DETROIT — The baseball museum on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull avenues was primed for a new exhibit Wednesday night, one that hadn't been seen inside Tiger Stadium for more than 34 years.
A 28-year-old right-handed pitcher named Walt Terrell was one out away from pitching a no-hit, no-run game, at home, for the Detroit Tigers. The Motor City hadn't witnessed anything like it since '52 Trucks--when the Washington Senators were held hitless by the Tigers' Virgil Trucks on May 15, 1952.
Detroit, obviously, had been deprived. So when Terrell readied himself on the mound with a 3-0 lead and two outs in the top of the ninth inning, the crowd of 22,755 stood in anticipation and cheered in appreciation.
One problem: Wally Joyner was at the plate.
And although the no-hit effort is the scarcest of sights at Tiger Stadium, it's becoming old hat for Joyner. Every other month or so, the kid breaks one up.
He did it to Charlie Hough in June, and Wednesday night he tore up Terrell's bid, too. The first pitch Terrell threw to Joyner wound up bounding along the right-field line for a double, turning the Tigers' 3-0 victory over the Angels into merely a nice pitching performance.
Joyner's hit was the only one allowed by Terrell, whose shutout improved his 1986 record to 11-9. That was also the difference between history and Hough on the night of June 16--one lousy line drive to right by a rookie.
"Yeah," Joyner said sardonically, "I'm getting to be a pro at it."
The hit against Hough, however, set in motion some unlikely events that eventually resulted in a 2-1 Angel win. All Joyner did against Terrell was delay defeat, as Reggie Jackson's ensuing fly ball to center was the game's final out.
But Joyner took consolation in what he could.
"I think this one was a little more gratifying," Joyner said. "We were down to the last man. Our backs were bent. I didn't want to be embarrassed, walking off the field after the last out of a no-hitter."
Joyner broke up Hough's no-hitter with one out in the ninth. He admitted flashing back to the night as he prepared for his final try against Terrell.
"I thought about the Hough game in the bottom of the eighth," Joyner said. "I knew I was going to be the third guy up in the top of the next inning. I knew I might be the last chance for the California Angels.
"It was kind of ironic, too. Just like it was in the Hough game, Jack Howell was hitting in front of me."
Against Terrell, Howell had gone out easily, just as leadoff batter Gary Pettis had done before him. Pettis opened the ninth by flying out to left fielder Larry Herndon. Howell popped to second baseman Tom Brookens for the second out.
That brought it down to Terrell and Joyner. The confrontation lasted one pitch.
And what pitch was it? The combatants couldn't agree.
"It was a slider," Terrell said.
"Inside fastball," Joyner insisted. "I was looking for a fastball inside."
"Because the first three times up, the first pitch he threw me was an inside fastball, which I took," Joyner said. "The last time up, I swung at the same pitch I took earlier."
And from Terrell: "I didn't work him inside once all night. No, I take that back; there was one pitch inside. I'd been giving him fastballs away most of the time. That's why I went with the slider. I figured he's gotta be looking for something on the outside, sooner or later."
Someone mentioned to Terrell that Joyner saw it somewhat differently. Terrell shrugged.
"I guess that's why he's hitting .300," he said.
Either way, Terrell said he liked the pitch.
"I probably won't like it when I see it one TV," he said, "but I'd throw it again to him."
Terrell puffed impassively on a cigarette as he discussed his near-miss. He answered questions in a similar fashion.
Had he ever thrown a no-hitter before?
"Yeah, in high school," he said. "But 800 million guys can say that."
When did he start thinking about the possibility of a no-hitter Wednesday night?
"With two outs in the ninth."
Did his teammates, in keeping with baseball tradition, ignore him in the dugout because a no-hitter was in progress?
"They don't talk to me, anyways."
And what was Terrell's immediate reaction following Joyner's double?
"I turned around to see who's up next. It was Reggie Jackson. I thought, 'I got to get him out.' "
This is typical behavior for Terrell.
"He seems to that cold-as-ice mentality," Brookens says. "But if he had gotten (the no-hitter), I think even he would've showed it."
Terrell allowed the Angels just three walks, gradually wearing down counterpart John Candelaria (6-2), who had matched Terrell with six straight scoreless innings.
But in the seventh, Candelaria wavered. A walk to Darnell Coles and a sacrifice bunt turned into one run when Darrell Evans singled to center field and Pettis failed to field it cleanly, enabling Coles to score from second. Evans later scored on a sacrifice fly by Dave Collins.