Paging Burt Hooton. Burt Hooton, please pick up the white bullpen phone, you have a collect call from C.C. Sabathia regarding a new outbreak of Phillie fan stress syndrome.
If there’s one person who could appreciate what happened to Sabathia in last night’s raucous 5-2 Phillies win—particularly during Brett Myers’ second-inning at-bat—it would be Hooton. The Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher became similarly unhinged, also in the second inning of a Phillies playoff game, in this case, the 1977 National League Championship Series.
Having attended both games—each now legendary for the unofficial “fans’ interference” that rattled opposing pitchers—I can attest to the eerie similarities.
Last night, down 0-2 in the count, Myers managed to foul off enough pitches and wait out Sabathia long enough to draw a nine-pitch walk. Halfway through the at-bat, as Myers walked back to the dugout to get a new bat after breaking his, the crowd began to reach Hooton-level hysteria, and kept it up until Sabathia had walked Myers, Jimmy Rollins on four pitches, and surrendered Shane Victorino’s grand slam, the first ever in Phillies postseason history.
And somewhere in Texas, where he’s now the pitching coach for the minor-league Round Rock Express, Hooton probably unfurled his never-ending scowl that earned him the sarcastic nickname “Happy” from Tommy Lasorda, and muttered something under his breath about Phillies fans.
What happened to Hooton was worse than what Sabathia endured.
It was Game 3 of the NLCS, the series tied 1-1 after two games in L.A. Hooton had been handed a 2-0 lead when he began the bottom of the second inning. With men on first and second and two outs, Hooton faced weak-hitting eighth-hitter Ted Sizemore, whom he walked on four pitches to load the bases.
Next up, just like for the Phillies last night, the pitcher, Larry Christenson, who promptly fell behind in the count, 0-2. A ball, a foul ball, another ball, and the Vet crowd was in full frenzy as Hooton threw two more balls to walk Christenson and allow a run. Bake McBride drew another walk, which added another run, and, amid absolute bedlam, Hooton then walked Larry Bowa on five pitches to make it 3-2 Phillies thanks to four straight walks.
Hooton, pulled for Rick Rhoden, left the mound just as “Happy” as ever.