Former MLB pitcher Milt Pappas has died of natural causes. He was 76.
Pappas pitched in the bigs from 1957 at the age of 18 through 1973 with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. While never a premier pitcher, he consistently won in double digits and would finish his career with 209 wins becoming the first big league pitcher to have 200 wins without the benefit of a 20-win season.
He first attracted attention as part of the “Baby Birds” Orioles team in 1960 that gave the New York Yankees a run for their money. The Orioles had three starting pitchers 22 and under – Chuck Estrada, Steve Barber and Pappas. That season, Pappas won 15 games. Of his 209 wins, 110 of them came with the Orioles resulting in two AL All-Star appearances including as the starting pitcher in the 1965 All-Star Game.
Prior to the 1966 season, the Orioles traded Pappas to the Cincinnati Reds for Frank Robinson. This trade would prove immensely unpopular with Reds fans as Robinson would win the AL MVP and Triple Crown en route to a World Series title in 1966. In two and a half seasons in Cincinnati, Pappas went 30-29 before being traded to the Atlanta Braves. Pappas would get his first and only taste of pennant baseball when the Braves won the NL West in 1969.
But it was with the Cubs that Pappas would experience a renaissance with back to back 17 win seasons in 1971 and 1972. On September 2, 1972, Pappas would throw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. Pappas was undoubtedly the angriest man to have ever thrown a no-hitter. You see, Pappas was one strike away from throwing a perfect game, but home plate umpire Bruce Froemming called ball four on pinch hitter Larry Stahl enraging Pappas and very nearly getting him ejected from the game. But Pappas did get Garry Jestadt to pop out to second baseman Carmen Fanzone to complete the no-hitter.
Pappas would be ineffective in 1973 falling to 7-12 and the Cubs would release him prior to the 1974 season ending his MLB career. It could be the case that Pappas was past his prime, but who knows? He was only 34 and if another team had given him a chance and he had pitched until he was 40 he could have won 300 games or got very close to it.
It should be noted that Pappas was a pretty good hitting pitcher with 20 career home runs.
Pappas would make national headlines when his wife Carole disappeared after going out on errands in September 1982 and would tell People Magazine about his ordeal in 1984. There was speculation that Pappas’ wife had been murdered when a man claimed that he and three others had killed her. In August 1987, Carole Pappas’ body and vehicle were found in a shallow pond in Wheaton, Illinois. It was ruled that she had accidentally driven into the pond. Pappas would eventually remarry.
Here’s a video of Pappas being denied his perfect game, but eventually attaining his no-hitter.