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Flashback Friday: Appreciating Players (1966)

January 15, 2016

There was a lot happening at Goodland Field on August 23, 1966. It was Player Appreciation Night and numerous awards were given to various players. Additionally, Mickey Abarbanel, who had tossed a no-hitter for the Fox Cities Foxes on May 28, 1966, took another no-hitter into the ninth inning.

This week's Flashback Friday looks back at that night through the words of John Paustian's articles in the August 24, 1966 edition of The Post-Crescent.

Head over to Rattler Radio to see the boxscore of Abarbanel's gem.

Jones Scores 'Double' on Awards Night

Player-coach "Deacon" Jones won two awards Tuesday during Fox Cities Foxes "Player Appreciation Night" at Goodland Field.

Jones, the Midwest League's leading hitter, won both the "most valuable player" and "most popular player" trophies.

Fred Rath, the league's top winner and all-time winningest Foxes hurler, won the "most valuable pitcher" award. Willie Hooker and Gary Schaefer won special awards for their outstanding work as relief pitchers.

Catcher Bob VonEps was named runner-up in the "most popular player" contest.

Manager Stan Wasiak and Business Manager Ed Holtz also received awards and gifts during pre-game ceremonies.

Abarbanel Loses No-hit Bid But Sets Strikeout Record
Littlejohn Breaks Spell With Leadoff Hit in Ninth
Foxes Hurler Whiffs 14 in 3-0 Win

If the "Player Appreciation Night" awards had been made here after Tuesday's Midwest League game instead of before, Fox Cities Foxes pitcher Mickey Abarbanel might have won a flock of them.

Abarbanel, who failed to win any of the citations in pre-game ceremonies, was the toast of Goodland Field 2-1/2 hours later when he had completed a masterful, 1-hit, 3-0 victory over Wisconsin Rapids.

During his scintillating 14-strikeout performance, the flame-tosser from New Jersey became the Foxes' all-time whiff champion (with 206) and the winningest southpaw in Fox Cities' club history (with 13).

In the only frustrating aspect of the memorable evening, Abarbanel missed by merely three putouts of becoming the only Foxes hurler ever to log two no-hitters.

Abarbanel, who stopped Wisconsin Rapids, 9-1 on May 28 in the only 9-inning no-hitter of the Foxes' 9-year history, held the same Midwest League aggregation hitless throughout the first eight frames of last night's tense struggle.

In the ninth inning, the Twins send up catcher Dick Littlejohn, a right-handed hitter, as their leadoff man. He caught hold of an Abarbanel fastball and lofted it into right-center. The Foxes' Bill Melton, who had been stationed in rather deep right field, made a long run for the ball, but it dropped in safely for the visitors' first hit.

Abarbanel disposed of the next three batters easily to preserve his third shutout - tops on the Fox Cities staff. It was the bespectacled star's second near miss in a bid for an encore no-hitter. On July 25, a 2-out single in the sixth inning at Clinton proved to be the only hit he surrendered.

Abarbanel is the second Foxes pitcher to be deprived of a no-hitter in the final inning. Fred Rath had pitched eight and two-thirds no-hit innings May 7 before giving up a safety to Quad Cities.

Tonight, the Foxes close one of their most notable regular season schedules in history when they open the gates to all fans on a "free" night and unveil Marion's Ken Frailing in his first professional start in his home state. Southpaw Frailing will face Wisconsin Rapids at 8pm today. A home run hitting contest will precede the game.

Abarbanel, who walked four - two each in the fourth and sixth - in his final scheduled appearance before next week's grand championship playoff against Cedar Rapids, allowed no one to reach third base.

Keeps Pace

Twins starter Gary McGroarty kept pace with Mickey for quite some time. The right-hander didn't allow a hit until George Hunter slapped a 2-out single in the fourth and kept Fox Cities' base runners away from the plate until the sixth.

In the sixth, "Deacon" Jones drew a 2-out walk, and Melton boomed a vicious line drive into left-center field for a triple. The run scored by Jones was the 66th that Melton has driven in - a figure surpassed on the club only by Jones' 75.

The Foxes added their first insurance in the seventh. Catcher Jim Beamer hit a 1-out single to center, and Tom Cottrell walked. Abarbanel sacrificed, Al Kristowski was walked intentionally, to load the bases, Jerry Boehmer drew an unintentional pass to force in Beamer.

Fox Cities added its final run in the eighth on a walk to Hunter, an error by relief pitcher Ron Rodriguez and a 2-base error by third baseman Graig Nettles.

Abarbanel, with his steaming fastball and crackling curve working to perfection, face no major threats to his no-hit game in the first eight innings - although Berke Reichenbach made a couple of solid plays at shortstop to retire men on close play. The Twins hit only five baseballs to the outfield prior to Littlejohn's ninth-inning swat.

Striking out one or more batters each inning, Abarbanel recorded his fourth strikeout of the game and record-breaking 196th of the season against McGroarty in the third. The old club record of 195 whiffs was set by Steve Caria of the pennant-winning 1964 Foxes.