On June 7, 19-year-old rookie phenom, Gary Nolan, struck out 15 San Francisco Giants, in a 4-3 loss to the Giants. Included in those 15 was Hall of Famer Willie Mays, whom Nolan struck out four times on the day.
Nolan was the Reds 1967 #1 draft pick and made 12 starts in Low A ball before making the big league club out of spring training in 1968. Nolan was a fireballer in the mode of a young Bob Feller and Doc Gooden, striking out 206 batters in 226 innings during his rookie season, finishing 14-7 with a 2.58 ERA and third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Nolan struck out 12 in his second major league start (victory over the Dodgers) and struck out 12 Cubs in his start a week before his 15 strikeout performance against the Giants. He followed up his 15 K performance by striking out 9 in a five hit shut out of the New York Mets.
In his June 7 game, Nolan struck out Mays all four times that Mays batted against him. Nolan caught him looking in the first and Mays went down swinging in the fourth, sixth, and eighth innings. Nolan stuck out Ollie Brown three times, and struck out Wille McCovey, Jim Ray Hart, and Hal Lanier twice.
The Reds had taken a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning on a two-run homer by Pete Rose and a single by Tommy Helms. McCovey tied it in the bottom of the seventh when he connected for a three run homer off Nolan. The Giants won it in the top of the ninth when Tom Haller singled in Jim Davenport off Reds reliever Bob Lee.
Nolan pitched 226 innings his rookie season and the work took it’s toll. Nolan made 27 of his 32 starts on four or more days rest, but he was hit by the injury bug by age 20 in 1968, making 22 starts in 1968 and only 15 starts in 1969. He returned from injury to become the ace of the early 1970’s Reds, winning 18 games in 1970, placing sixth in the Cy Young Award voting. However, he hurt his arm again, making only two starts during the 1973 season before reworking his repertoire to become a control pitcher during the mid-70’s. His strike out rate declined from 8.2 per 9 innings his rookie season to as little as 3.2 per 9 innings in 1975 when he won 15 for the World Champion Reds. He won 15 more in 1976 before hurting his arm yet again and never regained his form. He finished his career with a 110-70 record in 10 seasons with a 3.08 career earned run average.