My man Joe Posnanski, on his subscription site, is counting down his (or our, via poll) top 100 candidates who never made the Baseball Hall of Fame; and for No. 83, Norm Cash, he includes a story that highlights the difference between the sports media world in 1973 and today.
It's about Nolan Ryan's second no-hitter, against Cash's Detroit Tigers, in which he also struck out 17. The record then was 19, and Ryan was cruising toward itó16 through seven innings, so an average of more than two an inning with two innings to go. Then the Angels scored 5 runs in a long bottom-of-the-7th, and for the final two innings Ryan wasn't quite as dominating. He still didn't give up a hit but only got one more K.†
Anyway, it's unlikely that anyone has ever been MORE unhittable than Ryan was the first seven innings of that game. That's why it's so funny that Norm Cash came to the plate in the sixth inning with a table leg instead of a bat.
I seem to remember reading this story in one of the myriad books by umpire Ron Luciano, who happened to be behind the plate that game. As the story goes, Luciano told Cash he had to use an actual bat to which Cash famously replied: “Why? I'm not going to hit him anyway.”
But my favorite part of this is something admittedly inside-baseball: NOBODY reported it at the time. None of the sportswriters wrote about it, not one. I don't even know what to say. Could you even imagine the Twitter explosion if something like that happened now? Could you imagine the coverage that would get? We'd get an oral history within days. There would be a 30 for 30 on it by the end of the month.
But the only place I can even find the story in 1973 was buried in a baseball notebook in The Baltimore Sun. The lead item was about Reggie Jackson saying how he was rooting for Ryan. Then, a bit later, there was this cryptic note:
“Oriole catcher Andy Etchebarren relayed the story he heard from Clyde Wright earlier that day about how Norm Cash came to the plate Sunday with a table leg instead of a bat in his hands.”
That's it. Weird.
Now I want to see that “30 for 30.”†