Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time

Today's off day gives me a chance to post a piece I had previously written, but didn't get a chance to finish. Here goes.

I know that I have already penned a post about Justin Verlander’s no-hitter, but I could not resist a little self-indulgent, nostalgic stroll down memory lane when I heard that FSN was replaying the no-hitter on the eve of the 2010 Tigers season opener. Besides, a fellow blogger revealed to me that he teared up when watching the replay. It made me smile and chuckle with delight to hear it. It really was a sacred moment in Tigers history.

By the time Pudge rushed the mound and lifted Justin Verlander up off the ground in a surge of emotion, I was flailing my arms around wildly, screaming and embracing my mother like we hadn’t laid eyes on each other in twenty years. I jumped up and down for so long it counted as a workout, and I could not leave the park for anything. I watched rapt as Justin Verlander stood down on the field, talking with FSN’s John Keating--not that I could hear a word he was saying. It didn’t matter. I could not believe what I had just witnessed. I remember telling my dad later that night in a breathless voice that a person could go to hundreds of games in his/her lifetime and never see a no-hitter. After all, this was the first home no-hitter for the Tigers since 1952 when Virgil Trucks hurled two of them in one year (but still went 5-19).

I had spent the previous hour and half or so in a state of rapturous agony. I was so nervous for Verlander, my stomach ached as if someone had taken my intestines and twisted them up like a downtown Chicago cloverleaf. Out after out, I clutched my pencil with increasing intensity, white knuckles showing. As the innings wore on, I made the marks on my scorecard with greater care, knowing now that it could be a card I would want to place in a shadow box with my tickets stubs one day.

After the game, I carefully penciled in all the zeroes across the card. Zero hits, zero runs, zero errors. There were four bases on balls, but am I one to quibble with walks when a no-hitter occurred? It was funny anyway that three of them went to one batter—Bill Hall. Who cares that the Brewers then went on to win the remaining two games of that interleague series? Is that important? No. It’s trivia noone will remember in the wake of Justin Verlander making the Brewers’ lineup miss everything that night. And that he did in spectacular fashion. He racked up 12 Ks as the whiffing hacks harmlessly swished air around the batter’s box.

The two defensive plays that saved the no-no are as memorable as Justin’s work on the hill. First, Magglio Ordóñez, known never to leave his feet to make a play, made a nice sliding catch to save a sinking flare to right. Then, defensive specialist Neifi Perez turned a double play of the decade to keep things going. Leyland’s penchant for over-valuing certain players comes in handy now and again. I won’t ever gripe about Neifi’s spot on the squad, I promise. He earned it all on that singular play.

Thanks for putting up with a trip in the time machine. I know it can only stir up the fondest of memories. Tomorrow, King Felix. Bring it.

4 comments:

Marty said...

Nice piece, Jen. Thanks for the memories. :)

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Greg Eno said...

Closest I came to seeing a no-no was in 1990. Jack Morris gave up a leadoff hit, then the batter was retired on a double play.

He retired the next 26 guys in a row!!

A one-hitter, technically, but practically a perfect game!

I still have the scorecard from that one.

OldEnglish said...

I went to TIgerFest a couple years ago with my scorecard hoping to get in verlander's line--that would have been a great "get."