Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Giants Could Win a World Series!

It could happen! Really! Know why? Because within the last several months:

  • A Giant has won a Cy Young Award

  • A Giant has pitched a no-hit, no-run game

  • I got a job

It’s as if three of the Four Horsemen have already appeared, and we’re just waiting for Famine to show up—that’d be “Famine,” as in what Giants fans in general have gone through since 1954, and what San Francisco Giants fans in particular have endured since forever.

I was roughly the same age my son is now when John Montefusco threw his no-hitter in 1976. I don’t even remember that one. The WEEKDAY() function in Excel tells me September 28 was on a Wednesday that year, so no doubt I let something trivial and foolish, such as school, stand in the way of listening to immortality. When Ed Halicki threw his the summer before, we were on an outing to see some family friends. Why we wouldn’t have been listening to the game in the car, I have no idea, but once we arrived in San Jose, I did manage to hear the last two outs. Whee. Before that, the only other two San Francisco Giants no-hitters—I’m trusting WikiPedia on this—were 1-0 games thrown by Juan Marichal in 1963 against the Astros and Gaylord Perry in 1968 against the Cardinals, and, of course, since the Giants are the Giants, Perry’s gem must forever be linked with Ray Washburn’s, whose no-hitter for the Cardinals came against those Giants the very next day. Happy birthday to me, since I turned eight the day after that and was still blissfully ignorant of the baseball-related horrors that had taken place throughout my life to that point, and would stay that way for another year and a half.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter Friday night is only the fifth ever thrown by a San Francisco Giant. For crying out loud, even the Expos had four (including one against the Giants, naturally). San Diego fans, however, are experiencing their 41st year of no-hitter-free baseball; Mets fans: 48th. This is to say that neither team has ever thrown one. And you know what? I just, just don’t care. For one thing… not the Giants. For another, sorry, but their fans need to suffer more than Giants fans for me to care. Too bad.

As every long-long-long-suffering-suffering-suffering-suffering Giants fan knows, during the 33-year period that the joy of one (or more) of their team’s pitchers tossing a no-hitter had eluded them, no fewer than eight guys heaved no-hitters against the Giants. Washburn and Warren Spahn each threw one, but that was well before the drought started, back when Giants foolishly believed that their team might throw several no-hitters (and win several World Championships). But the others… agony. Every one. Even the ones I missed. I consider myself lucky not to have been in attendance at any of these games, because, at least during the home games, I probably would’ve snapped and tried to whap people on the back of the head for rooting for a no-hitter against their team, on the grounds that it’s “historic.” Screw that. There’ve been a couple hundred of the damn things, it’s not like it’s someone’s 512th win, for crying out loud.

The Jerry Reuss no-hitter in 1980—for the Dodgers!—is famous for me having listened to every agonizing out while I was supposed to be working on the receiving dock at the Emporium, where I worked. I mean, I was there—I just wasn’t working. I was steaming. Actually, what made this one famous was that when I called David Beck to commiserate, he was on a date or something—“Oh, that’s fair!” I probably thought—so his dad had to take the message: “Greg Palmer called: The Giants got a no hit.” Naturally, Dave first assumed—being young and na├»ve, and, let’s be honest, probably it wasn’t a date anyway—that a Giant had thrown a no-hitter. And then he learned the truth. EEEEEE!

Charlie Lea’s no-hitter against the Giants took place in May 1981, when I Dave and I were at San Diego State, so we were lucky to miss it. Mike Scott’s was in late September 1986, so I probably was working, and it was still early enough in my job that I didn’t think it’d be cool to listen to the radio. I’m especially pleased about missing that one, since it clinched the West, for which the Giants had been in contention for most of the season. I can’t speak for Dave. (If I could, I would say the following: “Gregg Pearlman is a terrific guy who certainly deserves to make good money as a writer.” But I can't. So I won't.)

Terry Mulholland’s no-hitter for the Phillies, however, was an especially bitter pill. This is one of the guys the Giants traded to Philly in 1989 for Steve Bedrosian, who, wonderful as he was in his first week as a Giant, already had worn out his welcome by August 15, 1990. I don’t remember if this is the same game where Mulholland broke Kirt Manwaring’s foot with a pitch, but it may as well have been. And in no fewer than two subsequent stints with the Giants, Mulholland never, ever made up for it. Not as far as I’m concerned, anyway. Two no-hitters—one against the Phillies, one against the Dodgers—might have done the trick. Probably the most noteworthy thing he’d done as a Giant, before the trade, was get his arm broken by a Gerald Perry line drive. Boob.

Two years and two days later… Kevin Gross. How? I’m lucky enough to remember no details beyond my severe annoyance. So unfair.

The next Kevin to throw one against the Giants was Brown of the Marlins. This I remember vividly, since I’d stayed home sick that day—being legitimately sick, not because I wanted to listen to the game. We lived on the top floor of our apartment building, and this was a day in which the temperature was at least 450 degrees and there were people on the roof, pounding away. Nonstop. Throughout the game. Until my head was pounding in sympathetic rhythm. For all I know, Kevin Brown’s a terrific guy, but I’ll never, ever forgive him for this. Creep.

I missed most of the Kevin Millwood game six years ago, thankfully, as my son had a Little League game that day, but I was no less grumpy once the no-hitter had taken place.

Now, however, even two days after the event, I and all other Giants fans still have a no-hitter to celebrate. The only blot on Sanchez’s outing was Juan Uribe’s boot of what appeared to be a fairly easy ground ball in the eighth inning, but as Bruce Bochy pointed out later, had Uribe not tried to charge the ball but fielded it cleanly, the batter probably would’ve beaten it out, which would be way worse than an error, no-hitter-wise. So Uribe’s almost forgiven. (Let’s not mention the fact that Mulholland’s no-hitter was marred by an error also, but he got a double play—and faced only 27 batters. Shmuck.)

In the 1980’s, when Dave and I worked most avidly on our tabletop baseball game, we played literally quadrillions of games together—okay, I exaggerate: it was only one quadrillion, and almost certainly closer to one than two—and we shared two no-hitters. Dave won both. But in working on The Game, he and I always had a cooperative spirit. Sure, each of us always wanted to win, but when something incredible was happening, that’s what we rooted for. The last no-hitter we played together took place 25 years ago—and to put Sanchez’s feat into some kind of perspective, the last Giants no-hitter had taken place eight years before that—and we rolled our dice, recited the results, wrote them down… but never once noted aloud that something unusual was happening. We had to pretend, just like the teammates of a major leaguer who’s got one going, that no particular no-hitter was in progress; in fact, just as if Dave himself were throwing it, I avoided talking to him except to note the results. Then when my final batter got out, we both whooped and high-fived—that’s the only acceptable circumstance in which it’s okay to root for your team not to get any hits. Between the two of us, we experienced maybe half a dozen no-hitters via The Game, but certainly not much more than that, if at all.

But even today—and probably for a long time—I am as stoked about Jonathan Sanchez’s near-perfect, no-hit, no-run game as if I myself had rolled the fateful dice.

(By the way, that last line’s supposed to be at least mildly funny, not pathetic, so you’re supposed to laugh with me.)

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