Alva Lee Holloman
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 207 lb.
- Debut April 18, 1953
- Final Game July 19, 1953
- Born March 7, 1925 in Thomaston, GA USA
- Died May 1, 1987 in Athens, GA USA
The storied Bobo Holloman had no idea what life held for him when he was helping his father, a Georgia truck farmer, haul produce back and fourth between Florida and Georgia as a young boy. Having to drop out of high school after one year to help keep the family together was not in the plan. In 1940, when Bobo was 17, the family moved from their home in Thomaston, GA to Athens, GA in hopes of a better life and Holloman met his wife to be, Nan Stevens, and they were married on January 24, 1942, shortly before Bobo was be inducted into the United States Navy, where he served until his discharge in December, 1945.
Bobo had played sandlot baseball as a youth and while in the Navy he had pitched for his base's team. As a 23-year-old in 1946 he decided to make a run at the professional game and wound up with the Moultrie Packers of the class D Georgia-Florida League. His first stop of many on his way to his night of fame. Bobo had an All-Star season for the Moultrie club, going 20-5 with a 2.33 ERA while pitching 216 innings. Not only did Bobo have a big year on the mound, his wife gave birth to their only child, a son Gary, on July 4th. Six weeks later Bobo celebrated his son's first trip to the ballpark by pitching and winning the game and also belting a home run.
Fast-forwarding several years to 1953, which is a lot of games, teams and leagues, we find Holloman, now a 29-year-old veteran of several minor league seasons has earned a spot on the mound staff of the St. Louis Browns in 1953. Bobo was used in relief early in the season with the exception of a couple of starts in games that were washed away by rain. A strong hurler with lots of confidence, he hounded manager Marty Marion into giving him another start on May 6th and Marion obliged. Before 2,473 fans in St. Louis on a wet and unpleasant night, Holloman no-hit the Philadelphia Athletics 6-0, and also contributed three RBIs with his only two major league hits ever. After the 5th inning, in a gesture believed to be unprecedented, Browns owner Bill Veeck announced that rain checks would be honored at a future Browns game as a reward to the fans who had ventured out on such a foul night, Needless to say, the fans attending received a double reward that evening.
Veeck gives one of the best accounts of what happened in an excerpt from his autobiography Veeck - As In Wreck:
Everything he threw up was belted and everywhere the ball went, there was a Brownie there to catch it. It was such a hot and humid heavy night that long fly balls that seemed to be heading out of the park would die and be caught against the fence. Just as Bobo looked as if he was tiring, a shower would sweep across the field, delaying the game long enough for him to get a rest. Allie Clark hit one into the left field stands that curved foul at the last second. A bunt just rolled foul on the last spin. Our fielding was superb. The game went into the final innings and nobody had got a base hit off Big Bobo. On the final out of the 8th inning, Billy Hunter made an impossible diving stop on a ground ball behind second base and an even more impossible throw. With two out in the 9th, a ground ball was rifled down the first base line - right at our first baseman, Vic Wertz. Big Bobo had pitched the quaintest no-hitter in the history of the game.
Thus, this made Holloman the only pitcher in the modern era to throw a no-hitter in his first start. Bobo's feat was the only no-hitter in the majors in 1953 and the first in Browns history since Bob Groom had tossed one in 1917. Although it is looked on as a historical anomaly, it has given Bobo the legendary status in franchise history comparable to that of the midget Eddie Gaedel and the one-armed outfielder Pete Gray. Unfortunately, Holloman went from a big league celebrity to the limbo of the lower minors in one year. He was ineffective in subsequent starts and by July had a record of 3-7. The right-hander was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League on July 23rd for $7,500 and a year later was out of baseball after a nine-season run that showed a 118-80 record with a 3.57 ERA in the minors and a one-year stint in the majors at 3-7 with a 5.23 ERA.
After baseball, the 31-year-old Bobo went back to his native Georgia where he went through a tough adjustment period back to normal life, but with the help of his wife Nan and his son Gary he turned his energy to starting his own advertising business which he called BoNanGa. He also worked as a part-time scout for the Baltimore Orioles in the Georgia area. Bobo also participated in several old-timers games in major league parks. On May 1, 1987, Alva Lee "Bobo" Holloman Jr. died of a sudden heart attack at his home in Athens, GA, at the age of 64.
Bill James created a formula to calculate how likely a pitcher is to pitch a no-hitter. Based on that formula, Holloman was the second least likely pitcher in major league history to pitch his no-hitter. Lack of control was obviously Bobo's big nemesis as he went down in history as the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter and never see another Major League season. See Expected No-Hitters.