Kevin Millwood wasn't expecting anything special when he took the mound on the unseasonably warm afternoon of April 27, 2003, at Veterans Stadium. He was off to a good start. So were the Phillies. But the season wasn't even a month old yet. And, besides, Millwood was worried about his stuff while throwing in the bullpen.
"Warming up, I didn't think it was going to be a real good day at all," the right-hander recalled. "I remember walking into the dugout and thinking that I'd better figure out something pretty quick or it was going to be a bad day and a long flight to Los Angeles."
Between then and the time that the team charter lifted off, though, something clicked. Shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET, Millwood threw his first pitch to Giants leadoff hitter Ray Durham. Two hours and 35 minutes later, a fly ball hit by Marquis Grissom settled into the glove of center fielder Ricky Ledee, and Millwood had nailed down the ninth no-hitter in Phils history.
"I don't know [what changed]," Millwood said.. "Once I got on the mound, everything just kind of fell into place, and I just kind of did what I was used to doing."
With a moving fastball complemented by a sharp slider and curve, Millwood threw 108 pitches (72 for strikes) and struck out 10.
Nearing the 10th anniversary of that memorable day, Millwood is 38 years old and recently retired. He's keeping busy around the house and coaches Little League. Asked for his recollections, the first thing Millwood mentioned was the attendance; the 40,016 on hand was twice as many as the first two games of the series.
"It was the Phanatic's birthday, so we had a pretty good crowd there, which made it extra special," he said with a laugh. "Other than that, it was pretty much just a game."
At least it was until Millwood began retiring the Giants hitters one after another. He walked Durham to start the game, but Durham was thrown out trying to steal by catcher Mike Lieberthal. Only two more Giants reached base, both on walks.
Millwood realized early on that he had a chance to make history. And with each passing inning, the anticipation in the Vet's blue seats grew. When he struck out Barry Bonds to end the seventh, with the Phillies ahead, 1-0, the fans erupted.
"The lead is on the line, the no-hitter is on the line, everything's on the line," Millwood said after the game. "But when I got through Bonds, I knew I had a shot."
As soon as the game ended, Millwood was mobbed on the mound.
"It was kind of mayhem," he said. "Everybody ran out there, which made it really cool. It seemed like everybody on the team had nearly as much fun as I did.
"In the clubhouse, everybody was just congratulating me and having fun with it. I don't remember much more. It was a little foggy after that. I know I went back out onto the field to wave to the fans, then did the whole press-conference thing in another room. It just seemed like the whole team was happy about it and having a good time."
Getting Millwood from the Braves for catcher Johnny Estrada was only one of the high-profile moves the Phils made going into the 2003 season; they also signed free agents Jim Thome and David Bell as they prepared to move into Citizens Bank Park the following season. Philadelphia made the deal knowing that Millwood could be a free agent at the end of the year, and after the no-hitter, the club presented him with an autographed guitar from his favorite singer: country superstar Toby Keith.
Millwood ended up signing a one-year extension for 2004, then went to the Indians, where he posted a 2.86 ERA the following year. He also pitched in Texas, Baltimore, Colorado and Seattle. Last June, pitching for the Mariners, Millwood no-hit the Dodgers through six innings then had to leave the game with a mild groin strain. Five relievers pitched in to complete the combined no-no.
In his two years with the Phillies, Millwood was 23-18 with a 4.34 ERA. He was with other teams longer, had greater success with other clubs. But April 27, 2003, assured that Millwood will always have a spot in franchise lore.
And Millwood will always have a reminder of that day. Prominently displayed in his Gainesville, Fla., home is the Keith guitar.
"I'm still a big fan of his. I haven't changed my taste in music," Millwood said, laughing again. "I'll keep that until I turn it over to my kids when I'm six feet under, I guess."
Millwood's no-hitter assures that he'll have a spot in Phillies history even longer than that.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.