In 1975, Nolan Ryan was pitching so well that in every start he made, fans expected that he would throw a no-hitter. In his last 2 1/2 seasons, he had matched Sandy Koufax's mark by throwing four no-hitters. He had two in 1973, one in 1974, and his fourth had been in his previous start to this one, on June 1 against Baltimore. But on this night at Anaheim Stadium, Ryan had to "settle" for a two-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers, but not until making to the sixth when Henry Aaron singled off of him. The Angels 2-0 before a crowd of 29,513.
Dick Williams managed the Angels in 1975 and aside from Ryan, he didn't have a lot to work with. The team had no power, hitting a total of 55 home runs all season. Williams batted Mickey Rivers in the third spot. His leading home run hitter, Leroy Stanton (he hit 14), batted seventh. The cleanup man this night was Bruce Bochte, who hit three home runs all season. Bochte, in his rookie season, would have a unique career, in 12 big league season he never once played on a team that finished over .500. Rookie second baseman Jerry Remy was the #2 hitter behind left fielder Morris Nettles, who put an OBP of .295 and never played in the majors again.
The Brewers started a pair of future Hall of Famers in Aaron and leadoff hitter and shortstop Robin Yount, who was 19 years old and in his second season in the majors. Brewers manager Del Crandall, a teammate of Aaron's back with the Milwaukee Braves, started Jim Slaton on the mound.
The Angels got to Slaton very quickly. Nettles and Remy both singled and when Brewers right fielder Sixto Lezcano threw to third to try to get Nettles, Remy moved up to second. Rivers grounded out and the runners held. Then Crandall ordered Bochte intentionally walked in order to set up a double play. It was obvious that Crandall wasn't expecting to score much off of Ryan. However, Slaton walked third baseman Dave Chalk to force in a run. Angels designated hitter Joe Lahoud popped out to second. But Stanton tripled to clear the bases to make it 4-0.
The Angels scored again in the fourth on an RBI single by Nettles. By the sixth, the crowd was starting to get the feel that no-hitter #5 was near. Center fielder Bill Sharp squibbed a grounder in front of the plate and catcher Ellie Rodriguez threw him out. First baseman George Scott flied out to center. This brought up Aaron.
After breaking Babe Ruth's home run record with the Braves in 1974, the Braves traded him to Milwaukee in exchange for Dave May. This would give Aaron the opportunity to play a few more years as a DH. But he was still 41 years old and the added rest of not playing the field, didn't help him that much as he was batting .203 coming into the game with five home runs.
Ryan said after the game that he threw nothing but fastballs to Aaron, but he left one out over the plate and he slapped up the middle into center field for a clean single.
After the game Aaron said in the Los Angeles Times, "I'm up there to swing the bat. I'm certainly not going to bunt. I'm looking for the fastball because that's all he's been throwing me. I could have just as easily popped it up, especially the way I've been hitting."
Brewers first baseman George Scott would single in the eighth, but that would be all that the Brewers would get this night. Ryan threw 136 pitches in a complete game, striking out six and walking six.
Ryan had one of his few seasons interrupted by injuries in 1975 (at least in the early part of his career.) He would pitch in just 28 games and throw only 198 innings with 186 strikeouts. Frank Tanana led the Angels pitchers and the league that season in strikeouts with 269. The offense was a mess and many positions were unsettled. The Angels used seven catchers, nine first basemen, and nine third basemen. They finished in last place in the AL West at 72-89, 25 1/2 games behind Oakland.
The Brewers were even worse finishing 68-94 and in fifth place, 28 games behind Boston. Aaron batted .234 with just 12 home runs. Scott was the only consistent performer on offense, hitting 36 home runs and slugging .515. The pitching staff had the worst ERA in the AL at 4.34. With one game left in the year, Crandall was let go as the manager and Harvey Kuenn managed the team. Alex Grammas would manage the Brewers in 1976 and the team wouldn't get any better. Williams would last as Angels manager until July 22, 1976 when Norm Sherry replaced him.
Ryan would eventually get his fifth no-hitter on September 26, 1981 while pitching for Houston against the Dodgers. And then while pitching for Texas, Ryan would get two more no-hitters, one in 1990 and one in 1991. And with a gaudy career total of 5714 strikeouts and 324 career wins, Ryan won a spot in Cooperstown.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Retosheet, Baseball-Reference.com