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Don Nottebart; had 1st no-hitter in Astrodome

Don Nottebart was 27 when he stood on the pitcher's mound in Houston and stared at what he hoped was the last batter he would face on May 17, 1963, the night he entered the record books.

His catcher, John Bateman, was a rookie - about a month into his Major League career. The other two characters in the drama were Al Spangler, who stood far behind Mr. Nottebart in left field for the Colt 45s, and Wes Covington, who was batting for the Philadelphia Phillies. On the Internet is an audio clip of a radio announcer calling what happened next:

''Nottebart, pitching to Covington. He has pitched a no-hit ballgame through eight-and-two-third innings. If he can dispose of Covington, he will go into the mythical hall of fame. But he's facing a tough one here: Covington. He is hitting .360, a left-handed batter. One strike. Bateman flashes out the sign, now. Outfield deep around the right side. Here's the pitch by Nottebart. There's a fly ball to left. Spangler racing hard, he's gonna get it. He's got it! And Nottebart has pitched a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies!''

Mr. Nottebart, a three-sport star from Lexington High School who threw the first no-hitter in Houston's franchise history and who later gave up Willie Mays's 500th home run, died Oct. 4 at his daughter's home in Cypress, Texas. His health had been failing since he suffered a stroke several years ago, said his daughter, Donna Nottebart-Miller. He was 71 and had divided his time between East Wakefield, N.H., and Texas.

''I really didn't think I would do it,'' Mr. Nottebart said after the no-hitter, according to an account by the Associated Press. ''But I knew if I didn't, it would be my own mistakes.''

In the interview, Mr. Nottebart said he used a sinking fastball and sliders that evening to strike out eight batters en route to the no-hitter. ''I didn't throw a curve all night,'' he said.

A decade earlier, Mr. Nottebart had played baseball, basketball, and football at Lexington High School, excelling at all three, according to his cousin Dick Nottebart of Walpole.

''He was a tall, lanky kid,'' his cousin said. ''Everything he did was just natural. All of his athleticism just came easy to him.''

In 1996, Mr. Nottebart was one of 13 former athletes from the school picked for the inaugural induction into the Lexington High Athletic Hall of Fame.

He had graduated from high school in 1954 and signed with the Milwaukee Braves. While playing for Milwaukee's minor league teams, he returned to Massachusetts in the off-season and worked at a service station, his cousin said. Family and friends from childhood, he said, were important to Mr. Nottebart.

''He was very much the organizer of the family,'' his cousin said. ''He had a big heart. With the little bit of money he got for signing, he was always the one who would organize cookouts and take care of the family.''

He and his wife, Joanne, who had been married for 51 years, were high school sweethearts.

''Mom knew who Dad was in junior high,'' their daughter said. ''She was a bookworm and he was the all-American athlete.''

Mr. Nottebart made his Major League debut with the Milwaukee Braves in 1960 and was a reliever before being traded to the Colt 45s after the 1962 season. He later played for the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees, and the Chicago Cubs.

''Living the baseball life was not that easy for him and his wife and four kids,'' his cousin said. ''The no-hitter elevated him into the record books and made him recognizable.''

After the 1969 season, with his oldest children then teenagers, he left baseball and the family lived in the Houston area for about 25 years. Though he loved the game, his daughter said, Mr. Nottebart didn't dwell on his accomplishments.

''He remembers every pitch of every game, but he never really talked about it unless you brought it up,'' she said. ''When it was over, it was over.''

Through the years, she said, her father ran a service station and owned a carpet and flooring business. He visited New England when he could to see family and friends, and moved to New Hampshire with his wife in the late 1980s.

''They would have moved back there sooner, but my Mom liked the hot Texas weather,'' she said. ''He loved socializing with his friends. He was very close still with the class of '54 from Lexington High School. When you were his friend, you were his friend for life.''

Mr. Nottebart also had a soft spot for young baseball fans. Looking askance at former ballplayers who sell their autographs, he would sign and return anything a fan sent in the mail. Because of the no-hitter and giving up Mays's 500th home run, the requests continued into this year.

''He loved signing autographs for the kids,'' his daughter said. ''We had a picture at the memorial service of him in Chicago his last season, coming out of the dugout and signing autographs for the kids.''

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Nottebart leaves three sons, Ron of Austin, Texas, Bob of Sugar Land, Texas, and Dan of Houston; a sister, Elaine DeMerchant of Cypress, Texas; a brother, Reigh of Salem, N.H.; eight grandsons, three granddaughters, and a great-granddaughter.

A service was held.

(Correction: Because of reporting errors, the obituary and headline yesterday for Don Nottebart in some editions incorrectly characterized the no-hitter he pitched for the Houston Colt 45s. Mr. Nottebart pitched the first no-hitter for the Houston franchise. Also, the obituary gave an incorrect date for the game, which was played on May 17, 1963.)

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