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In 2d start, Buchholz throws a no-hitter

Years from now, there will be hundreds of thousands of folks who'll say they were there. Memories will dim and wannabes will exaggerate and it will be impossible to prove who really sat in Fenway Park Sept. 1, 2007, and who watched it on television or heard it on the radio.

It was a night dripping with fate, fame, and circumstance.

Clay Buchholz wasn't even supposed to pitch at Fenway Park last night. He had only one game of big league experience under his belt and he was still in the minor leagues Friday.

And then last night, he was back in the Show, pitching a 10-0 no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles in his second start in the big leagues. At the age of 23. And he told us, "This is what you dream about growing up."

This is what you dream about growing up.

This is what you dream about when you are a little boy in Texas. You dream about making it all the way to the majors. And as you throw a tennis ball at your back porch steps, maybe you narrate the play-by-play and maybe you say, "Two outs in the ninth, all zeros across the board, Buchholz kicks and throws and it's called strike three! A no-hitter for Clay Buchholz!"

This is what you dream about and then it actually happens and guys like Curt Schilling, David Ortiz, and Josh Beckett are pounding you on your head, and the sideline reporter grabs you as you head to the dugout. You stand there and try to explain what it felt like to pitch a no-hitter in your second game in the big leagues. And you don't have any words after your 115th and final pitch.

Here in the Hardball Hub of the Universe we've been commemorating the 40th anniversary of the most important team in Red Sox history. A lot of the Impossible Dreamers/Cardiac Kids from 1967 have come back to wave, sign autographs, and tell lies about Boston baseball's summer of love.

Billy Rohr is one of those guys and New England baseball fans over the age of 50 remember April 14, 1967, when Rohr took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his first game in the big leagues. The game was played in Yankee Stadium and Whitey Ford was the other pitcher and Jackie Kennedy and her young son were in the stands.

Serving notice that this would be a special year for himself and the Sox, Boston left fielder Carl Yastrzemski made a running, leaping, over-the-shoulder catch of a Tom Tresh drive to start the ninth inning.

Rohr, of course, was denied. Veteran Yankees catcher Elston Howard cracked a clean single to center with two outs and Rohr settled for a 3-0 shutout. Though history eluded him, immortality did not.

Rohr would win only two more games in his major league career, but he'll live forever in Boston baseball lore.

And now there is Buchholz, who wasn't even supposed to be pitching last night.

The strange scenario is instant folklore. At 5:15 on the afternoon of Aug. 31, 2007, Sox publicist John Blake burst into the Fenway press box and announced that scheduled starter Tim Wakefield would be scratched due to a sore back. Julian Tavarez, Saturday's scheduled starter, had to pitch Friday night. Saturday's starter was TBA - to be announced. Logic held that Buchholz, still with the Pawtucket Red Sox, would get the nod. He was properly rested and available to join the other Sept. 1 call-ups.

"I didn't find out I was pitching until the third inning of our game in Pawtucket," Buchholz said. "I had to gather up my stuff and get here. I didn't sleep very well."

The assignment came on such short notice that Buchholz's parents did not have time to make the trip from Beaumont, Texas. His dad had been at Fenway Aug. 17 when he made his big league debut against the Angels. That was the game Buchholz pitched knowing he was going back to the minors after completing the assignment.

Sox manager Terry Francona had gone so far as to say, "Doesn't matter if he throws a no-hitter, he's going back down."

It seemed funny at the time. But Buchholz's flirtation with the no-no was dead serious last night. Fenway took on a special buzz in the middle innings as the Sox pulled away from the moribund O's.

Teammates avoided the rookie righty as he sat on the bench between innings. Victory over the Orioles was certain and the only issue was the prospect of the kid throwing a no-hitter. Fans grew impatient when the Boston batters padded their stats and added to the lead. Everyone wanted to see the defense back on the field. Everyone wanted to see some history.

Dustin Pedroia's seventh-inning backhand play on Miguel Tejada's shot up the middle - Pedroia capped the play with a great pop-up pivot and throw - will go down as the no-hit saver. And we'll always have the frozen frame of Joe West ringing up Nick Markakis on a game-ending 1-and-2 curveball.

Buchholz told us that this was his second no-hitter. He said he pitched one in high school.

Bet he pitched a thousand of them in his mind games. If you are a kid who loves baseball, this is what you dream about growing up.

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