Hometown boy Bush makes good
Brewers pitcher relishes near no-hitter vs. team he once loved
PHILADELPHIA -- As a youngster growing up in nearby Devon, Pa., Dave Bush spent countless nights at old Veterans Stadium watching the Phillies. And when he wasn't there, he was at home listening to the golden voice of the late Harry Kalas.
It was all part of living a baseball dream -- as a diehard Philadelphia Phillies fan.
Thoughts of those special moments crossed Bush's mind Thursday as he flirted with history on a cool, windy afternoon at Citizens Bank Park where the Phillies now play.
He just missed a no-hitter -- against the team he once loved.
It seems only fitting that what could have been the most important day in his baseball career would unfold not too far from where he fantasized about pitching in the Major Leagues.
Bush, in his sixth Major League season, was working for the Milwaukee Brewers, his second big league team.
Bush's parents, Tom and Rita, Phillies season-ticket holders who run a travel agency, were among the 36,395 in the stands. So were his wife, Carrie, and daughter, Avery. His sister, her husband and their kids were also there.
And then with one out in the eighth inning, after a spectacular fielding play by Brewers third baseman Bill Hall for the first out, the Phillies' Matt Stairs sent a 3-1 Bush cutter screaming to right field that bounded off the foul pole. The gallant bid for a no-hitter was over.
The Brewers, eliminated from the postseason by the Phillies last October, breezed to a 6-1 victory. The 29-year-old Bush was finished after 113 pitches when Shane Victorino singled with two out in the eighth, the second hit allowed by the right-hander. Reliever Mitch Stetter got the last four outs.
Oh, I should mention: The Brewers lost three of the four games against Philadelphia last postseason, but Bush recorded their only victory.
This is the third time the bearded, quiet-spoken Bush has entered the eighth inning with a no-hitter on the line. He did it once while pitching for Toronto in 2004 and again 10 months ago when the Blue Jays' Lyle Overbay led off the eighth with a triple.
The Brewers haven't had a pitcher throw a no-hitter since Juan Nieves did it against Baltimore in 1987.
When Stairs, a former Brewer, came to the plate, Bush had walked three batters, hit two and struck out four.
"It's always a fun trip back here," he said. "We had an off-day on Monday. I was able to spend some time at my parents' house and relax a little. Sometimes it's hectic, but really enjoyable. I thought about when I was a kid, sitting in the Vet watching games for years and years. To come back here and pitch as a big leaguer is always something I enjoy every year."
Bush tried to coax Stairs' ball foul, but when umpire Paul Nauert ruled it fair, the pitcher sadly fell to his knees. Several teammates approached the mound, patting him on the back with encouragement.
There are always good, often spectacular, plays in no-hitters. Hall's on pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs' liner was just that and seemingly set the stage for Bush to complete his journey.
"When you make a play like that, especially in the eighth inning, you think with one out the pitcher gets to relax a little bit more," said Hall. "There's a lot of pressure. I don't care what you say, every pitcher knows when he's got a no-hitter. Matt Stairs came up and took that away from him."
Bush says "you always know what's going on. After the sixth inning or so when we had a big [5-1] lead, I wanted to give a run at it.
"At first, I thought Stairs' ball was going to be way fair. Then, it started hooking and I was leaning with it, hoping it would go foul. Not quite enough. It was a decent pitch. I was behind in the count and wanted to throw a strike."
Bush graduated from Conestoga High, the same school Kalas' oldest sons, Todd and Brad, attended.
The elder Kalas, the Hall of Fame announcer, died suddenly April 13 at age 73 and now during the seventh-inning stretch the Phillies show him singing his trademark song, "High Hopes."
"Being able to have Harry announce games I pitched the last few years was something I really enjoyed," said Bush. "I heard his voice all those years as a fan and then being a player was a pretty cool experience.
"I noticed they played 'High Hopes' on Tuesday night during our first game here. It's different now because I'm not a fan the same way I was as a kid, but I sort of grew up rooting for them and it's always been a part of me."
I've known pitchers working on no-hitters that insist they try to block the fact they haven't allowed a hit out of their mind.
"For me, it's impossible not to notice what's going on," he said. "I know what inning it is, who's up and who's going to be up. I try to keep all that in my mind all the time."
There's an ages-old baseball superstition that when a no-hitter is evolving it's never mentioned by the pitcher's teammates.
"I feel like there are too many superstitions," Bush said. "I just sat in the dugout, relaxed, had some water and went out every inning. It's more fun than getting your butt beaten in, giving up line drives all over the place. That's not fun.
"Today, I was able to control the game and throw a lot of strikes. This is the kind of game that's fun to pitch. No-hitters don't happen very often. To have an expectation of that would be fooling myself."
Almost as an afterthought, Bush mused, "Yes, I guess today is a very special memory."
An understatement at best.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.