Browns’ Bobo Threw a No-No in ’53

BoboBy Glen Sparks

Alva Lee “Bobo” Holloman put it all together on this date in 1953. They were the best nine innings of his 65.1 inning major league career.

Holloman, a right-hander for the St. Louis Browns, no-hit the Philadelphia A’s at Sportsman’s Park. He did it on a rainy night with 2,473 fans taking in the action.

St. Louis Manager Marty Marion ordered Holloman to the mound after the rookie had thrown four times in relief for the Browns. Nothing that Bobo had done before inspired any confidence. Over 5.1 innings, he had given up five runs on 10 hits and three walks.

But, Holloman had started in the minors, and he wanted to start in the majors. During the 1952 season, with the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League, Bobo compiled an impressive 16-7 won-loss record with a 2.51 ERA.

And, he was already 29-year-old ballplayer.  Bob missed time while serving in the Navy during World War II. Back home in 1946, he signed with the Macon Peaches, a Class A team, and began making  slow progress toward the majors.

On May 6, 1953, Marion started Bobo against the A’s because they were “the softest competition,” out there, according to Browns owner Bill Veeck in his best-seller Veeck as in Wreck. And, he didn’t exactly fool too many Philly batters. Wee Willie Keeler told batters that a secret to successful batting was to “hit ‘em where they ain’t.” Well, Bobo made ‘em hit it where they were. Or, at least it happened that way.

“Everything he threw up was belted,” Veeck wrote. “And everywhere the ball went, there was a Brownie there to catch it.”

Good defense helped Bobo. So, too, did the humid night in St. Louis that held up Philadelphia flyballs. One A’s hitter reached on a Holloman error. Bobo also walked five, including three in the ninth inning. The rookie held on, though, as the Browns won 6-0.

A few months later, Bobo was out of baseball. He never threw another no-hitter, of course. He didn’t throw another shutout or even another complete game, either. Holloman retired with a 3-7 mark as a big leaguer with a 5.23 ERA (81 ERA+). He pitched his last game July 19 and was out of baseball for good, following a stint in the winter leagues and in the minors, by the close of the 1954 season.

Bobo battled the bottle, opened an advertising business and died May 1, 1987, at the age of 64. For one night in the big leagues, he was both lucky and good.

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