Saturday, June 2, 2012
By Rich Mancuso
There I was, night off from the ballpark, listening and watching my favorite alternative rock band “Weezer” in Atlantic City New Jersey in the Bogata Hotel showroom. It was planned, the birthday gift from three weeks ago. What wasn’t in the plan was Johan Santana throwing a no-hitter at Citi Field on the first day of June.
A Friday evening at Citi Field where, I would usually be situated, upstairs in my
perch in the comfortable press box, but the first no-no in New York Mets history,
50-years of futility and I was not there to see it.
Yes, frustration. And moments after Mets SNY Television voice Gary Cohen said after being questioned, ‘did he ever think it would happen, his response, ‘No, but now it has’ Weezer would finish their last number.
That number, “Say it Ain’t So.”
But it is true. After 8,020 games, Mets radio voice Howie Rose, and fans of the
second baseball team in New York, can now say, the New York Mets have made
baseball history. They are no longer one of two teams to not have a pitcher throw
the illustrious no-hitter.
It is so, and the San Diego Padres have that lone distinction.
Mike Baxter, the kid from Queens, crashed into the center field wall on the
warning track to keep the suspense going. The Carlos Beltran ball that hit the
chalk beyond third base appeared to be an extra base hit. The umpire, according
to replays may have got it wrong.
To Mets’ fans, and to Santana, the call went their way. The no-hitter is in the
record books and well deserved for a pitcher who many said was finished.
It was back in late March. Santana was not supposed to come north with the
team at the end of spring training. The comeback from shoulder surgery, which
shut Santana down all last year, was slow and cautious. However, it was soon,
according to Santana, working according to the plan.
That plan, which was heard since his opening day start in early April, was continue to make adjustments as this Mets team had trouble scoring runs, but staying competitive. Then the last three starts you sensed the plan was ahead of
Santana was throwing more pitches, going deeper into games. The changeup was
effective, so was the slider. The fastball was getting close to his velocity, clocked
close to 90, or more.
The manager, Terry Collins was more concerned about the pitch count. Last
Saturday, at Citi field, Santana threw 94 pitches, the complete game shutout over
the San Diego Padres. Collins let him continue, as he did Friday night with a career
high 134 pitches, concerned about the shoulder.
After that sixth inning, Collins asked Santana, “How do you feel?” The ace,
who said afterwards, he came to New York “to win a championship for the
organization and fans,” told his manager, ‘I feel good, let me continue.’
It was a momentous occasion for a franchise that has been troubled with financial
issues .And nothing has seemed to go right since that last game of 2006, when
Beltran struck out with runners on base, at Shea Stadium, in game seven of the
National League Championship Series.
That was against the same St. Louis Cardinals who go in the record book as
victims of the Santana no-hitter.
It was the first and real significant moment at Citi Field for Mets baseball. Santana
erased the close calls of Tom Seaver, the last Mets pitcher to take a no-hitter into
the ninth inning. The first one, of three close calls, a perfect game broke up by
Jimmy Qualls of the Chicago Cubs in 1969.
It will be remembered what Johan Santana did Friday night. The umpire, Adrian
Johnson, at third base, may have missed that Beltran call in the sixth inning. But
that does not matter now. Johan Santana may have put the New York Mets back
on the map with that outing on the mound at Citi Field.
Just hope “Weezer” does not get in the way again for another possible and maybe
another no-hitter in New York Mets baseball history, or perhaps another first, a
perfect game as they go into game number 8,021.
E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com