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Flashback Friday: Conner & Smith no-hitter (1990)

December 3, 2010
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No-no November wraps up - in December, I know.  If The Simpsons can do their Halloween episode in November, I can have one more no-hitter from Appleton Baseball history in the Friday Flashback - with a combined no-hitter by John Conner and Jim Smith from the 1990 season.

The Foxes topped the Wausau Timbers at Goodland Field on July 26, 1990 by a score of 8-0.  This was the first combined no-hitter in Foxes history.  The next time there would be a combined no-hitter for an Appleton Professional Baseball team was this past August in Cedar Rapids when Jake Odorizzi and Adrian Rosario did it.  You may have heard of itOr maybe caught the highlights.

Gary Shriver of The Post-Crescent has the story from the July 27, 1990 edition.

Conner, Smith hurl no-hitter

The Appleton Foxes' John Gilcrist had to feel like a man holding four aces in a game where someone else laid a royal flush on the table.

Gilcrist hit a grand-slam home run Thursday night, but that was upstaged by a no-hitter, the combined effort of Appleton's John Conner and Jim Smith.

Conner held the Wausau Timbers hitless through the first seven innings and Smith finished up with two no-hit innings as the Foxes won 8-0 before 291 fans at Goodland Field.

The no-hitter was the first in the Midwest League since July 29 of last year, and the Foxes' first no-hitter since John Stein beat the Beloit Brewers 5-0 on May 26, 1986 in a seven-inning game at Goodland Field.

Conner threw 101 pitches, 54 for strikes.  He used 36 sliders and seven changeups.

"I didn't have my good fastball or control.  I had too many walks (five, and three wild pitches)," Conner said.  "But I was able to throw my slider for strikes.  I also used a change, something I don't do much.  My ball was moving though.  That seems to happen when I throw slower."

Conner was removed from the game because he had reached his pitch limit.

"I felt I could have gone on, but he (Manager Joe Breeden) said a no-hitter wasn't worth ruining my arm," said Conner.

"I didn't think about the no-hitter at all.  To me, his arm is more important," said Breeden.  "He (Conner) has matured.  He has a lot more confidence.  In his last outing against Kenosha he threw seven shutout innings, and he started to have an air about him that wasn't there before."

The only balls hit hard off Conner were Melvin Wearing's shot that third baseman Gary Caraballo caught with a one-handed stab, and Paul Fuller's long drive in the seventh that centerfielder Kerwin Moore pulled down on the warning track.

Walks and wild pitches by Conner made things tense, however.  The 6-foot-6, 240 pound right-hander walked two men in the third and walked and wild pitched a man to second in the sixth.  In the seventh, Fuller drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches.  Fuller was left stranded when Brad Hildreth popped up and Sergio Cairo struck out.

Smith cruised through the Timbers in the eighth, but had trouble getting the final out in the ninth.  After striking out the first two batters in the ninth, Fuller hit a line drive to centerfield that Moore dropped for an error.  Smith then got Hildreth to swing at a third strike for the apparent final out, but the ball bounced away from catcher Colin Ryan for a wild pitch and Hildreth reached first.  Smith got the last out by fanning Cairo.

"I wanted to save the no-hitter, but mainly I was just trying to concentrate on the job," said Smith.

Fred Russell singled in a run in the fourth and Gilcrist's sacrifice fly brought in another in the fifth to give the Foxes a 2-0 lead.

Russell singled with one out in the eighth and Wausau starter Steve Williams, who only allowed five hits, was replaced by Brad Pennington, who walked three battersand hit Moore with a pitch to force in a run.  Victor Medina was brought in to pitch to Gilcrist who slammed a line drive over the leftfield wall.


Sorry, no boxscore this week.  The print out from the microfilm reader at the Appleton Public Library didn't turn out.  I may take another run at it later.

There are four other no-hitters in Appleton professional baseball history that were not covered in No-no November.  John Stein's against the Snappers from May 26, 1986; Brett Hinchliffe's in Cedar Rapids on June 28, 1994; JJ Putz had one against Kane County in game one of a doubleheader at home on April 29, 2000; and Derrick Van Dusen had his at Cedar Rapids on August 27, 2001.  I'll try to get to those before the start of the 2011 season.

To count the no-hitters out by affiliate:  White Sox (4); Royals (1), Mariners (3), Brewers (1)

In case you are wondering, Appleton Pro Baseball teams have been no-hit twelve times since joining the Midwest League in 1962.

Conner was the 17th round pick of the Royals in the 1988 draft.  KC picked him up out of a junior college - Rose State JC - in Oklahoma.  Conner's page lists him at 6'-7", 210 pounds.  The story above has him at 6'-6", 240 pounds.  Does that really matter?  Anyways, Conner went 5-8 with a 4.21ERA in 30 games.  However, the no-hitter against the Timbers was one of only 12 starts that he made in the 1990 season.  Conner moved up to Baseball City, Kansas City's Florida State League team in 1991, and was just 3-7 with a 6.22ERA in 16 games.  The 1991 season was his last in organized ball.

I am positive that this John Conner is not fated to lead us to a victory over Skynet.  The spelling gives me pause....but not much.

Smith was a 6th round pick of the Royals in the 1988 draft.  Kansas City selected him out of Jacksonville State University.  Smith was 1-1 with four saves in 35 relief appearances for the Foxes in 1990.  In 1991, he would get a bump to AA and play for Memphis.  He was 0-1 with an ERA of over seven in 16 games.  There are no transactions listed on his page, so I can only guess that Smith was released before winding up back in the Midwest League later in a member of the Beloit Brewers where he wrapped the season at 2-2 with nine saves.  The 1991 campaign was the final one of Smith's professional career.

The Foxes would finish the 1990 season with a record of 62-71.  They had a tough first half with a 26-37 record and a sixth place finish in the 7-team North Division.  Appleton was 11-1/2 games behind first place Madison.  A much better second half awaited the Foxes.  They finished over .500 (36-34) and in third place.  But, they were still seven games behind the first place South Bend White Sox.

Kerwin Moore was the only position player on the '90 Foxes to make it to the Major Leagues.  Moore appeared in 22 games for the Oakland Athletics in 1996. 

I don't think that Texas Hold-'em was as popular in 1990 as it is today so maybe Gary Shriver didn't know that in 5-card draw it is impossible for have 4 aces lose to a Royal Flush.  But, it is possible in Hold-em.  In fact, it happened in the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event.  Royal Flush beats Quad Aces...with Ray Romano looking on at the table.  It's only a 1 in 2.7 BILLION hand.

Past Flashbacks:

October 8: In fair territory (1994)

October 15: Fans flock to see Foxes (1987)

October 22: New Park (1995)

October 29: Logo Decision (1994)

November 5: Ed Sedar, Pitcher (1985)

November 12: Abarbanel no-hitter (1966)

November 19: McCauley no-hitter (1972)

November 26: Monroe no-hitter (1975)