To quote Ron Burgundy, “I love scotch.” I also have a reputation for being frugal. Both facts are central to my memory of Johan Santana pitching the first no-hitter in New York Mets history.
Before we get to that historic evening, my tale begins a few days earlier, when my dad came over to help me with a few items around my condo. As the late a.m. turned into early p.m. – and he continued laboring in the warm studio condo on his lone off-day – he asked if I could put on the Mets game for background noise.
Only problem was, I didn’t have cable! I figured the team wasn’t going be good and I had quite a few work trips on the horizon, so why invest in SNY?!
“Two beers and a burger at the local bar twice a month cost the same as one month of cable…”
Much to his chagrin, he had to settle for ESPN’s Gamecast from my Mac. Ohhhh the torture of awaiting an animated baseball to cross the screen, while sounds of midday TV infomercials could be heard in the background. That said, you could feel his sarcastic excitement when I told him Vinny Rottino had just hit a HR off Cole Hamels (Like I said, the 2012 Mets roster wasn’t exactly stacked…but that’s neither here nor there).
What is worth noting in all this is the argument my dad made for splurging on SNY. The flexibility of watching a ballgame from the comfort of your own home vs. the local bar, where two beers and a burger twice a month cost the same as one month of service. With that point fresh in my head, I caved and paid for cable later in the week. And man, am I glad I did.
The Historic Evening
Friday night, June 1, 2012. I was perfectly content with no plans on this evening. Instead, I enjoyed a nice glass of Johnny Walker (black label) at home, while aimlessly browsing YouTube and texting my closest friends Scrawny, Burger and Big Bubba Brant (don’t ask). All of this with the Mets game on in the background.
The first few innings of the game were pretty nondescript. It wasn’t until Carlos Beltran’s “foul” ball, and subsequent argument between umpire Adrian Johnson and Cardinals 3B coach Jose Oquendo, that I really started to pay attention to the game.
With the Mets batting in the sixth, I remember sipping more scotch and texting Scrawny – a Yankee fan – to check out SNY because Santana had a no-no going. In fact, in true cynical Mets fan fashion, I even remember saying something along the lines of “typical Mets, they have a no-no and Santana won’t finish it because of the pitch count.”
“…I remember my dad texting me about the game and asking if I was glad I had cable on this evening.”
Shortly after that text, Mike Baxter ran into the LF wall, robbing Yadier Molina from extra bases and keeping the no-no intact. It was at that moment, when I allowed myself to believe that the impossible just might happen. As Johan came up to bat in the seventh, I remember my dad texting me about the game and asking if I was glad I had cable on this evening.
By the top of the eighth, I was sitting in my leather brown chair, next to the TV, with a glass of watered down scotch as there was no way I was getting up for a refill at this point. When Daniel Murphy grabbed Beltran’s flair to end the eight, I was in full blown “Holy S–t” mode. At that point, I stood up, swaying left and right with nerves and excitement, as if I was on the top step of the dugout next to Scott Hairston. The drama.
For all the years I had watched Mets baseball, I never recalled the station bypassing commercials to air a pitcher’s warm-ups. On one hand it was cool to see Santana throw his warm-ups for the ninth. On the other, I was ticked off because there went my chance for a quick pee break!
Before I could allow myself to focus on the inning, Matt Holliday hit the first pitch to center. I screamed in fear because it looked like Torres had misjudged the ball as he was running in.
Next batter, Allen Craig. I remember taking deep breaths before each pitch in the at-bat. On a 2-2 pitch, he hits a blooper to LF and the cameras show Kirk Nieuwenhuis hustling in. Deep inhale as I immediately thought the worse until the ball was secured in Kirk’s glove. It’s an irrelevant thought now, but if Baxter is still in LF at that point, I am not sure he makes the catch.
“It Has Happened!”
After the Nieuwenhuis catch, I can vividly remember a shot of the Mets bench on SNY. Hairston rubbing his hands over his face, Niese staring onto the field, Valdespin sitting in the corner against the railing, fidgeting with his hands, and a shot of R.A. Dickey with a towel covering his head, hands clasped in prayer. More or less sums up the range of emotions I was feeling at this point.
With David Freese facing a 3-0 count, doubt crept in to my mind that this would be the night. Again, the cynical Mets fan in me was feeling the heartbreak moment coming. The thought was magnified when SNY showed a shot of Molina standing on-deck.
Fortunately, a few pitches later, it was all over. The image of Josh Thole looking back at the umpire with the ball in his glove and hearing Gary Cohen scream, “IT HAS HAPPENED,” will stay in my mind forever. As will the memory of getting cable thanks to my dad, and the subsequent phone call with him shortly after the no-hitter was complete. Memorable, no doubt.
The Bottom Line
All you need to know from this game is in the clip below. And yes, I still have the bottle of Johnny Walker black from this evening in my home office as a memory from this evening.
What are your memories from Johan’s no-hitter?