‘Big Bobo’ tosses no-no in first start, 59 years ago today

Fifty-nine years ago today, the St. Louis Browns’ Bobo Holloman became the first modern-era Major League pitcher to toss a no-hitter in his first start.

Holloman, who had toiled in the minors for more than six years, made four short relief appearances in 1953, taking his first loss to the Washington Senators on May 1 by giving up two earned runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings of work.

Former Browns owner Bill Veeck, in his autobiography “Veeck … as in Wreck,” said Holloman had been lobbying Marty Marion to give him a start.

“Big Bobo isn’t a relief pitcher, he’s a starter,” the 27-year-old pitcher pleaded in the third person. “Big Bobo can pitch better than half the guys you’ve got starting.”

The lobbying apparently paid off, as Marion gave him the ball on a rainy hot-and-humid night on May 6.

Bobo rewarded his manager and teammates by holding the Philadelphia Athletics hitless throughout the contest and helping his cause at the plate by going 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs on singles in the second and seventh innings.

Veeck in his book said that every time Holloman began to tire, a rain shower would come through and delay the game enough for him to get a rest.

“Big Bobo went out and pitched against the Athletics, the softest competition we could find, and everything he threw up was belted,” Veeck wrote. “And everywhere the ball went, there was a Brownie to catch it.”

Veeck noted that he had planned to ship Holloman back to Syracuse to avoid a $25,000 payment, but couldn’t get rid of a player after a no-no so he bought Bobo a TV set and kept him around. But Holloman never retured to the form of May 6, 1953, and Veeck sold him to Toronto before season’s end for $7,500.

Note: Ted Breitenstein and Bumpus Jones threw no-nos in their first career starts in the 1890s.

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