The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

 

The Moose Is Loose

On May 17, 1998, I spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon puttering around my apartment, mostly working on my computer, which sits in my bedroom. I'd had the baseball game between the Yankees and the Minnesota Twins on the TV in the other room, but after two or three innings, I switched over to an NBA playoff game between the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers. Mostly I ignored the game--a nondescript NBA Eastern Conference playoff game, full of hard fouls, lousy shooting, and the boring excellence of Michael Jordan in the clutch. A few hours later, I emerged from my room to find I'd missed David Wells' perfect game.

On July 18, 1999, I went to the movies with two of my pals. We saw Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's final movie. When we got home, we found an overly excited message from our friend Julie, who'd gone to Yankee Stadium, something to the effect of, "Omigod, it was so great! I can't believe it!" I called her back, clueless about the source of her excitment. It turned out once again I'd missed a perfect game, this time David Cone's, against the Montreal Expos. Eyes wide shut indeed!

But on September 2, 2001, I was right in front of my parents' big-screen TV in Salt Lake City, watching one hell of a pitching duel. While the Red Sox's David Cone valiantly staved off the Yanks, he was outshined by his replacement in the Yankee rotation, Mike Mussina, who came within ONE STRIKE of a perfect game!

I had the game on from before the first pitch, but I'd missed the fifth through seventh innings while eating dinner with my folks. I sat down to dinner remarking that Mussina still had a no-hitter going, but thinking nothing much of it. But when I came in from dinner to see that row of zeroes at the end of the seventh, I was locked in. By the top of the ninth inning, I was on my feet, waving the Yankee runners around the bases like I was Willie Randolph--and I was relieved the Yanks only got one run because the tension was almost too unbearable to wait through. As soon as the Yanks scored, I called Issa, my roommate back in Manhattan, to make sure he was watching the game. "We're all here," he told me.

When Clay Bellinger, who'd scored the only run of the game as a pinch-runner for Tino Martinez, made his diving stop of Troy O'Leary's smash, I was SURE that destiny would prevail, and I would finally see a perfect game through to the finish. When Lou Merloni struck out, I pumped my fist and hollered. By the time the count reached two strikes on Carl Everett, the Red Sox's pinch-psychopath, I had to set my beer aside because I was jumping up and down in anticipation.

And when Carl Everett's blooper fell into the gap, I let out a curse so loud and so vile that dogs howled, paint peeled, milk curdled, and neighbors rushed to cover their children's ears. Carl Everett, a man whose tendencies I have mocked in this space on countless occasions, had repaid me and every other Yanks fan for all of the schadenfreude we've enjoyed at his expense.

But the Yanks still made the final out, winning 1-0 and completing a three-game sweep of the Red Sox which plunged them into turmoil (more on that in another post).

Perfection in the form of 27 up and 27 down still eludes me (unlike the other kinds, heh heh heh). Fortunately, it's not as if I'd never seen a no-hitter before:

• On September 25, 1981, near the tail end of the strike-torn season, I'd watched Nolan Ryan no-hit the L.A. Dodgers. Such was the power of Ryan--I'd seen him take a no-no into the 9th in 1979--that by the middle innings I was turned against my own favorite team (fortunately, the Dodgers had already wrapped up a playoff spot thanks to the split-season solution to the strike). This was Ryan's fifth no-hitter, breaking Sandy Koufax's record. He went on to throw two more before he was done, though I missed them both.

• On April 7, 1984, I settled down to renew the weekly ritual of my youth, watching NBC's Game of the Week with Joe Garagoila and Tony Kubek. I was treated to Jack Morris setting the tone for the Detroit Tigers' amazing season by tossing a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. Morris's no-no tied a record for the earliest no-hitter in a season. The Tigers jumped out to a 35-5 start that year, and practically coasted to a World Championship.

• On August 17, 1992, in a hotel in Wyoming (Rock Springs, perhaps?), with my father the night before embarking on a backpacking trip, I watched the last inning of Dodger Kevin Gross's no-no against the San Francisco Giants.

• And last night, 24 hours after Mussina's near-perfecto, and only a few after I returned to NYC, I caught several innings, including the last one, of St Lous Cardinal Bud Smith's no-hitter against the San Diego Padres. Going into the bottom of the ninth, I felt a bit jaded, but as soon as Rickey Henderson appeared at the plate, I was locked in once again. And when Smith speared the sharp comeback to the mound and nearly ran the ball all the way over to first himself, I chalked up another one for the annals.

September is the month for no-hitters; I'm keeping my eyes peeled for more as this season wraps up.

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