Bill Butler pitched what may have been the game of his life, holding California to four hits as he earned his first complete game and shutout as a major leaguer, a 1-0 win at Municipal Stadium.
There was no no-hitter drama, as Sandy Alomar led off the game with a single. But three groundouts later the inning was over. Butler allowed a single in the second but retired six straight batters after that.
California’s best scoring chance came in the fourth inning. With two outs, Bubba Morton doubled and Jim Hicks walked, one of only two walks Butler issued in the game. But the young lefthander got Jim Spencer to fly out to center field, ending the threat.
Butler also worked around a two-out error in the fifth and a leadoff single in the sixth, helped by a fine running catch in left field by Lou Piniella. Following that hit, he retired the last 12 of the last 13 batters, with only a walk to Jim Fregosi breaking the string.
Angels starter Tom Murphy was nearly as good as Butler. He also pitched a complete game and allowed four hits, although he walked three batters. However, Murphy racked up seven strikeouts to Butler’s six.
The Royals manufactured the only run of the game in the very first inning. With one out, Pat Kelly walked and took third on a Mike Fiore single. Bob Oliver bounced into a forceout, with Kelly scoring on the play.
Although the win was Butler’s fourth of the season, it was his first in his home stadium. After the game, Angels manager Lefty Phillips paid him a high compliment, telling reporters, “He throws a lot like Sam McDowell of Cleveland. They’re the two best fastball lefthanders in this league.” (The Sporting News, July 19, 1969)
Meanwhile, Butler thought a game earlier in the season might have been his best. “The game in Boston (on June 6) is the best I’ve pitched in my life,” he said to the Associated Press. Pitching coach Mel Harder agreed, saying to the AP, “It has got to be one of his better games. But he might have had a better fastball in Boston.”
The win lifted the Royals to 32-44 for the season. They also moved into a tie for fourth in the AL West with Chicago, with both teams 11 games behind co-leaders Minnesota and Oakland.
Box score and play-by-play: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA196907020.shtml