Willie Nelson and Baseball

By: Daniel Brown

Like so many other baseball yarns, the story of Dave Righetti’s no-hitter begins with Billy Martin getting ticked off.

The manager was part of a boisterous Yankees contingent that spent the previous night – July 3, 1983 – at a sweltering outdoor concert at the Meadowlands. The so-called “Outlaw Tour” featured some of the hottest acts in country music, including Willie Nelson, who invited Martin, Goose Gossage and friends to hang out backstage.

But not everyone was allowed to enjoy the party.

Players began to worry about the next day’s starting pitcher spending so much time in the heat. Borrowing a phrase from Nelson, they told Righetti to be on the road again.

“I turned to Rags and said, ‘You’ve got to pitch tomorrow. You might want to save your strength,’ ” recalled designated hitter Don Baylor.

Righetti instead wound up in a trailer with other Yankees watching Nelson and Merle Haggard rehearse. It was during the song “Pancho and Lefty” that Martin suddenly noticed his young pitcher among the throng.

“Get your ass out of here and get your rest,” Martin yelled.

“It’s only 7 o’clock, Billy,” Righetti protested.

Martin was not one to back down, and he didn’t. He banished the pitcher from the premises.

As Righetti trudged off, Martin spat a farewell.

“You better pitch good tomorrow,” he yelled.

Righetti left in disgust – then got more steamed after making a wrong turn on the way home and getting snarled in downtown traffic.  The pitcher found the right gears the next day against the Red Sox, throwing the seventh no-hitter in team history.

In the wild celebration after the final out, Righetti made a point of seeking out Martin.

“How was that? Was that good enough for you?” the pitcher shouted.

“(Expletive) you,” the manager replied.

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