Having been an official scorer in the 1990’s, I’m sure Nats’ Park scorer Dave Vincent was relieved that the Braves’ first hit off Scott Olsen last night was a no-doubter. Essentially, when a no-hitter goes by the boards, the last thing you want is an element of doubt about it.
The only no-hitter I ever saw in person has my name attached to it as official scorer: White Sox lefty Wilson Alvarez, against the Orioles, August 11, 1991 at Memorial Stadium. Alvarez walked five hitters, but maybe he was nervous. It was his first big league start, after all.
The closest thing to a Baltimore hit was a chopper in front of the plate by Cal Ripken in the bottom of the seventh. Catcher Ron Karkovice fielded the ball and threw it over first baseman Dan Pasqua’s head, and Junior ended up on second base.
When you’re appointed as scorer by the league, you get a memo that states very clearly: if you’ve got replay capability, use it, because they want you to get it right. Without replay, I likely would’ve scored it a hit and an error. With replay, I could freeze the frame and show the ball a few inches above Pasqua’s glove - and Cal still roughly 10 feet away from the bag.
No brainer. A good throw and he’s out. E-two.
Now, I should point out that over the years, whenever the official scorer makes a decision that the rest of the press box disagrees with, there’s an audible collective groan. In this case, there was just silence. No one disagreed with me.
The postscript to this story? The next day I asked Orioles’ longtime ball-man Ernie Tyler if he, perhaps, could get me a ball that had been used in Alvarez’ game, and he happily complied. I kept it in a drawer, and several years later when Alvarez had joined Tampa Bay as a free agent, I asked my old friend Rick Vaughn, a Rays’ VP, if he’d get Wilson to sign the ball for me.
Sure, he said, just send it down here. I sent the ball to Rick, and a couple of weeks later, it was returned, with the following inscription: “To Phil Wood, I couldn’t have done it without you, Wilson Alvarez #40.”
Not the sentiment I was looking for, since it makes it sound as if I did something over and above what I should have been doing. I didn’t, I swear.
Alvarez retired in 2005 with a pretty good career mark: 102-92, and a sub-4.00 ERA. But it’s hard to imagine that any of the other 101 wins he recorded were quite as thrilling as number one.