Forty years ago, Rick Wise made history
Rick Wise was the starting second baseman for The Knucksies in the 2011 Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday, but exactly 40 years ago today he was the toast of baseball.
On June 23, 1971, the 25-year-old Wise pitched a no-hitter and added two home runs to lead the visiting Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-0 over the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. In his nine-inning stint, the righty faced just 28 batters, walked one (Dave Concepcion with one out in the sixth inning), struck out two, and raised his record to 8-4 on the way to a 17-win season.
“I was coming off the flu and I felt very weak,” said Wise, after taking a seat in the third base dugout. “And it was hot, too. It was Cincinnati and the heat was coming off the carpet there. Man, it was smoking. But I think it sweated it out of me. I remember warming up and it seemed like the ball was stopping about halfway to the catcher. I said to myself, ‘Man, I better locate my pitches because this team with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez can do some severe damage with their hitters.’
“But I had a good tempo and they were putting the ball in play early. I only made 94 pitches that day and it has an hour and 53 minutes. And only six balls were hit out of the infield, and I wasn’t a groundball pitcher either. I was a fly ball pitcher.”
Now 65, Wise ended his 18-year big league playing career in 1982 before embarking on a couple dozen seasons as a coach at almost every level of baseball before retiring in 2008. Sporting a ring given to members of the 1975 American League champion Boston Red Sox (Wise was the wining pitcher in Game 6 of the ’75 World Series in which Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk hit his memorable home run), he delighted in stating that he is one of the few people to appear in a Little League World Series, a Babe Ruth League World Series and Major League Baseball World Series.
Proud of his hitting, Wise finished the 1971 season twice hitting two home runs in a game.
“But that was the National League game. My first nine years were in the National League – seven with the Phillies and two with the Cardinals – and I had 15 home runs after nine years,” Wise recalled. “Then I went to the American League for six years and never picked up a bat again. My final team was San Diego but by that time my skills were completely diminished as far as hand-eye coordination.”
According to Wise, when he was coaching in the New York-Penn League, he brought his Auburn, N.Y. team from nearby Oneonta to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and donated from his no-hitter game the bat, his glove and a ball to the Cooperstown institution. The bat can currently be seen in the Museum’s newest exhibit, One for the Books: Baseball Record and the Stories Behind Them.
Bill Francis is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.