August 18, 2007


Darling-Viola Duel at Yale Field (Don Harrison, 08/17/2007, Greenwich Citizen)

Ron Darling and Frank Viola enjoyed parallel careers as solid and occasionally outstanding major league pitchers during the 1980s and early 1990s. Darling won a World Series with the 1986 Mets, the lefthanded Viola experienced a similar high with the 1987 Minnesota Twins. For the better part of three seasons (1989-91), they were teammates on the Mets.

But whenever I think of these two men, now in their late 40s, I recall a long-ago afternoon at Yale Field in New Haven when a Darling-Viola pitching match-up attracted some 50 major league scouts and a crowd that may have exceeded 3,000.

Darling, 6-foot-3 junior righthander who was regarded as a can't-miss major league prospect, was wearing pinstripes - Yale pinstripes - and Viola was the ace of the favored St. John's squad in this NCAA Tournament Northeast Regional game. The date was May 21, 1981.

Darling pitched the game of his life, holding the Redmen (this was pre-Red Storm era) without a run OR a hit across 11 innings. It remains the longest no-hitter in NCAA Tournament history.

Viola was sharp through 11 innings, too, surrendering seven hits but nary a run. The Bulldogs hurt themselves by leaving 13 runners on base.

12th, Darling struck out the side (giving him 16 for the afternoon) but St. John's 5-foot-9 leadoff hitter, Steve Scafa, crushed Yale's dreams by dropping a single into left field. He then stole second, third and, after a bobbled grounder gave the visitors a second baserunner, home on the back end of a double steal.

One run was sufficient.

Not only was Roger Angell there, but he watched the game with Smoky Joe Wood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 18, 2007 12:00 AM
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