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Catching Up With former Oriole Tom Phoebus

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With . . ."  Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

He was short and squat, with a single eyebrow that rolled across his forehead like thunderclouds approaching. Don’t mess with me, his visage said. His right arm backed that up.

Forty-one years ago, Tom Phoebus spun a no-hitter for the Orioles, a 6-0 victory over Boston on a cool, wet afternoon at Memorial Stadium. When Phoebus fanned Joe Foy for the final out, the crowd of 14,000 was fit to bust.

The hero was one of their own.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Phoebus was the Oriole next door. His effort on April 27, 1968 evoked a sense of local pride for the hard-throwing pitcher from Mount St. Joseph who’d grown up playing stickball on the streets of Hampden.

"What a great thrill it was to throw a no-hitter in my hometown," said Phoebus, now 67 and a resident of Palm City, Fla. "My dream was to play for the Orioles. As kids (in the 1950s) we would go to games, sit in the bleachers for 50 cents and ride the right fielder of the opposing team."

Phoebus signed with the club out of high school and spent six years in the minors before getting his chance late in 1966. He pitched back-to-back shutouts, tying a big-league record and helping the Orioles win the American League flag.

The following year, Phoebus went 14-9, fired three straight shutouts and won the AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year award.

Then came 1968 and his big moment. He throttled the defending AL champion Red Sox – Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Smith et al – in a game that was delayed 83 minutes by rain.

Phoebus struck out nine, walked three and allowed one hard-hit ball, Rico Petrocelli’s sinking line drive over third base in the eighth inning.

"Brooks (Robinson) dove to his right and caught it, shoelace-high," Phoebus recalled. "It all happened so quick. He (Petrocelli) hit it to the right guy. Brooks saved a lot of games for a lot of pitchers."

The no-hitter earned Phoebus a $1,000 bonus, but he convinced the Orioles to incorporate the dough into his $18,000 salary instead "so that I’d get the money every year."

He stayed with the Orioles through 1970, defeating Cincinnati in relief in Game 2 of the World Series. The championship ring, he keeps in his jewelry box. Phoebus was then sent to San Diego for pitcher Pat Dobson, who would win 20 games for the 1971 AL champs.

Crestfallen, Phoebus toiled on for several years until, at 33, he quit baseball. He sold liquor for awhile, then worked in a Tropicana factory in Florida before entering college at age 39 to become a teacher. He spent nearly two decades as a physical education instructor in a Port St, Lucie grade school before retiring six years ago.

Divorced and the father of two, he regularly plays golf and works out, often walking 25 miles a week.

"I’ve dropped 40 pounds," said Phoebus, who stands 5 feet 8 and weighs 196. "My problem is that, having grown up in an Italian neighborhood, I like all the wrong foods."

Otherwise, life is good for the man who won 50 games for Baltimore, where he pitched to an earned run average of 3.06.

The years have taken the oomph from his fastball.

"Sorry, but I can’t crank it up to 94 (MPH) anymore," Phoebus said.

And the eyebrows?

"They’re turning gray and falling out."

E-mail Mike Klingaman at mike.klingaman@baltsun.com if you'd like to suggest a former local sports figure for "Catching Up With."  

Comments


i remember phoebus's no hitter
fairly well. was a teenager growing
up in baltimore.

it was ironic that curt blefary was
the catcher that day.. do not know
how many games blefary caught
for the orioles. but it is a good
trivia question......

the orioles had solid starting pitching,
great defense, and a pretty darn
good bullpen.... ther robby brothers,
the blade, paulie in center, you just
could not get the ball past them..
an an underated first baseman named
boog..

i think the no hitter was a saturday afternoon game at home.

It was at Fenway, a Saturday afternoon. Watched it on TV. 6-8-0 for the Orioles, 0-0-2 for the Red Sox. You can also find those totals on the back of Phoebe's 1969 Topps baseball card.

Or not. Apparently, I remember everything except the ballpark. Now I've got to go through the rest of those 41-year-old files to see what wasn't really there. Hmmm...Santa Claus....moon landing....'69 Jets....'69 Mets....

I was in the stands for the Phoebus no-hitter. It was "Safety Patrol Day" at Memorial Stadium. I was a Safety, or "Tin Badge" as we called them at Berkshire Elementary School in Dundalk. I remember we were having so much fun in the stands with our school buddies that we didn't realize Phoebus had a no-hitter going until it got past the sixth inning. Yes, I most definitely remember Brooks' catch of the line drive. #5 was my idol growing up and I went nuts celebrating Brooks' save of the no-hitter.

Coincidently, I was also in the stands for the Barber/Miller no-hitter and remembered rookie Belanger's error at second that cost Barber the game in a 2-1 loss to Detroit.

I'm living in Ithaca, New York right now and have never quit rooting for those Battling Birds from Baltimore, God Bless You Chuck Thompson!

That will always be one of my most cherished memories growing up in Baltimore. To be able to say I was in the left field stands to see it.

I played against him in high school and he blew me away in 4 straight at bats. He could really bring it. Anybody know why he quit the game early at 30 years old? Was it due to arm trouble?

Do you remember the catcher for Tom Phoebus' no-hitter?

I believe it was "Clank" (Curt Blefary) who the Orioles tried to convert from the outfield to catcher!!!!

The catcher was indeed Curt Blefary, filling in for an injured Andy Etchebarren. Behind the plate for only the fourth time in his career, Blefary had never caught Phoebus before. But he did the job and even threw out a Red Sox runner trying to steal third base.

Thanks guys for the memories. What a great time in Oriole History

Tommy!

I remember watching the entire game on TV. It was very rare that WJZ would broadcast home games. I was 12 years old all alone in my house and waited through the rain delay like everyone else.

As already mentioned, I remember Curt Blefary was the catcher. Anyone watching on TV that day remembers hearing about Brooks' play on Petrocelli but not seeing it. Back in those days, you didn't have secondary cameras with instant replay. The WJZ camera guy behind the plate couldn't turn quick enough to catch the play so it has never been seen by anyone other than those at the stadium. Luckily they had more cameras at the 1970 World Series.

I too was there as a school safety patrol crossing guard from Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School in Cumberland, Md. I was finishing up 8th grade and was roaming the upper deck in Memorial Stadium taking in the no-hitter. Who knew then that our paths would cross 23 years later and now we play golf and socialize on a regular basis. Tom is in fine health and looks as though he could actually set 'em down in order. Ain't the beer cold!

Uhh...
" ...having grown up in an Italian neighborhood..." Hampden was an Italian neighborhood?!?

Mike, Good to hear from Tom, who was quite a pitcher for the Orioles and wasn't bad at bat either. He contributed to his cause on the day of his no-hitter, getting two hits, an RBI and a run scored.

Tom also had a 10-0 complete game shutout of the Bosox in 1967.

Here's the box score for that game:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL196804270.shtml

A great memory as an 11 year old in attendance for safety patrol day. Thanks for the great article.

I watched the no hitter while visiting my Aunt & Uncle in Westover, MD on a black & white TV with rabbit ears on WBOC, which was the only station you could get down on the Shore. It was a great thrill.Those years were truly the golden age of Oriole baseball...

I met Tom Phoebus in Rochester NY in the 60's. We double dated with a pitcher for the Rochester Red Wings and a girlfriend of mine. It was at the time the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Tom played for Elmira at the time. I remember him being a really nice guy. I'm was happy to read what he has done since I saw him. I did see him on a talk show at the time he pitched a no-hitter for Baltimore.

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