OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was one of the quietest no-hitters in history. There was no wild celebration, just the normal congratulatory line on the field.
The winning pitcher, dressed in street clothes, watched the end of the game on television and then waited to greet his teammates at the clubhouse door. There was the obligatory bottle of champagne, but nobody knew what to do with it. Just another ho-hum, 2-0 win over the three-time American League champion Oakland Athletics.
On the field there was really only one person in a celebrating mood, and he couldn't find a dance partner.
"It meant a lot to me," catcher Chris Hoiles said yesterday, reflecting on the remarkable no-hitter spun by four Orioles pitchers the day before. "It would have been better if Bobby [Milacki] threw it himself, but I think it's kind of neat that four guys did it."
It was the first time in his life Hoiles had caught a no-hitter. "Not even in high school," he said.
"I probably started to think about it seriously in the seventh inning," said Hoiles. "Bobby had pitched a great game and then the relievers came in."
Milacki left the game after being hit on the pitching hand by a sharp bouncer off the bat of Willie Wilson. It was the closest the A's came to a hit all day. The ball deflected off Milacki's leg to first baseman Randy Milligan, who had an easy play.
After finishing the inning by striking out Jose Canseco, it seemed Milacki would be able to continue, but when swelling appeared in his hand between innings, the call went to the bull pen. "I wasn't in any pain, I just felt uncomfortable," said Milacki.
The big righthander didn't question the decision at the time, but admitted to having some second thoughts yesterday. "You always want to see if you have the chance to throw a no-hitter," he said. "I sort of regret that I didn't at least go out and try."
But manager John Oates said once the swelling became obvious, there was never a question of Milacki returning. "When he came off the field, it looked like he could continue," said Oates, "but within a minute his finger was swollen."
Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson pitched an inning apiece to wrap up the unlikely no-no. It was only the second time that four pitchers ever combined on a no-hitter, the last time, Sept. 28, 1975, when the A's were preparing their pitching staff for the playoffs.
"When I came in, I was trying to save the win for him, I wasn't thinking about a no-hitter," said Flanagan. "It's nice to be a part of it, but I feel best for Bob and Chris."
The most unlikely participant was Williamson. The righthander had given up four hits in an inning here two nights before -- and on the previous trip in May he had thrown for the cycle (single, double, triple and home run) while facing only four batters.
Nevertheless he worked his way through a routine eighth inning, turning the game over to Olson, who was entrusted with not only saving the game, but the no-hitter as well. "I didn't want to give up the first hit," he said, "but the thing I was most concerned about was not blowing the lead.
"Once it was over, I was just looking for somebody to celebrate with," said Olson.
He started with Hoiles, but the two quickly joined the formality of the receiving line that came out from the Orioles dugout to greet them. The clubhouse was equally subdued, with Milacki and Hoiles getting most of the credit, attention -- and satisfaction.