On This Date in Sports September 3, 2001: Labor Day Bud
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Making his 11th career start with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bud Smith tosses a no-hitter, blanking the San Diego Padres 4-0 on Labor Day at Qualcomm Field. Smith becomes the 18th rookie to throw a no-hitter, striking out seven while issuing four walks. The Cardinals offense is led by Albert Pujols, who hits a home run and drives in a pair of runs. It would be the only shining moment for Bud Smith, who pitched just two seasons in the majors.
Robert Allen Smith was born on October 23, 1979, in Torrance, California. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth round of the 1998 MLB Draft out of Los Angeles Harbor College. It would not take the left-handed pitcher nicknamed Bud long to reach the majors, as he made his debut in 2001, after leading all minor leaguers in wins in 2000, throwing two seven-inning no-hitters with the Memphis Redbirds (AA). Smith made his debut with the Cardinals on June 10, 2001, pitching one inning in relief against the Colorado Rockies.
Bud Smith had a 3-2 record, getting a no-decision in his previous start against the Padres five days earlier. The Cardinals came into the game, right in the middle of the playoff chase at 73-63 for manager Tony LaRussa, while the Padres were threading water at 69-68 for Bruce Bochy. The Padres had Bobby Jones on the mound. It was a poor season for Jones, who came into the game at 8-18, in his first season in San Diego.
The Cardinals got two runs for Bud Smith before he even took the mound, as rookie Albert Pujols hit his 32nd home run of the year, with Fernando Vina on base. Smith ran into trouble in the third, as Rickey Henderson stole second base after a two-out walk but remained stranded as D'Angelo Jimenez lined out to Edgar Renteria at short. The Cardinals added a third run in the fifth inning when Placido Polanco stole second base and scored when catcher Ben Davis's throw sailed into the outfield. Polanco later drove in Vina with a seventh-inning double to top the score off at 4-0.
With Bud Smith's pitch count rising, pitching coach Dave Duncan was hoping for a Padres' hit, but in the eighth inning, the no-hitter was going strong as Tony Gwynn limited to pinch-hitting at the end of his career grounded to short. Bud Smith pitched around a walk in the ninth as Phil Nevin bounced one back to the pitcher who tossed it to Pujols at first to complete the no-hitter.
Bud Smith finished his rookie season with a record of 6-3 but struggled in 2002 before being sent down to the minors and traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He never reached the majors again.