When Rick Wise walked into the Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati after throwing a no-hitter past the flabbergasted Reds his teammates formed two lines in a sort of jagged victory corridor. They applauded, whistled and jumped up and down as the exhausted 25-year-old pitcher smiled softly at them. Then, during a lull in the noise, a voice hollered, "Way to hit, Rick, way to hit." The Phillies laughed and so did Wise.
Not since they blew the 1964 pennant have the Phillies been much of a team for laughter. Nor were they before then. Manager Eddie Sawyer, who resigned after opening day of the 1960 season, summed up the frustration. "I am 49 years old," he said. "I would like to live to be 50."
But with Wise's performance, there came fresh hope that Philadelphia again had a pitcher—one not named Grover Cleveland Alexander or Robin Roberts or even Chris Short—who would become a 20-game winner. Wise's no-hitter was his eighth victory of the season (against four losses) and he is the only starter on the team with a record above .500. Unlike Jim Bunning, who had 118 American League wins before joining the Phils in 1964—and subsequently pitching a perfect game against the New York Mets—Wise is the first real raised-in-the-organization Phillie to throw a no-hitter in 65 seasons.
Wise's true claim to distinction among pitchers, however, is his hitting and fielding. In 1969 he led all major league pitchers with a .270 average, and he has made only one error since 1964. While blanking the Reds 4-0, Wise hit two homers, his third and fourth this season. (There have been 129 no-hitters pitched since 1900, and in only three—by Wes Ferrell, Jim Tobin and Earl Wilson—did the pitchers help themselves with even one homer.) Earlier this season, against the Giants, Wise hit one home run and just missed another. Less than a week before his no-hitter he lost a homer by inches when he tripled against the center-field fence at New York's Shea Stadium. "I pride myself on my hitting," he says. "I don't want to go up to the plate as an out."
Wise's performance against the Reds easily was the best of the season. He allowed only Dave Concepcion to reach first on a walk. Of the 27 other batters he faced, only five could get the ball beyond the infield. One who almost did was the last one he had to put down, Pete Rose, Cincinnati's leadoff batter who breaks up no-hitters as a matter of course. Since 1964 Rose has had the first hit in one-and two-hitters six times. "Rose certainly is the last man you want to face," said Wise afterward. "He can bunt and beat out infield choppers, and he averages about six miles worth of line drives a year."
Wise threw Rose a fastball. Rose checked his swing, but slashed the ball on a line just foul outside third. An impish grin appeared on Rose's face—the spoiler strikes again. But Wise got him on a half line drive to Third Baseman John Vuckovich, and the Phillies swarmed out of their dugout and over Wise. "I was so excited and rooting for him so hard," said Phils' Manager Frank Lucchesi, "that between pitches I'd put my head down on my arm in the dugout, close my eyes and shout, 'Come on, Rick, come on, Rick!' "
Within a week Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson will pick the National League pitchers for the All-Star Game. As if he has not seen enough of him already, Anderson will be looking closely at Rick Wise. Why not? For the last three years Wise has been the winningest pitcher in Philadelphia. So what if his no-hitter only brought his lifetime record to 66-66. As Wise said after the game, "Maybe I can go on from here."
For that matter, if Wise doesn't pitch in the All-Star Game, he can always bat cleanup behind Willie Stargell.