Minor League Baseball is known for its rich history dating back more than 100 years. While much has been written about the best teams and top players who have graced the Minors, there remain many stories either untold or largely forgotten. Each week, MiLB.com will attempt to fill that gap
Minor League Baseball is known for its rich history dating back more than 100 years. While much has been written about the best teams and top players who have graced the Minors, there remain many stories either untold or largely forgotten. Each week, MiLB.com will attempt to fill that gap and explore these historical oddities in our feature, "Cracked Bats."
Big Foot sightings in Montana aren't unusual. There are plenty of folks in the mountains or back woods in Big Sky country who claim to have seen old Sasquatch.
While most of reports of the big, hairy beast are unsubstantiated, there were 1,600 or so folks in Billings who can claim with all honesty that they saw Big Foot. More importantly, they saw him throw a no-hitter.
Peter "Big Foot" Grimm made Pioneer League headlines on Sept. 1, 1983, when he threw the first postseason no-hitter in the illustrious circuit's history. Grimm, a big right-hander, was one walk shy of a perfect game as he pitched Billings past Calgary, 5-0, in the opening game of the Championship Series at Cobb Field.
The 6-foot-6 Grimm tipped the scales at nearly 230 pounds and wore a size-16 cleat, earning the "Big Foot" moniker from teammates. And the way he pitched, not only that night but for that entire season, the folks in Billings didn't care if he was Big Foot, the yeti or the abominable snowman. He won games, and that's all that matters.
"They called me a lot of names," Grimm recalled. "They called me 'Moose' too."
What they should have called him, though, was one of the Pioneer League's most dominant pitchers in 1983. The upstate New York native arrived in Montana after the Reds selected him out of SUNY-Buffalo with their fourth pick in that year's draft. Grimm had already thrown a pair of no-hitters in college that season so there were high expectations surrounding him, despite the fact he was coming from a small northeastern school.
Grimm certainly lived up to expectations, tying for the league lead with nine victories as the Mustangs led from start to finish in the short-season circuit. Teammate Hugh Kemp also had nine wins while topping the league in strikeouts (138) and ERA (2.21) to give the Mustangs a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.
When Billings won the coin toss to see which team would host the first two games of the finals, manager Marc Bombard quickly tabbed Grimm as the starter for the opener. It turned out to be the pinnacle of "Big Foot's" all-too-brief career. Injuries would contribute to the premature end of his baseball life in 1987, but for one night, he and a few thousand friends had a grand time in Montana.
"That was the highlight of my pro career, absolutely," Grimm said. "At one point that season, I was thinking, 'This is easy.' I had won the ECAC Tournament in college and I was the league player of the year. We also went to the first round of the College World Series, though we lost to St. John's.
"There was a lot of traveling, but that was a great league. And that was the last no-hitter I ever threw."
Grimm was never in any real trouble against Calgary, walking just one batter. Ron Tosienson negotiated the free pass to lead off the fourth inning but was quickly erased on a double play. And as for the requisite big defensive play that saves every no-hitter, Grimm took care of that one himself. He knocked down Jim Lumpe's shot back up the box in the third and flipped to first to nab him by a step.
Future pinch-hit king Lenny Harris also made a nice backhanded play at third base in the fourth to keep the no-no intact, while Kurt Stillwell, the Reds' top pick that season, turned in several solid plays at shortstop. Only one ball was hit out of the infield.
"I did know what was going on," Grimm said. "There was a lot of superstition and no one talks to you. And I'm fairly outgoing and a loudmouth at times. I was a little nervous once everyone stopped talking, and you knew. You get that feeling. Everyone was jumping up and down and you get that feeling.
"In the ninth inning, the whole crowd was on its feet. When I went out to the mound, there was dead silence, but with every pitch they were standing up. I remember looking above home plate, straight above it into the radio booth at Bernie Lustig [the Mustangs long-time radio announcer]. He was rubbing his head and eyes and pacing back and forth with the microphone. I'm 6-6, but Bernie was a big man and that didn't make me nervous until the last pitch. But I got him on a fastball, looking I believe, to end the game."
That would be Grimm's last game for Billings. The Mustangs won the series in four games and Big Foot was headed to the Eastern League, where he won league titles with Vermont in each of the next two seasons.
Grimm retired in the spring of 1987, though, after breaking his arm when he fell against a wall while running that winter. He also admitted that he his abilities weren't quite that of the competition.
"Breaking my arm had a lot to do with it, but I just wasn't good enough, I guess," said Grimm, 44. "It was disappointing, but I was pretty levelheaded about it. My dad told me, 'Look, you had a great run and you get to do what one in a million people get to do.' So I went back to school and carried on, though probably once a month I think about what might have been when I see these players signing all these big contracts."
Grimm works as a financial adviser in upstate New York, where the Big Foot sightings are not nearly as frequent as they are out west.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com.