When I was growing up, I was obsessive about not missing a Met game, not just because I was a big fan, but because I didn't want to miss the first no-hitter. I had been fortunate enough to attend Tom Seaver's "imperfect game" that was broken up by Jimmy Qualls, and while I was too young to fully appreciate what nearly happened, it helped make me look forward to when the Mets would produce a no-hitter.
In the mid-70s, when the Mets were good, but not great, a no-hitter was something to look forward to. And why not? The Mets of course had Seaver, who would take two other no-hitters into the ninth, but they also had strong pitchers such as Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman. They played in a pitcher's park.
Instead, it turned into the Mets' version of 1918 or 1940, only unlike the Red Sox or Rangers, there was no "not since..." to mark - it had never happened. In recent years - the Mets haven't even come that close - no no-hitters entering the ninth since Seaver in 1975. It looked so hopeless that if you had asked me before the game what the Mets would do first - pitch a no-hitter or win a World Series, I would have gone with the latter, and it's not as if I expect a title anytime soon.
As for who might be most likely to pitch one on the current team, a few years ago, I might have said Oliver Perez, who did have flashes of brilliance at one time. But that goes to show just how cursed the Mets had been in this area.
I would not have guessed Johan Santana. I was just glad he was back pitching at all.
Whenever I hear a no-hitter is going on, I call Squawker Lisa, but never before the ninth. Tonight, however, I called her after the sixth. I just had a feeling. Maybe it was because Carlos Beltran's ball that hit the third-base line chalk was called foul. Santana seemed in control. His biggest hurdle seemed to be the pitch count.
When Mike Baxter crashed into the wall in the seventh, it looked like another omen. In the eighth and ninth, it seemed that no out was routine. Maybe they were bloops, but fielders had to run to catch them, and avoid running into overeager fill-in shortstop Omar Quintanilla.
By the ninth, I thought Johan was going to do it. But I'm glad he got David Freese out and did not have to face Yadier Molina one more time.
And I'm glad that Beltran's ball down the line was called foul, not just because I'm glad Santana got the no-hitter, but because I didn't want Beltran to be the one who broke it up. I thought Beltran was very underrated as a Met and I didn't want Met fans to have something else to criticize him for. I'm glad he got a good reception tonight.
Squawker Lisa likes to tease me about Dwight Gooden and David Cone going on to pitch no-hitters for the Yankees. I was irritated about Gooden at the time, though after Johan became the first pitcher to have a no-hitter after missing the previous season, I have more appreciation for what Gooden accomplished. I was happy for Cone. As with Johan, Cone had come back from serious injury. Lisa reminded me how Cone was pulled after seven no-hit innings in his first game back in 1996 after his aneurysm.
By the way, Lisa, do you remember who started for the Expos against Cone when he pitched the perfect game? A young pitcher named Javier Vazquez.
As I rooted for Johan to complete the elusive no-hitter, I fully appreciated the grim look on Terry Collins' face. This franchise has not had much luck with injuries in recent years and they pushed their luck with Johan tonight.
But as the magnitude of what Johan did sinks in, I have no doubt that Collins made the right decision. I hope I still feel that way in a few days when we find out how Johan is recovering from his 134-pitch outing. Right now, though, I am still having a little trouble believing that, after 8,020 games, the Mets finally have a no-hitter!
Just added my keywords for the blog entry. "Mets" and "Johan Santana" were of course already in the label list. This entry marks the first use of the keyword "no-hitter."
On Saturday afternoon, I will be participating in a "Progressive Game Blog" run by the United Cardinal Bloggers. Mets and Cardinals blogs will take turns writing about the game and about their teams in general. I will be covering the first inning along with the Cardinals blog Pitchers Hit Eighth.