It started like any other Sunday. My wife and I got up and got dressed in our Phillies gear. We picked up our 6 year old grandson, and headed up 95 towards Veteran’s Stadium. The date was April 27, 2003. The talented San Fransisco Giants were in town for the finale of a 3 game series. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with temperatures in the upper 60’s. As we settled in sitting in our season ticket seat in section 214, the Phightin Phils took the field, with number 34 Kevin Millwoodtaking the mound.
Millwood was one of the key moves made in the offseason. The Phillies obtained him from the Atlanta Braves on December 20th for catcher Johnny Estrada. Jim Thome, the big acquisition was at first base, and David Bell at third. Jessie Foppertwas the starting pitcher for the Giants. With the Giants coming in at 18-6 and the Phillies at 15-10 it looked like and interesting matchup. Millwoodwas 3-1 thus far as he took the mound.
I remember the way the game started. Marquis Grissom led off with a walk and was immediately erased trying to steal by Mike Lieberthal. After Jimmy Rollins bounced back to the mound to start the home half of the first, ceterfielder Ricky Ledee drove a Foppert pitch to the black backdrop in right-center field, giving the Philsan early 1-0 lead. In both the 2nd and 3rd innings, Millwood froze Giant hitters with a cutter to left handed hitters, adding 4 more strikeouts, to his total. He now had 5 through 3 innings.
The Phillie Phanatic had appeared and my grandson got up and ran down to him, getting a high five. As the day went on, the crowd continued to grow. At the end of the day, over 40,000 showed up on a sun-drenched spring afternoon to see something that had happened at Veteran’s Stadium only one other time.
In the fourth, Phillie killer Barry Bonds drove a Millwood pitch to the base of the wall in right, but Bobby Abreu snagged it, preserving the 1-0 lead. After a perfect 5th, Millwood struck out Pedro Feliz and Ray Durham in the 6th, giving him 8 strikeouts in the afternoon. Jesse Foppert had made just the one mistake and through 5 1/2 innings, had matched Kevin pitch for pitch. The Phils threatened in the 6th with two on and two out, but Mike Lieberthal grounded out to end the threat andthe day for Jesse Foppert. As the Phils took the field for the 7th, I said to my wife “You know, I think he’s going to throw a no-hitter.” My grandson was enjoying his first trip to the Vet, and this was as tense a game as I had been attended.
Marquis Grisson led off the Giant 7th, and crushed a ball to right-center field. Ricky Ledee got a good jump on it, raced back, and made a one-handed leaping catch for the first out. The crowd went crazy. Millwood acknowledged the great play. And the buzz never went away. Rich Aurilla was next and struck out swinging for the 9th strikeout. Next, Barry Bonds. As the crowd cheered, standing in unison, Barry was called out on strikes to end the 7th. Millwood strolled off the field to a standing ovation.
As the Phillies went down in the 7th, and the Giants went in turn in the 8th, the crowd knew something special was happening. Every pitch was cheered. Every ball called by the homeplate umpire was booed. and with 3 outs to go, Millwood got yet another huge ovation. As the 9th inning started, the Phils clung to that 1-0 lead. Other than Millwood, Ricky Ledee had been the hero. His first inning homer, and his history saving catch in the 7th, were the highlights. After the first out in the 9th, the Giants sent up Phillie killer Marvin Bernard to pinch hit. He a a 2 hopper right to Thome at first, and the crowd was going absoultelynuts. One more out to history. All that stood in the way was pesky Ray Durham. With the crowd going nuts, Durham coaxed the third walk of the day from Kevin. The tying run was on first. Everyone was on their feet. And fittingly, the man who had the best chance of the day for a hit, shot a lazy fly ball to the man who won the game with his bat and saved history with his glove. As the ball went high in the bright blue sky, Kevin Millwoodpointed straight up in the air with both arms. As the ball fell softly into Ricky Ledee’s glove, Jim Thome was already picking up Millwood and hugging him. The crowd went crazy. Millwood had achieved something that had only been done once in the Vet’s long history. He had pitched a no hitter, and better yet, won the game 1-0.
My grandson told his mom when we dropped him off; “we saw a no-pitcher!” Not a bad game to go to as your first Phillies game. I’ve been lucky enough to witness some great games. Every time I go to the ballpark, I hope to see something I’ve never seen before. I saw Curt Schilling in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series pitch a shutout andsend the series back to Toronto. I’ve seen a triple play. Todd Pratt did the honors against Houston in a wild affair. I was there when the Phillies clinched the NL East on the final day of the 2007 season. I was there for Game 5 of the 2008 World Series when the closed out the Rays. Finally, I was there when Jimmy Rollins doubled in the winning runs in Game 4 of the NLCS in 2009 with 2 outs in the 9th. I’ve seen some amazing things. Kevin’s No-Hitter was the greastest individual performance I’ve ever had the chance to see in person. I hope he has that kind of success this season for the Baltimore Orioles.