May 23, 2011
When he walked off the field after pitching the 13th-16th innings in a wild 1-0 win over the Cubs on May 17th, 1991, Tommy Greene must have thought that things couldn’t get any crazier. A week later, they would. The 24-year old spot starter/long reliever was pressed into duty on May 23rd when Danny Cox went down with an injury. He was forced to face a tough Montreal Expos lineup that included Marquis Grissom, Andres Galarrage, and Larry Walker.
Greene was a high school phenom, and in his senior year of high school he went 15-2 with a 0.22 ERA. He was a first round pick by the Atlanta Braves, but never found success in their farm system. So when the Phillies went after Dale Murphy in 1991, the Braves were willing to throw Tommy Greene into the mix. Murphy never amounted to much in Phillies red, but Tommy Greene ended up being a steal (the Braves got Jeff Parrett).
A mere 8,833 fans were on hand to watch the Tommy Greene vs. Oil Can Boyd matchup, but those fans got to see history made. Greene, with all of 6 career wins coming into the game, showed the form that two years later would help lead the Phillies to the World Series. He completely shut down the Expos that Thursday afternoon, never even getting in trouble or needing a brilliant defensive stop to get his no-no, in the process becoming the first pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter outside the United States. Greene talked about the last out with Phillies Insider in 2008:
“I backed off the mound before the last pitch [to Tim Wallach] and thought about Leo [Mazzone]. He was my pitching coach in the minors with the Braves. Three times under him, I lost a no-hitter with two out in the ninth. I remembered him saying, ‘When are you going to finish off one?’”
Montreal third baseman Tim Wallach grounded back to Greene, who raised both arms in the air, trotted toward first and flipped the ball to Jordan for the final out. Before he knew it, Greene was surrounded by his jubilant teammates.
After the game, Tommy Greene was told he had a phone call from the Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, who told the gullible country boy that they should get together for a drink next time he was in town. “Aw shucks,” said Greene before the entire clubhouse burst into hysterics, letting Greene know he had been duped and that it was one of the clubbies on the other end of the line.
After an injury plagued 1992, Greene showed why he had been a number one pick with his 1993 performance. He was 16-4 with a 3.42 ERA. He was 6th in Cy Young voting. Despite struggling in that year’s postseason, the Phillies rewarded him with a $2 million payday. Expectations for the big right hander were sky high. They were never to be fulfilled.
Greene started the 1994 season against the Colorado Rockies, and came out after 5 innings with shoulder stiffness. Though Greene sounded glum after the game, manager Jim Fregosi remarked, “I don’t have any concerns right now.” He should have. Greene would win only 2 more major league games. The shoulder never fully healed. The Phillies gave up on him after the 1995 season. The Astros gave him a cup of coffee in 1997, but after a mere 9 innings he was gone, out of the game of baseball. But for one day in 1991, he was the King of the Hill, one of only 8 Phillies since 1900 to not let a single batter reach base via a base hit.