St. Louis Browns' Alva Holloman Did What No Modern Pitcher Ever Did

Harold FriendChief Writer IMay 7, 2010

On May 6, 1953, in his first major league start, the St. Louis Browns’ Alva “Bobo” Holloman pitched a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics.

The 27-year-old Holloman struck out three, walked five, and helped himself offensively by batting in three of the Browns’ runs with a pair of singles in the Browns’ 6-0 victory.

Since 1901, only Bobo had tossed a no-no in his first start.

The Browns Paid $10,000 for Holloman's Contract

Bobo Holloman had pitched since 1946, but he wasn’t a very good pitcher.

St. Louis Browns’ owner Bill Veeck, one of the great innovators in the history of baseball, sent $10,000 and pitcher Duke Markell to the Syracuse Chiefs in exchange for Holloman.

If Bobo remained on the Browns’ roster, Veeck would have to send the Chiefs another $25,000. If he didn’t, they could return Bobo and absorb the $10,000.

On May 6, 1953, a rainy night in St. Louis, manager Marty Marion, with the blessing of Veeck, relented to Holloman’s claims that he was a starter, not a reliever.

After four relief appearances in which he compiled an 0-1 record with an ERA of about 9.00, Bobo Holloman started the only major league game that he would ever complete.

A Poorly Pitched Game

The game proved that a no-hitter can be a poorly pitched game.

The Athletics hit line drives all over the place, but there was always a Brownie in the right place at the right time to make the play.

The game was delayed a number of times by rain, which allowed Holloman, who was not used to starting, to get some much-needed rest.

In the eighth inning, when all of the 2,473 in attendance were well-aware that the A’s still did not have a hit, shortstop Billy Hunter, a great fielder, made a fantastic play on a Joe Astroth ground ball up the middle.

Going into short center field to field the ground ball and then making a strong throw to get the slow footed catcher, Hunter preserved Holloman’s “classic.”

Eddie Robinson Made the Last Out

It was fortuitous that Bobo had a six-run lead.

Elmer Valo led off the A’s ninth with a walk, and Eddie Joost followed with another, but Dave Philley hit into a double play. Holloman promptly walked Loren Babe, bringing up the dangerous Eddie Robinson.

Holloman got his no-hitter when Robinson hit a fly ball to right field to end the game.

Veeck Wanted to Send Bobo Back to Syracuse

Bill Veeck realized how lucky Holloman had been and wanted to send him back to Syracuse, but Veeck was a great businessman.

“I don’t think it’s really wise to send a man back to the minor leagues right after he’s become immortal.  It looks as if you’re punishing him for throwing a no-hitter.”

Holloman won two more games in the majors, beating the Cleveland Indians and then the Boston Red Sox, but he was again relegated to the bullpen in July. 

Bobo made his final major league appearance on July 19, after which Veeck sold Bobo’s services to Toronto of the International League.

According to Bill James, Bobo Holloman’s no-hitter was the second least likely in history. The most unlikely was tossed by a pitcher named Charley Jones in the 19th century.

References:

"Rookie Baffles Athletics, 6 to 0 in his Debut as St. Louis Starter." New York Times . 7 May 1953, p.40.

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