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Pitcher was smokin' like Old Clopper

August 17, 1999

Thursday night I laid Old Copper in with supplies - extra fuel and oil, a dozen MREs, a few lengths of rope, a set of plugs, a signal mirror, a water purifying kit, canvas tarp and rubber patch kit - and prepared to move out.

We truckers understand the importance of being properly equipped, and although I was only going three quarters of a mile from the newspaper to Municipal Stadium for a Suns game, Old Copper has taught me it's never wise to take anything for granted.

I let the big engine warm up for a few minutes until the needle on the oil pressure gauge apathetically moved a couple of mm to the right of "Low." Say this about Old Copper, she never seems to feel much pressure.

With the oil gauge all the way to the left and the temperature gauge all the way to the right and a blue fog beginning to waft across the parking lot, I knew she was primed and ready to go.

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I gave her one more quart of oil "for the road," dropped her into low and released the clutch - an act that always unleashes a sort of metallurgical epilepsy from Old Copper, as if each individual part of the truck is setting itself into motion at different times instead of all at once.

Once she hits her speed though, the parts return one by one into the same dimension and the ride smooths out a little until you hit a pothole, which acts somewhat like an atomic supercollider in that it sends Old Copper's metal and bolts spraying in all directions again with a force resembling nuclear fission.

I arrived at the stadium after hearing only a couple of things "drop off" en route. People are always happy to see Old Copper coming, because they always smile and point, although sometimes the noise and smoke makes the children cry. Curiously, no one wants to park next to Old Copper - out of awe and respect, I suppose.

So later that evening I'm sitting in the bleachers talking to a friend I haven't seen for a couple of years, when all of a sudden in about the sixth inning Steve elbows me in the ribs and says, "Hey, he's got a no-hitter going."

Sure enough, Brad Baisley of the Piedmont Boll Weevils hadn't allowed a hit through six plus, working with a darting two-seam fastball and a generous strike zone. My first impulse was to blame the umpire. I stood up and screamed the worst insult I could think of, that being "The ump's a Major Leaguer."

But then we got to thinking that no-hitters aren't something you see every day, at any level, and there was considerable discussion among our party about whether it was proper to root for the opposing pitcher against our home town boys.

Erin and Adam, who are not from the area, leaned toward the home team and rooted for one of the Suns to get a hit. Steve said he could see it both ways. I was the only one who immediately sold out for my own personal glory at being able to tell people I'd seen a no- hitter, and began secretly rooting for history.

I was quiet as everyone else booed a close call at first base that could have been ruled an infield hit in the bottom of the ninth. My "reasoning" was that the Suns have a great team and they've had a splendid season to date, so this one little bump in the road wouldn't matter quite so much.

Pretty weak, I know, but a lot of people must have been with me, because Baisley got a standing O at the end of the game, and was mobbed by autograph seekers as he returned to the dugout. I thought about it until I overheard a woman suggest that the poor fellow had just thrown a no-hitter and his arm probably felt like it was about to drop off and signing paperwork was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

"I won't trouble you for an autograph," I told him when the crowd thinned out. "But do you think you could come out and help be jump-start my truck?"




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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