I'm happy for Felix Hernandez, I really am. His perfect game on Wednesday was a joy to watch, a master's thesis in the art of pitching. It's hard not to admire...
I’m happy for Felix Hernandez, I really am.
His perfect game on Wednesday was a joy to watch, a master’s thesis in the art of pitching. It’s hard not to admire Hernandez’s perseverance through losing seasons, and his steadfast fealty to the Mariners despite getting burned so many times by lack of run support.
This was his moment to shine, and I got goose bumps watching Felix get swallowed up by teammates after striking out Sean Rodriguez for the final out.
But I’ll just come out and say it: I’m ecstatic for myself, too. If that’s being self-indulgent, then so be it. I feel I’ve earned a little belated gloating. Because after 27 years of covering baseball and never witnessing a no-hitter — with some agonizing near-misses along the way — the long, national (international, if you include games I’ve covered in Canada, Mexico and Japan) nightmare is over.
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Somewhere along the line, I’m not sure how (perhaps because I kept whining about it repeatedly over the years, upon reflection), my no-hit failures have become known to readers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and every other purveyor of media, social or otherwise.
Somewhat humorously, and a tiny bit seriously, the notion has taken hold that I’m a jinx, a ballpark Schleprock, that my mere presence at a ballgame was a lead-pipe guarantee that there would be no no-no.
Gradually, but relentlessly, it became a prevalent meme among those who follow the Mariners. Every time a Seattle pitcher begin to flirt with a no-no, I heard the message loud and clear: Stay away; or, if I was covering the game that night, leave.
Conversely, if the opposing pitcher was holding the Mariners hitless, I was encouraged to tweet freely about it, because of the perceived power of my negative no-no mojo.
Intellectually, I knew it was nuts. Professionally, I didn’t refrain from mentioning no-hitters, because my job is to inform, not to hide. But how could I argue with the general perception, after a staggering string of occurrences that screamed, well, jinx?
When I was the Giants’ beat writer for the San Francisco Examiner, I watched Trevor Wilson lose a no-hitter in the ninth inning against the Padres, and a teammate, Scott Garrelts, lose one with two outs in the ninth against the Reds.
There were other near-misses along the way (including the most dominant Hernandez performance I’ve ever seen, this one included: his one-hitter against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in April 2007).
But more telling were the games I wasn’t there, on my watch. I wasn’t working the night Terry Mulholland of the Phillies threw a no-hitter against the Giants in 1990, on my beat. I wasn’t working the night Kevin Gross of the Dodgers threw a no-hitter against the Giants in 1992, again on my beat.
This year, I was off on April 21, when Philip Humber threw a perfect game at Safeco Field against the Mariners. (I was originally scheduled to cover that night, but I missed it so I could watch my son’s Little League game — a trade off I don’t regret, in the big picture.) I was off on June 8, when six Mariners pitchers combined for a no-hitter against the Dodgers.
Heck, when I was just starting out in this business at the Yakima Herald-Republic, a teenaged southpaw for the Hawaii team came to town for the American Legion national tournament and fired an overpowering perfect game against the Yakima Beetles at Parker Field. You might know the name — Sid Fernandez.
You might have already guessed, but I was off that night. It was the start of a trend, as it turned out.
But now all that is over. I covered Wednesday’s game. I tweeted about it. I blogged about it. My aura permeated Safeco Field, and Hernandez was undeterred, and untainted. Never again will I have to endure the taunts and teases of the masses when a pitcher starts down the road to immortality.
So, yeah, it feels pretty good. It feels like a monkey has been lifted from my back, to use a cliché I’ve heard far too many times from triumphant ballplayers.
Felix Hernandez deserves every bit of praise and commendation coming his way, and I’ll add to the chorus. It was the stuff of greatness.
But as I ponder King Felix’s march into the history books, I’m going to quietly toast the end of an era. My no-hit drought is history, too.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @StoneLarry