Not every Nats game is a trip down memory lane, but damn near. Before the first pitch of last night’s Nats-Rockies tilt at Nationals Park, one of me droogs (here they are, for those of you who’ve forgotten), told me about watching a no-hitter pitched by fastballer Dick Bosman in Cleveland in 1974. “You’ve actually seen a no-hitter?” I asked. He nodded: “A great game,” he said. “Fantastic. It was back in the early 1970s, 1973-1974, something like that.” Being armed with one of those hand-held doohickies, I looked it up. The game in question came on July 19, 1974 at Cleveland’s Memorial Stadium, when the Naps faced off against Oakland’s White Elephants. The A’s would go on to take the World Series in ‘74, but on that July day in Cleveland they looked helpless against Bosman.
Bosman had a more than serviceable career: his fastball carried him from sleepy Kenosha, Wisconsin into the Pirates organization, and then into the McCovey’s minor league system. He ended up in Washington, where he had his best years pitching for the Senators. His best year came in 1969, when he led the AL with the lowest ERA and went 14-5. He won 16 games in 1970. But even at the age of 27 — when Bosman should have been at his peak — he seemed to be running out of gas. Bosman went to Texas with the Senators, but then kicked around until 1974, when he landed a starting role in Cleveland, where the no-account Indians were doing what they have been doing throughout their long and painful franchise history: searching for pitching.
July 19, 1974 was a warm day in Cleveland, but it was not killer-hot like it can be in Cleveland and there had been showers in the morning. Bosman was slated to start against Oakland’s Dave Hamilton. With some 24,000 looking on (Cleveland Stadium — built in 1931 — held 78,000 for baseball), Bosman went to work, facing a line-up of Oakland bombers. In many ways, this was a typical Oakland team, a mix of speed and power complemented by a deep starting rotation: Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson and Joe Rudi were at the heart of the order, with Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman and Dave Hamilton the primary hurlers. “Blue Moon” Odom added to the mix, though his best years were in the past. The Indians and A’s were locked up into the third, when Joe Lis gave the Naps a 2-0 lead. In the top of the 4th, Bosman fielded a swinging bunt from Bando, but his throw was wide of first, and scored as an error. As it turned out, Bando was the only A’s baserunner for the day — and the one baserunner that would keep Bosman from a perfect game. By the end of the 7th, Bosman had faced only one more than the minimum.
In the ninth inning, on the verge of putting himself in baseball’s record books, Bosman approached his catcher, John Ellis. “Catch me on your belly if you have to,” Bosman said, “but make me keep the ball down.” Ellis squatted behind the plate, flashing his glove on the ground, nodding at Bosman. “I told myself it was John and me now,” Bosman remembered, “and I concentrated on getting those last three hitters.” In the ninth, Bosman put the Elephants down in order, sealing his no-hitter and (as he hoped) resuscitating his career. [Here's the boxscore] At the season’s beginning he had been on baseball’s junk pile and relegated to the bullpen. Now he was “in the books.” His teammates were ecstatic, and Cleveland fans chanted him off the field: “We want Bosman. We want Bosman.” He came out of the dugout after a time, and tipped his cap. “This is the culmination of everything I’ve worked for and dreamed about,” he said after the game. “I almost feel like I am dreaming.”
Bosman wasn’t long for baseball. In 1975, he was traded to the team he no-hit, with Jim Perry for Blue Moon Odom and cash. He had a good year with the A’s, pitching effectively and registering an 11-4 campaign. The A’s finished first in the AL West, seven games ahead of the Royals, and faced-off against the Red Sox for the AL pennant. The Red Sox crushed the A’s in three games, and went on to face the Reds in the World Series. Bosman saw little duty in the Red Sox post-season series, pitching to a single batter. The A’s released him in 1977 and he retired to his home in Florida. He spent the next twenty years in Florida, restoring antique cars — his obsession. He vowed to never look back. “When you shut the door on baseball, you have to keep it shut or it will never let you go.” Bosman has been a coach in the Tampa system since 2002.