edition of the Mets is thought to be one of modern baseball’s worst teams.

How do these Padres stack up against Casey Stengel’s bunch?  Let’s find out. With Diamond Mind Baseball, I created a league of the two teams. The Mets and Padres would play each other 162 times, and I would run 50 seasons. Which team would win this tournament by losing the most seasons? My initial test run piqued my interest as it was the Mets who topped the Padres. Small sample size? Let’s run the season again, and again,,,and again.

The Padres won 32 of the 50 seasons and their largest margin was a 38 game spread in season 19. The Mets won 16 seasons and their largest margin was 14 games in season 30. Two of the seasons ended with each team at 81-81, a moral victory for these Mets.

1962 Mets celebrate
The Mets celebrate their victory as the worst team of the 1960’s. Pictured from left to right, Frank Thomas, Gil Hodges, Don Zimmer and Roger Craig.

The individual standouts from each team are Richie Ashburn of the Mets and Nate Colbert of the Padres. Ashburn finished with the top 4 finishes in batting averages, the highest being a .350 mark in season 38, and all of the top 10 finishes in on-base percentage, the highest being .467 in season 21. Colbert, on the other hand, finished with the top 10 seasons in slugging percentage and in OPS. The top mark being in that remarkable season 19 where the Padres finished 38 games ahead and Colbert slugged .627 with a OPS of 1.030. “Downtown” Ollie Brown was another standout as he finished with 217 hits in season 47. The Mets’ Frank Thomas hit a leading 42 home runs in season 17. Colbert and Brown each hit 40 in seasons 20 and 32, respectively.

For career totals over the 50 seasons, Richie Ashburn led all players with 5024.1 run created, and Frank Thomas tallied 15,132 total bases closely followed by Ollie Brown with 15,023. Brown had the longest hitting streak recorded in the 50 season with a 35 game streak. San Diego’s Joe Niekro, who was traded to the Padres early in 1969 from the Cubs, recorded the best career ERA at an even 3.00, and he won the most games (721). The Mets’ Jay Hook finished second in wins with 714, but he led the project in strikeouts (7,179).

Overall, this was a fun little side project that may lead to a “worst of the worst” tournament where the losers advance, and perhaps a 1962 replay once 1969 is complete and while Diamond Mind upgrades its’ 1970 season disk.

Apollo 11 and Baseball

For the second time, I’ve had the occasion of reaching the momentous date of July 20, 1969 in a baseball replay. My first replay was sixteen years earlier. In real life, I was too young to recall the Moon Landing, but I do have vague recollections as a child of the troubles of Apollo 13 the following spring. The later Apollo missions captivated my young mind as they did with any red-blooded American boy growing up in the early 1970’s. Astronauts were real-life heroes, but looking back at Apollo from an adult perspective do I finally appreciate the dangers and risks that truly existed on those missions. In the opening words of the TV show “Star Trek” that debut three years earlier, Apollo 11 “went where no man had gone before.”

In a post-9/11 world, it doesn’t seem too strange to interrupt a sporting contest for national affairs. The only other time I had read about games being stopped in this fashion occurred in 1941 when games were stopped in order broadcast a FDR speech concerning America’s potential involvement in the war in Europe. But back in 1999, when I first researched how the Moon Landing was celebrated at major league ballparks, the events seemed strange but in a special way. There are already two fabulous articles on the baseball events during the Moon Landing. First, Larry Granillo’s post coinciding with the 40th anniversary and later passing of astronauts Neil Armstrong in 2012. Second, there’s J.G. Preston’s well-researched post about the major league baseball games that were played while Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Preston takes a tour of the ballparks via the newspaper stories from the day to reveal how the Apollo landing was reported at the various ballparks.

phillies-cubs[1]

I had a cassette tape of the radio broadcast of the Dodgers-Giants game from July 20, 1969. It turned out to be a prophetic game as Gaylord Perry hit his first career home run exactly when he said he would years earlier: when man landed on the moon. I wish I still had it to give it another listen as I did when I reached this date during my first 1969 replay.

Perhaps the most enduring moment on that day at the ballpark was at Yankee Stadium where New York was hosting the Washington Senators. Stephen J. Walker reported in his book “A Whole New Ballgame: The 1969 Washington Senators“, the Senators’ players remember the contest’s enduring image – more than 30,000 New Yorkers rising in silence then singing “God Bless America” upon hearing the news that the Apollo 11 lunar module, with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin safe inside, had landed on the moon.The New York Times reported the game was cut short in the top of the eighth with an announcement by PA announcer Bob Shepard: “Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please.” The umpires waved their arms and stopped play. “You will be happy to know,” Shepard continued, “that the Apollo 11 has landed safely…” His final words “…on the moon” were drowned out by the din of the crowd.

In Seattle, Kenneth Hogan, in The 1969 Seattle Pilots: Major League Baseball’s One-Year Team,
stated the game was halted for 20 minutes in the 6th inning so everyone, fans and players alike, could listen to the Apollo astronaut’s moon landing. The Evening Independent newspaper of St. Petersburg, Fla. noted the Seattle fans cheered, stood up, and sang “America the Beautiful.” It appears “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” were reported interchangeably from stadium to stadium.

But in Philadelphia, an older recording of “God Bless America” gained traction in the City of Brotherly Love. Doug Felman reported in his book, Miracle Collapse: The 1969 Chicago Cubs, that in the third inning of the nightcap with the Cubs batting, play was halted abruptly. It was seconds after 4:17 pm Eastern Daylight Time, and the two teams silently went and stood along their respective baselines and looked skyward. Word had been sent from Armstrong to mission control in Houston: “Houston…Tranquility base here…The Eagle has landed.” A prayer was said for the men over the loudspeaker at Connie Mack Stadium, asking for the continued safety for the first human-made craft that had landed on the moon. The game resumed after a recording of Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” followed the prayer over the intercom. In December, the Philadelphia Flyers began to use Kate Smith’s rendition in the place of The National Anthem. And another legend began

Stanley Cohen gives an account in his book, A Magic Summer: The Amazin’ Story of the 1969 New York Mets: ‘The New York Mets found themselves unable to negotiate the routine flight from Montreal to New York. They watched the moonwalk on a small television screen in a deserted passenger terminal in Montreal’s airport. Their chartered 727 had been grounded because of a defect in its oil system. … The moonmen had set a tone for that summer of ’69. From that point on, even the most distant possibility would be measured against the wonder of their odyssey. “If men can walk on the moon…”‘

The video below not only provides an as-it-happened account from ABC News, but it also provides a recap of the news of the times (Vietnam War reports, Paris peace talks, Ted Kennedy possibly facing charges of leaving the scene of an auto accident at Chappaquiddick, Mass. on Friday) around the 40 minute mark from the soon-to-be-famous Peter Jennings and reporter Sam Donaldson. Neil Armstrong steps onto the Moon’s surface around the 1:14:00 mark.

If you are interested in the Apollo 11 mission, check out this interactive presentation from the JFK Presidential Library: http://www.wechoosethemoon.org/

Enjoy!


Copyright © 2017, A Second Time through the Order. All Rights Reserved. This is a re-creation of the 1969 baseball season using software by Diamond Mind Baseball. This project began with the 1965 season and accordingly all statistical and record references are from this replay project. References before the 1965 season are based on real life events. All quotes attributed to players and coaches are actual quotes from The Sporting News or Associated Press. All player photos shown are copyright by the Topps Baseball Card Co, and all action photos are copyrighted by Corbis, The Sporting News or Sports Illustrated. The attendance figures used here were obtained free of charge from and are copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at 20 Sunset Rd., Newark, DE 19711. This web site is not associated or affiliated with any company, including Major League Baseball, MLBPA, the American or National League of Ballclubs, Diamond Mind Baseball. It is simply a non-commercial labor of love. If you believe this site infringes upon a copyright that you hold, such infringement will be promptly corrected and/or removed from this site upon proper notification.