OCTOBER 11, 1972 – National League Championship Series Game 5
The term “No Decision” can be quite misleading when it comes to a pitcher. It implies that they did not have that great of an impact on the outcome of a game.
It is even more dismissive for a middle reliever. If a pitcher was not the starting pitcher, did not get a win, a loss or a save, then how could they have been a major factor?
In truth many games are won or lost BECAUSE of how pitchers who get lost in the shuffle and ignored in the decision performed. A prime example for that is Reds reliever Tom Hall.
In 1972, the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates squared off in the NLCS. They had met in 1970 with Sparky Anderson’s Reds taking it. Now they faced in a rematch after the Reds failed to win the West in 1971 (and the Pirates went on to win the World Series.)
The Pirates took a 2 game to 1 lead in the Series, but the Reds tied it up and set up a winner take all Game 5 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.
Don Gullett started for the Reds. 1971 World Series hero Steve Blass took the hill for Pittsburgh.
Manny Sanguillen, Richie Hebner and Dave Cash jumped on Gullett in the second inning and put the Pirates up 2-0. The same three hitters, Sanguillen, Hebner and Cash, got hits in the fourth, chasing Gullett and pushed a third run across.
Cincinnati started chipping away and by the time Cesar Geronimo homered in the fifth, it was a 3-2 game with the Reds still ahead.
Sparky Anderson gave the ball to Tom Hall to start the 6th and keep the game a one run affair.
The 24 year old from Riverside California was already a four year Major League veteran when the Reds acquired him from Minnesota before the 1972 season for Wayne Granger.
The left hander known as “The Blade” because of his slender build had pitched in the 1969 and 1970 playoffs for Minnesota where he was a spot starter and middle reliever.
For the Reds, he filled whatever role was needed. Hall compiled a 10-1 record and a 2.61 ERA. He saved 8 games and threw a complete game shutout, striking out 137 in 129 2/3 innings. He simply got done whatever Sparky needed.
Unlike the previous two pitchers in the game, Hall retired the combination of Sanguillen, Hebner and Cash.
He let up a single to Rennie Stennett in the 8th but after an intentional walk to Roberto Clemente, caught Willie Stargell looking and retired Sanguillen for a second time for good measure.
Hall pitched three critical innings, save for a hit and intentional walk, kept the mighty Pirates off the base path and struck out 4 for good measure. The Reds did not score but the difference was still a single run.
In the bottom of the 8th, Hall was lifted for a pinch hitter in an attempt to tie the game. The rally fell short and Hall would be saddled with a no decision. But with the game close, all the Reds needed was one Pirates mistake to knot it up.
In the bottom of the 9th and the Pirates three outs from a second straight pennant, Johnny Bench capitalized on a Dave Giusti mistake. His lead off homer tied the game. The Reds would rally and win the pennant when George Foster scored on a Bob Moose wild pitch.
The Reds went to the World Series and reliever Clay Carroll was credited with the win for Game 5 after pitching a 1-2-3 9th inning. But the wild Pennant Clinching 9th was set up by 3 terrific innings from The Blade.
And that makes him The Sully Baseball Unsung Hero for October 11.