Editor’s note: Last year, Joe Guzzardi wrote a Saturday column on noteworthy doubleheaders throughout baseball history. With a new season underway, this column makes its return.
Alva Lee “Bobo” Holloman’s St. Louis Browns’ career lasted only three months. On May 6, 1953, pitching in his first start, Holloman tossed a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics. Holloman, 27, struck out three, walked five, and batted in three of the Browns’ runs with a pair of singles in the 6-0 victory.
Browns’ fans hoped that Holloman would go on to notch other great achievements. But Holloman was out of the majors by July 19th of the same year, only three months after his no hitter. Holloman’s career record: 3-7; 5.23 ERA.
When Holloman joined the Browns from the Syracuse Chiefs, manager Marty Marion tagged him as a relief pitcher. But Holloman insisted that starting was his true talent. Tired of hearing him gripe and noting that in his four relief appearances, Holloman was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA Marion, with owner Bill Veeck’s blessing, gave him the nod on that rainy May evening. Although he struggled throughout, when Holloman retired the last batter, Eddie Robinson, he registered not only his no hitter but also his first win and only complete game.
No hitters are often referred to as “masterpieces”. But that was hardly Holloman’s case. The A’s half of the ninth reflected what a dicey game Holloman pitched. Elmer Valo and Eddie Joost led off with back to back walks. Then, Dave Philley hit into a double play. Holloman promptly issued another free pass to Loren Babe that brought up the dangerous Robinson. But Holloman secured his no-hitter when Robinson hit a fly ball to right fielder Vic Wertz.
Veeck, realizing how lucky Holloman had been in his no hit effort, wanted to send him back to Syracuse for further seasoning. But fearing that demoting his new star would be a public relations error, Veeck ordered Holloman, against his wishes, back to the bull pen. Why public relations were a consideration at that stage of the Browns’ history is not clear. Only 2, 413 saw Holloman pitch his no hitter. Worse, by 1954, the 54-100 Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles.
Holloman eventually notched two more wins, both in relief, against the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. But when Holloman pitched mop up in the second game of a July 19 double header against the Washington Senators and gave up six earned runs in 1.2 innings during a 13-4 loss, he was gone for good. Veeck sold “Bobo” to the International League’s Toronto Blue Jays.
“Bobo” was soon forgotten. Holloman’s legacy: he’s the only pitcher to toss a no hitter on his first start.