Fifty years ago today, Rick Wise performed arguably the most impressive single-game performance in baseball history, throwing a no-hitter while hitting two home runs. The feat has never been duplicated, and is in no danger of being matched unless Shohei Ohtani goes off in a National League park.
On June 23, 1971, Wise threw his gem against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. No-hitters were actually considered rare then, and the Reds were no slouches, as that was an early iteration of the Big Red Machine that had won the pennant the year before and featured Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Johnny Bench.
“I can’t believe it happened 50 years ago. Fifty years!” Wise told longtime (now retired) Phillies PR man Larry Shenk.
Dave Concepción was the only baserunner for the Reds with a 6th-inning walk.
Wise was a terrific hitting pitcher. Now, 75, he has impeccable memory of his performance. His first homer came in the fifth, as he told Shenk:
Ross Grimsley left a slider up in the zone and I hit it into the left field seats.
I led off the eighth inning against Clay Carroll who fell behind in the count 2-0. I checked the third-base coach (George Myatt) for a sign, and he just turned his back on me. In other words, the green light was on — swing at it! Clay threw the next pitch right down Broadway, and I was ready. Home run number two to left center.
The Cincinnati fans rose to their feet as I started the ninth inning. That was special. I retired the first two batters and low and behold, Pete Rose came to the plate and stood between me and a no-hitter. He was the last hitter you wanted to see with one out remaining in a no-no. The count went to 3-2 and I went with a fast ball, low and away — a semi line drive to John Vukovich and the game was complete. My greatest game ever!
Wise finished the year with a 17-14 record and a 2.88 ERA while hitting 6 home runs. He was one of the few bright spots for a sad-sack Phillies team that finished last.
Wise had a fine career, winning 188 games, including a career high 19 for the 1975 Red Sox. The Reds got their revenge against Wise in the World Series, as he went 1-0, but got hit hard in two starts as Cincy won the memorable Fall Classic in seven.
But Wise is unfairly perhaps best remembered as the guy the Phillies traded immediately after the 1971 season for Steve Carlton, who won four Cy Young Awards with Philly.
Wise and his wife, Susan, will be honored in Philadelphia today as he throws out the commemorative first pitch against Washington.