Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Darvish's lost bid provides a Texas flashback

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: April 3, 2013 - 6:35 AM

It was a decade ago that coach Jacques Lemaire took his unheralded Wild on a run to the Western Conference finals. There were many late nights in press boxes in Denver, Vancouver, Anaheim and St. Paul during those extra weeks of hockey.

Even then, it was all about deadlines for the print edition. If the game didn't end before you had a final score for the last "makeover,'' everyone was out of luck -- readers, editors back in the office and the people that we writers cared about the most ... us.

Refreshing gamers, "sidebars'' and columns strictly for startribune.com was optional, and the idea of postgame blogs was in its infancy.

And if it was like that in 2003, you can imagine what it was like in 1976 ... two decades before sites such as startribune.com existed.

The anguish of print deadlines came to mind on Tuesday night, as I watched Texas pitcher Yu Darvish carry a perfect game into the ninth inning vs. Houston.

The great fear of being a baseball beat writer in the '70s -- as I was for five years -- was a pitcher succeeding in a no-hit attempt on a Saturday night.

Reason: Deadlines were traditionally an hour earlier on Saturdays, due to the size and the number of papers to be printed and delivered.

Those first couple of years on the beat, you didn't want Bert Blyleven pitching on a Saturday night. He might throw a no-hitter.

There was also a brief period when you didn't want Joe Decker, either. The late, great Joe was a candidate to throw a no-hitter while mixing in eight walks and a couple of hit batsmen.

I can guarantee this; When we got to Arlington Stadium for the Saturday night game of Aug. 7, 1976, there was zero concern among the small Minnesota delegation of beat writers that the Twins' starter would find himself with a no-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The pitcher in question was Steve Luebber. He had 18 appearances and 12 starts in 1971 as a 21-year-old with the Twins. He pitched in Minnesota briefly again in 1972, then returned to the minors for three full seasons. He made the club in 1976 as a reliever, with an occasional spot start.

The dirty little secret held tightly until this moment is this: Luebber had a press-box nickname -- "Rockets'' -- and it wasn't offered as a compliment.

On this August night, it was 94 degrees in the D-FW area. Luebber was getting his sixth of what would be 12 starts for the season.

Out of nowhere, he had put together two straight outstanding starts, including a shutout of Oakland. Yet, his ERA remained in the mid-4s -- unacceptable for that era -- and you figured the .500 club from Texas (which now included Blyleven) had the advantage with the hard-throwing rookie, Tommy Boggs, as its starter.

The Twins scored off Boggs in the top of the first. Luebber cruised through the bottom of the inning. Twenty-three outs later, he still was cruising: two walks, another batter safe on an error, and no hits.

Deadlines were approaching and there was no ballpark in the big leagues where it was tougher to get to the visitors clubhouse. It was tucked down by the left-field fence. You had to go through the stands and then walk under the bleachers down the left-field line, which was a dank, dark muddy trek, or take the great circle route outside the stadium.

Saturday night deadlines. A no-hitter. And the gawd-awful Arlington Stadium. The worst possible combination for an ink-stained beat writer..

And then Roy Howell looped a fly ball into center. The great Lyman Bostock tried mightily to get there and preserve Luebber's no-hitter, but he could not, and wound up being charged with a two-base error to go along with Howell's single. Mike Hargrove (dang, am I old) followed with an RBI single.

Luebber was hooked for the overworked stopper, Bill (Soup) Campbell, who got the final out in a 3-1 victory.

From July 28 through Aug. 7, 1976, Luebber made three starts and a one-inning relief appearance. He pitched 25 innings with 14 hits allowed and the lone run against him was that non-earnie in the ninth vs. the Rangers.

Eleven days in the summer of '76 ... Steve Luebber was 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Over the remainder of his limited time in the big leagues, he was 3-10 with an ERA in the high 4s.

You figure it out. I'm occupied having flashbacks of high anxiety from that Saturday night in Texas.

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