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The all-Billings major-league pitching duel

How many smaller American cities, say those with a population no greater than about 120,000, can say they had two major-league pitchers at the same time, and both were starters the same season? And that those pitchers got key lessons in their mound skills in the same nationally-renowned American Legion baseball program, from the same head coach who was considered among the best in the country? And that those two pitchers once faced each other on a big-league mound?

Billings can answer “yes” to all three questions. Forty-nine years ago today, on June 8, 1975, Dave McNally and Joe McIntosh were opposing pitchers for the Montreal Expos and the San Diego Padres, respectively, in the first game of a doubleheader in Montreal.

Here’s the story of that matchup, drawn from an April 11, 2020, article in the Billings Gazette about the day when McNally faced fellow Billings product McIntosh in McNally’s final major-league game.

McIntosh, who had starred for Washington State University after playing Legion ball in Billings, was a rookie pitcher for the Padres. McNally, after winning a then team-record 181 games for the Orioles, had requested a trade after the 1974 season, hoping that a “change of scenery,” as he called it, would revive his flagging pitching skills. Baltimore obliged and traded him to the Expos.

Now, on a 57-degree at the Expos field, it was almost game time. McIntosh knew McNally well because one of his older brothers, Bill, was a teammate of McNally’s on the powerhouse Billings Legion teams in 1959 and 1960. McNally lived on Elm Street in Billings through his eighteenth birthday. and he often went to the McIntosh family home on nearby Spruce Street to hang out with Bill.

In a break from convention then, which frowned upon fraternizing. with opponents before a game McIntosh went to the telephone in the Padres visitors clubhouse. He called to the Expos clubhouse and asked for McNally.

“Just a minute,” someone answered. McNally came to the phone, and McIntosh said, “Hey, Dave, this is Joey McIntosh.”

They chatted for a few minutes and before he hung up McNally spoke in the lingo of pitchers. “Nothing but fastballs down the middle," he said, describing the way he thought the two should pitch to each other at a time when the National League hadn’t yet adopted the designated hitter rule.

That remark caught McIntosh off guard. He hesitated for a minute, then replied, “Right.” The pitchers hung up and continuing warming up for the first and still only all-Billings pitching duel in major-league history.

McIntosh, then 23, didn’t realize the significance of what was about to happen, but he did in 2020, when he was a still-practicing lawyer in Seattle.

“A couple of Bayne boys who meet in the province of Quebec."

He probably was shaking his head as he pictured the long-ago scene in his mind.

“How odd is it," he said in wonder.

McIntosh already had witnessed an early legendary event in McNally’s career. In October 1966, Joe’s oldest brother Tom, who also starred in the Billings Legion program in the early 1950s, was working in Silver Spring, Maryland. McNally got the McIntosh brothers tickets to Game Four of the World Series. Their mother bought Joe a plane ticket, and he flew from Billings to Baltimore. Tom and Joe McIntosh thus were at Memorial Stadium and saw McNally out pitch the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Don Drysdale to give the Orioles their first Series Championship in a four-game sweep of LA.

Joe McIntosh never lost his admiration for McNally. "I followed him ·like crazy. I adored him, He was always so good to me and my family. I rooted for him the whole way.’

That bond even survived McNally’s trickery when McIntosh came to bat against him in the June 1975 game. McIntosh walked to the plate, ready to swing at fastballs. Instead, McNally served the youngster three curve balls and struck him out. As he walked back to the dugout, McIntosh glanced over his shoulder. He insists he saw McNally laughing.

“He had a great curveball. There was no way I was going to hit that,” McIntosh said. He knew then that the deal was off. McNally had taken him for a ride in the long tradition of what baseball veterans did to rookies.

McIntosh knew he didn’t have to stick to fastballs, either. He used his breaking pitches to get McNally to ground out in his first at-bat, and when McNally came up a second time, he tagged a long, foul fly out to left field that worried McIntosh a bit before Bobby Tolan gloved the ball.

The Padres gave McIntosh a three-run lead in the first and added two more runs in the sixth. That ended McNally’s day and, as it turned out, his big-league career.

McIntosh said he only talked to McNally before the game that day, and the subject of retirement never came up.

In 2020, almost five decades later, McIntosh could joke about a possible scenario in June 1975: “Probably if he lost to me, he figured that’s it."

No one ever asked McNally if that thought crossed his mind,

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Jamie Larson