Finding a way to work the Pittsburgh Pirates in to this equation of 10 memorable moments was tough.
For most of our generation, the management and ownership have turned us off from the organization. Point in fact, most Pittsburghers have a second favorite team in Major League Baseball. You can’t say that for football or hockey in this town.
Nevertheless, there was a moment that stuck out in my mind that I had to add. It’s something that stuck out in my mind as memorable and exciting in the midst of nearly two decades of horrible baseball.
Francisco Cordova took the mound on July 13, 1997, with probably no expectations of what he was about to accomplish.It just so happened he provided Pittsburgh fans with the greatest Pirate performance we’ve seen over the last 15 years.
The team was improving, showing possible signs of a turnaround to greatness that fans had become used to in Pittsburgh. Along with Cordova on the pitching staff were fellow future aces, Jon Lieber and Esteban Loaiza.
In the lineup was the ever-steady Al Martin, who led the team in home runs (18) and RBI’s (74). Jason Kendall was calling the pitches at catcher and Tony Womack was stealing bases, 60 to be exact.
There was also the emergence of Jose Guillen in the outfield. Not only was he a great defender but he showed up behind the plate as well with 14 homers and 70 RBI’s.
But enough of the team, let’s get to the game.
The scene was set. A fireworks night and Jackie Robinson tribute brought people to the gates for the third game of a series against the Houston Astros. Over 44,000, a sellout, piled in to Three Rivers Stadium, never expecting greatness — the Buccos had been outscored 17-0 in the first two games of the series.
But so it went, with Cordova throwing nine innings of hitless ball. He had pitched well against the Astros all season coming in to the game and continued his dominance against them.
The problem for Pittsburgh was that Houston starter Chris Holt was doing nearly as good of a job. He held the Pirates scoreless for nine innings as well.
Cordova was eventually pulled going in to the 10th inning for fellow Mexican-born pitcher Ricardo Rincon. Rincon continued the hitless trend, retiring the side in the top of the 10th.
The Pirates came to bat in the bottom of the inning. John Hudek came in to relieve Holt in the eighth and was still pitching going in to the 10th inning.
He walked Kendall and outfielder Turner Ward as Mark Smith came to bat.
Smith had an average year at best. He batted .285 and drove in 35 runs, due in part to his nine home runs. Nothing spectacular was expected.
However, he did the unexpected.
(^This is honestly the only video on the internet that I could find that has the no-hitter. Cordova and the winning hit start around the 2:20 mark.^)
Smith got a pitch he liked and drove it to the left field seats, knowing the minute he hit it that it was gone. The stadium erupted as the ball flew over the blue outfield wall.
It was complete. The 10 innings of nerveracking baseball was over. Fans could finally breathe … and they did in an eruption of cheers.
After the game the only way to hear from either Prate pitcher was through Loaiza, another Mexican-born pitcher. He was the only one that spoke English and translated for the two after the game.
Their remarks were the typical one even after such a tremendous feat, one that happens only once or twice a season. ”We’re happy what we’ve done, but it was more important for us to win.’
To wrap it up, here are some of the historical facts that came from Cordova’s no-hitter:
- It was just the fifth extra-inning no-hitter in league history.
- It was the second-best pitching performance in Pirates history behind Harvey Haddix’s 12-inning perfect game in 1959.
- Cordova threw 121 pitches in nine innings with 10 strikeouts
- 25 of Cordova’s 27 outs were by ground ball or strikeout.
- It was the eighth combined no-hitter in league history.
Be sure to stop back tomorrow for moment #9!!!
Chris | PPT