By Phil Hecken
You might think pitching a no-hitter in the major leagues would be the greatest thrill for a baseball player. And you’d probably be right, unless you were Jerry Reuss, who placed that “achievement of a lifetime” squarely at number three in his all-time greatest.
So began my assignment for one of my grad school classes this semester — Journalism 241 — “Advanced Sports Reporting.” The rest of that article can be found here. Don’t judge it too harshly, as it’s just a first draft (and it’s under 800 words). I think it’s pretty good, so far.
In case you couldn’t tell from the headline of this article, or the splash photo — the subject of today’s piece is none other than Jerry Reuss, friend of Uni Watch, former professional baseball player, photographer, announcer…uniform tweaker. Paul interviewed Jerry this past summer (you can re-read those here and here) and since that time, Jerry’s been in contact with a few of us, and assisted Jerry Wolper in his massive project to track every uniform the Pittsburgh Pirates wore during their “bumblebee” period.
Jerry Reuss first contacted me last summer as well, after reading one of my pieces on monochrome in baseball. We periodically corresponded and by coincidence and timing, within the past few weeks, I received three “tweaks” from Jerry, I watched the MLB-TV presentation of “40 Most Unforgettable Uniforms” (in which he was interviewed) and I found one of my assignments was to write a 700-800 word “feature” on an athlete, past or present, for my class. I asked Jerry if I might have about 20 minutes or so of his time for a phone interview. Well, one hour and fifty-some minutes later, my interview was complete.
If you fine readers didn’t already know it, Jerry is “one of us,” as Paul likes to say. Not only is he a gentleman and a scholar, he is one of THE nicest, most congenial, funny and smart fellows I have ever had the pleasure of speaking to. We had a fantastic conversation, and when it finally ended (long after I figured I had worn out my welcome), Jerry actually apologized to me for not getting to all we had planned to discuss. And we discussed plenty. Ever the gentleman, Jerry allowed me to first get in all my “class” questions, and then we just talked about uniforms for the remainder of the call. If you didn’t read my ‘assignment,’ go back and give it a quick read — because Jerry Reuss not only is quite the uniform historian, he was one hell of a ballplayer too.
So, kick back, and enjoy the first of a few “outtakes” from my conversation with Jerry Reuss.
If you didn’t know, Jerry Reuss pitched in not one, but two All Star games — 1975 (as a member of the Pirates) and 1980 (as a member of the Dodgers). By all accounts, he did pretty well, too — pitching three scoreless innings as the National League starting pitcher in 1975, and striking out the side and getting the win in 1980. We discussed those games:
Uni Watch: Let’s go right to the All Star Games, if you don’t mind. The first one was obviously with the Bucs — 1975 — I guess you had three scoreless innings there and the game had Henry Aaron, and Mickey Mantle and (Stan) Musial [Mantle & Musial were the honorary captains] and I’m sure there were a lot of others. What was that like?
Jerry Reuss: You know, I wasn’t aware that they were there. I know Aaron was because he pinch hit against me in the bottom of the 2nd.
UW: That was his first year with Milwaukee, was it? When he went back there?
JR: He was with Atlanta in 1974 and joined the Brewers in ’75. Looking back, he hit number 713 off me, in 1973, and hit number 718 off me in 1974. And I figured, well, that was then, this is now, we’ll see who comes out on top. He broke his bat on a grounder to short. At least, I came out on top the last time I faced him. Now that I think about it, I should have asked the batboy to put the broken bat in my locker.
UW: Yeah, heh-heh.
JR: That would have been a broken bat worth keepin’.
UW: Exactly! Anything else from that game? Three scoreless innings is pretty good, I imagine you mowed down some pretty good — well, I didn’t check your strikeouts, but you had at least one, right? Anyone huge that you got out that in those innings?
JR: Well, it was my first All Star Game, so everything was huge. It was a full house, I guess 55,000, and I was pitching against the American League’s best with the best of the National League playing behind me. It was quite an experience.
I was a bit surprised that I was named starting pitcher, but Danny Murtaugh, the Pirates manager, set up the Pirates rotation so I would have more rest than the other starters who were named to the club. Walt Alston, who was the ASG manager, with prodding from Murtaugh, named me the starting pitcher. It’s one thing being named to the All Star team but being named the starting pitcher? That’s quite a privilege.
JR: I remember the game took forever to get started — I was so pumped up about it, and I was loose in ten minutes — and we still had another 15 to go! Vida Blue, the American League starter, was warming up next to me, as the bullpens in Milwaukee were right next to each other. So, we had a chance to visit. It was the only time in my career that I ever spoke to an opposing pitcher before a game.
UW: Wow. How about the 1980 All Star Game. Obviously 1980 was a great year for you. You had three strike outs in that inning, that must have been amazing.
JR: Well, one of them was Tommy John, so we have to qualify one of the batters I faced. But, the other two, Darrell Porter and Buddy Bell, were legitimate hitters. Remember, it was tough to see that time of night because of the 5:00 start. That definitely worked in my favor. But for me, pitching at home, at Dodger Stadium, that was was exciting as well. So, I was fortunate: I was selected for two All Star Games, played a role in both of them, starting one and winning the other.
JR: Well, I guess if you play in two All Star Games, as a pitcher, there’s not much more you can ask for.
UW: Tremendous. Yeah. I was going to say — getting the win in that game, as a Dodger, in Dodger Stadium, it must have been outstanding.
JR: Well, you know, it was the last time they had an All Star Game in Dodger Stadium.
UW: I saw that. Yeah, I guess the the other one that was out in LA with the Dodgers was at the Coliseum. That was in ’59, maybe?
JR: That’s right. I think the Dodgers will probably get an All Star Game some time in the future, at least once they expand the clubhouses. By today’s standards, the clubhouses are too small. The Dodgers have plans to make renovations to Dodger Stadium. But everything’s on hold because of the McCourt’s marital discord.
Jerry also threw a no-hitter on June 27, 1980, against the rival San Francisco Giants in Candlestick Park. Although it was 30-plus years ago, Jerry still remembers it like it was yesterday — which is no doubt a reflection on the tenacity and concentration needed just to achieve such a feat. We discussed that in depth as well:
UW: OK, well, lets talk real quick about the ’80 season: 18 and six record, second in Cy Young to Steve Carlton, quite an honor…six shutouts (led the league), and you were named the “Comeback Player of the Year.” Obviously all amazing stats, but how about the no-hitter you pitched that year? Now I gotta ask you because when I watch games on TV, they say, “did you know you had one going at the time?” I mean, I guess you do, but did you look up at the scoreboard? Do the guys, do they move away from you on the bench? All the superstitions that happen like that?
JR: I don’t know if it’s superstition as much as it is awareness. The questions that you asked about the no-hitter are the same questions everybody asks me. Since my time is my own, I decided to write down my baseball memories. I decided to devote a whole afternoon, or whatever it took, to get from strike one to the very end of the no-hitter. Part of my process includes writing everything I can remember and then let the words sit for a few days. And when I reopened the file, and I researched everything I could. Tony Tennille, of Captain & Tennille, was (and may still be) a huge Dodger fan, kept score of the game while watching it back in Los Angeles. She took her score sheet, had it framed and gave it to me when she attended her next Dodger game. I used it to count the pitches. I watched parts of the DVD of the game to record Vin Scully‘s account. Much of the rest of the game came from retrosheet.org.
To be honest with you, I think about the no-hitter only when somebody asks about it. And I’m flattered, because it was so long ago. So, let’s answer some of your questions. As far as knowing I had a no hitter? Of course I did.
JR: And anybody who tells you they don’t is full of shit.
UW: Heh-heh-heh. I figured as much, but it’s nice to actually hear it from someone who actually threw one and not the broadcasters who didn’t play the game and who like to pontificate on such matters.
JR: I was aware of it. I was so focused on everything about the game, I could tell you if a hitter’s changed his stance, if he was a little closer in the box, if he was a little further away, if he was choking up, if he moved his hips in his stance — I knew it. I could tell you who was sitting behind home plate in the stands — I couldn’t tell you who it was, but I could tell you if an empty seat was filled or if somebody had moved. I was just so hyper-aware of everything that was in my focal path.
JR: It’s took me years to develop that mind-set. Once you’re able to get that “tunnel vision,” it’s truly a gift. That’s really when things took off for my career.
So, as far as knowing about a no hitter? Yeah, I knew what the score was when I was hitting, and who was playing where, and fortunately in that ballgame, we scored eight runs. So I didn’t necessarily have to think about one pitch determining a win or loss. I was aware when I went through the order once, after three innings, that the Giants were hitless. So, in the top of the fourth, I looked for any adjustments the hitters made. Since my command was excellent, I spotted my fastball on both sides of the plate.
Pitching successfully through the order a second time, I couldn’t help but look at the scoreboard and think, “Yeah…there’s a possibility here.” With each out, the reality played in my mind just a little bit more. Once I completed six hitless innings, I thought, “Wow, now it’s a reality.” Still, even with the run support, I reminded myself, “There’s still a long way to go.”
With six innings in the book and sitting in the dugout during the top of the seventh, my focus was split on the finishing the game and maintaining a no-hitter. Winning the game was the team goal, pitching a no-hitter was personal. The way to have both was through that focus, don’t let it get too big — keep it narrow and concentrate just on the next pitch.
UW: Sure. How much of a role does your battery-mate, your catcher play in that? Obviously you’re — do you know what he’s gonna call pretty much? Or are you shaking him off? What’s that like?
JR: I didn’t need to do that because, Steve Yeager, who caught the game, and I were both on the same wavelength. We both liked to work fast, and knew that I really liked to keep things simple. I told him before every start, “Lets not overthink what we’re doing here. And, keep your trips out to the mound to a minimum.”
And he said, “I’m good with that. You throw the ball. You get it anywhere near and I’m gonna catch it. I’ll take care of the infielders for you — you just worry about throwing the ball and leave everything else up to me.” It was a one-pitch-at-a-time approach and it worked for us.
Now, Mike Scioscia had a different process. Establish your best pitch or location early in the game and make adjustments as the game progresses. Add a pitch, change speeds and locations through the middle innings, and finish the game with your best stuff.
Both ways of doing it are valid. They’re solid. And, I not only had one guy who could handle a game, I had two! And they come from different perspectives, so how lucky was I?
JR: But working with Yeager, we kept our speed and tempo. A word or two was all he needed, such as “too hard.” Or, “you’re rushing.” Maybe, “You’re overthrowing.”
JR: Around the fifth inning, the fans started to get into it. We were in San Francisco, and that’s the last thing in the world you’d expect. At that point, I wanted to ignore them. There’s too much game ahead of me. But when I’m walking off the field after six, the fans are standing and applauding. And usually, when a team has a big lead, the fans start to look for something else to do or they leave the ballpark — but nobody left.
When I go out in the seventh, all of a sudden, they’re alive again. And I get the first batter out. The crowd gets louder and, in my mind, the countdown begins: “We’re starting with nine outs to go…then there are eight… there’s seven more guys to go…the seventh inning is finished.”
With, six (outs to go) I can start thinking of the big picture, because that’s all we have left. Of course, the Giants are going to try to pull out every stop. Nobody wants to get no-hit, especially, nobody wants to get no-hit at home.
In any other game, with six outs to go and a lead, I look at the lineup card or scoreboard to see who the next three hitters are. I recall the pitch sequences and prepare for their upcoming at bat.
But with a no-hitter on the line, it was a different battle because because I focused more on the perfect pitch as opposed to pitching to what the numbers say on the scoreboard. Normally, with an eight run lead, there’s margin for error. Not so in this case.
The tension was there when I took the mound in the eighth. The countdown continued. It was six outs remaining, then five, then four. When I finished the 1-2-3 eighth inning, the crowd reminded me of the reality that was three outs away. Of course, the guys on the bench are feeling the same thing as well. The players are aware of what’s going on. Still, they try to go about their business, but there’s no escaping the excitement. People think it’s superstitious to talk about a no-hitter on the bench during the game. It’s not. But, just in case, other players are, a player stays put.
After I got through the order in the Giants’ eighth and made my way to the dugout, I was preparing for the ninth. It was numbers eight, pinch-hitter in the 9th spot and Bill North scheduled for the Giants as I read the lineup card posted on the dugout wall. I was also due to bat fourth in the Dodgers half of the ninth.
I put on my jacket and sat down remembering I had been in this situation in 1972 with the Astros in a game against the Phillies. Though I had walked four, the tension was still the same. There was just three outs to go. Larry Bowa, the leadoff hitter in the ninth, drilled a double down the third base line just past a diving Doug Rader. Just like that, a no hitter was gone.
That was then, this is now. We were retired in order in the ninth. Since I was on deck, I placed the bat and helmet in the rack and made my way to the bench for my hat and glove. I made the mental transition as I walked to the mound.
With the 8-run lead, the no-hitter was the only thing on my mind. First up was Mike Sadek, who struck out twice. With a 1-2 count, I threw a cutter inside and he hit an easy two-hopper to Cey at third. One out and Rennie Stennett, a former teammate with the Pirates, pinch-hit for the pitcher. I got ahead in the count 1-2 as Stennett was late on his swing and fouled off two pitches to the right side. I came inside again, this time belt-high, and Stennett hit an easy roller to Russell at short. With two outs and everyone in the park on their feet, I took a short walk around the mound and reminded myself, “This is the guy I waited for all night long.”
That guy was Bill North. With two groundouts and a routine fly to left, North set up his stance as he did in his previous at bats. First pitch was a fastball high. “Make the adjustment,” I think. I look for the sign. Yeager puts down his index finger, which is our sign for fastball inside to a right-handed batter. I wind and deliver the pitch at North’s knees. He hits a two-hop roller to me in front of the mound. “You have all the time in the world. Pick it up, turn and throw to Garvey’s belt,” I thought. Once I saw Steve catch it, I’m airborne. I don’t remember the next 30 seconds or so as the emotions flowed. I erased the memory of eight years ago and replaced it with a dream every kid has.
We’re going to conclude the first part of the interview here. But how great was that? I am not engaging in hyperbole when I tell you Jerry is one of the most gregarious, loquacious, funny, wry and personable gents I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with — and this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg — we’ll get to the real good stuff — the uniform stuff — when we’re back with Volume II.
Thanks for indulging the length of this column, but I’m sure you’ll agree, it was worth it. Make sure you guys all thank Mr. Reuss for all his time and insight.
Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.
Another set of wonderful submissions for this week:
Leading of is Ed Lam, who just missed last week’s deadline, but has two beautiful efforts with the Babe and Johnny Mize:
To celebrate spring training I gave the two baseball pictures a try. The Babe Ruth photo was a challenge because I didn’t think the scene would have very much color. The uniforms colors are black and white, Griffith Stadium was dark blue, and it’s a cloudy day. It’s subtle but I think it came out okay.
Also did the Johnny Mize photo which I will attach to a separate e-mail.
Next up is Brad Boyd, who actually went really off the board, but it’s a great effort, even if not quite sports-uni related:
I read y’all’s site fairly often and always enjoy the old colorization projects that people send in. I’ve got a submission of my own that I think you might enjoy seeing. It isn’t sports related, but since reading your site is what actually motivated me to try my hand in adding color to an old picture, I figure it’s appropriate to send you a copy.
This is an image of my grandfather, Leon “Rocky” Boyd, from his time as an Army Air Corps flight instructor during World War II. I decided to colorize this and give it to my dad as a Father’s Day present in a few months. Unfortunately I lost some of the detail on the bottom wing in the process, but otherwise I think it all came out fairly well.
Maybe next time I’ll do an old New Orleans Pelican’s player or something.
Keep up the good work!
Moving along we have Jeremy Kelly, who took up the 1917 White Sox challenge:
I had the afternoon, so I finished the 1917 White Sox photo.
I’m a big White Sox fan, so this was even more special to work on.
I hope that everyone who reads the blog enjoys it.
Next up is Douggie Keklak, who has a possible “colorize this!” suggestion (the quality might be a bit low):
Not as old as the ones normally done but from Duchovny’s description in the article, might be interesting to see:
Next is Alton Booth, who also went off the board, with Cincy Red from yore:
I was looking through some old Reds pictures the other day and found this great picture of Louis “Pat” Duncan (what kind of a nickname is Pat?). I decided to try to colorize and I was pretty happy with the results.
Moving into the meat of our line up we have Gary Chanko, who colorized all three of last weekend’s suggestions, with predictably fantastic results:
Three great photos so I had to work with all of them:
1942 Reds & Cubs Managers
Believe the players, or managers are Jimmie Wilson, Cubs, and Bill McKechnie, Reds. Found several good examples of actual unis to aid with the colors.
This was a tough one to colorize. The original (neg) needed a lot of clean up (and still does!). I have no idea who the players are (Gabby Hartnett the catcher on the right?) Great contrast of the two home uniforms used that year…but why were the two players wearing different uniforms that day? Both appear to be wearing the same socks, but research would indicate they were different for each uniform variation.
1917 White Sox
Again who are the players? Research showed the caps might have been white for this set of uniforms, but clearly they were not in this image.
— Gary Chanko
[The players were Eddie Cicotte (l) and Pants Rowland. When I colorized this a few months back, I had a smaller original. I, too, agree the caps had to be blue. — PH]
Driving in our tablesetters is of course George Chilvers, who seems like he was busy this week, since he only sent me one. But as usual, it is tremendous:
For the penultimate in the tweak show today with have newcomer Eric Westover, who colorized one the wire service photos Paul recently ran:
Here is my attempt at coloring the Buzzy Wares photo.
And, for the pièce de résistance, we have a video colorization from Chris Modarelli, who has done an incredible job colorizing Jim Brown. This could be the best nine minutes and forty-four seconds you spend today:
I can’t say enough great things about today’s colorizers, other than simply to show you their works. Big round of applause for everyone!
For next time: how about this? We go completely “colorizer’s choice”? That is, you guys seem to do just fine on your own (although I’m happy to supply some I feel would be great) — so the next ones will be completely your own ideas. My one suggestion is to go back through any of the “There’s No Service Like Wire Service” articles Paul has posted and find one or two that would work well in color. Those are all goldmines!
As always, send me your work and I’ll run it the next time we have a “Colorize This!” segment. Thanks.
by Rick Pearson
Seeing as Jerry Reuss was there—really there—for the bumblebee Pirates, probably should reprise this one. Y’know, considering the Bub’s Pub color scheme n’ all.
And here’s the full size.
And don’t forget… to enter Ricko’s “Design an outfit for Mick” contest — Here’s A Template. Just give the Mick a nice golf outfit (you can enter as many as you’d like) and the “winner” will receive either a signed original “Benchies” or be written into a future strip — possibly both. For full details, you can refer back to the contest. Remember, the deadline is April 3, 2011.
Got a very interesting set of tweaks today.
If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great a keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!
And so, lets begin:
Leading off is David Britt, who has as much of a DIY as a tweak. I’ll let him explain:
Two quick check-ins. I do uni tweaks all the time, but I have never submitted one before (except one for the baseball contest late last season). This one is more topical, though, since about two months ago I did a new design for the Bills, since one of my best friends is a huge Buffalo fan. I created a custom McFarlane figure for him based on my design. For some reason this is the only picture I could find of the figure. Anyway, I know you prefer to have linked images, but I don’t have a flickr account or anything, so I just sent the pic. If I find other angles (which I know I have) I’ll send them to you. You don’t have to post this, just thought you might be interested, what with the Bills doing new unis. I actually did this before I realized they were doing that.
On a more pertinent note (and one with a link), the Diamond Heels are sporting high-cuffs and stirrups on Saturdays. I wish they would go back to the same jersey with real undersleeves and no rib knife, but these are still pretty sharp.
Also, check out Seton Hall’s sweet throwbacks in the [two week’s ago] Friday game against UNC (UNC actually has a jersey almost just like this that they sell, but they don’t wear throwbacks. Too bad)
You have to click through a few pics to get to any of Seton Hall.
OK, I was wrong. On February 27, UNC wore throwbacks, and they are amazing. Full powder blues, with high cuffs and stirrups. Doesn’t get any better than this…I mean, unless they won the game…
Next up is Paul Lee, who kept his description 47 words under the “50” word limit. Nice.
Closing out the show we have Alex ___, who would prefer I not use his last name, with some USC hoops tweaks:
I’m no graphic design wiz, but when I found the Russell Athletics Uni builder site, I figured I would give it a spin. Here are my tweaks for USC Basketball. In general I think the current uni’s are pretty solid, but I HATE the yellow/gold home set and feel like the striped shorts/solid top is funky.
Actually used a women’s basketball template for these. They aren’t perfect, but I think this would be a good start for a future set. Here are my home (white), road (red), and alt (semi-BFBS, but I like the cardinal/gold/black look) tweaks. Enjoy.
-Alex (Please don’t use last name…I’m a member of the student media that covers USC, and would prefer not to have my name out there associated with non-journalism-related things. Thanks!)
Thanks to all today’s tweakers. Back with more next weekend.
No, today’s not quite Paul’s birthday — it’s tomorrow. But since I don’t have the lede tomorrow, I’m taking the time to wish Paul a Happy Birthday a wee bit early.
And since I turned 21 this past January, everyone please make sure to join me in wishing Paul a happy 23rd birthday tomorrow.
Nothing says spring like the vernal equinox, which is, not coincidentally, just about the same time Mr. Lukas celebrates the anniversary of his arrival on planet earth. And, it usually rains — ask him about that some time.
So a big, huge early HAPPY BIRTHDAY buddy! And many more.
And NOW we can tie a ribbon around this post. Happy Spring, everyone. Happy Early Birthday Paul. Thanks, Mr. Reuss, for the interview. Everyone have a great week!
I like soccer, though I do not follow it nor watch matches. — Jim Hamerlinck