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The No-Hitter that was Almost Jinxed

July 14, 2013

“I had only one superstition. I made sure to touch all the bases when I hit a home run.” – Babe Ruth

On September 9, 1969, the Cubs had been in first place for 156 days.  Then, at Shea Stadium in a game against the surging NY Mets, a black cat passed Ron Santo in the on-deck circle. The Cubs lost the game 7-1 and lost 13 of the remaining 21 games of the season.  The Mets went on to win the World Series.

On September 9, 1969, the Cubs had been in first place for 156 days. Then, at Shea Stadium in a game against the surging NY Mets, a black cat passed Ron Santo in the on-deck circle. The Cubs lost the game 7-1 and lost 13 of the remaining 21 games of the season. The Mets went on to win the World Series.

Baseball is full of superstition.  Some are time-honored and considered sacred by many, for example avoiding stepping on the foul lines when leaving or entering the field.  Teammates will never consider talking to a pitcher in the dugout while he is throwing a no-hitter.  When it appears that a pitcher is on the way to such a feat, nobody but would even utter the phrase no-hitter while the pitcher is in earshot.  That would be baseball heresy and a curse of the first magnitude. 

Others superstitions are assumed individually.  Batting gloves, hats, socks and other pieces of equipment or of the uniform are worn throughout a good streak and sometimes well after they are worn out.   Likewise, players’ faces may go unshaven or hair uncut when things are going well.   Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs had plenty of these hard and fast beliefs.  He ate chicken before every game, took exactly 117 ground balls in his pre-game warm-up and set his alarm clock with 33 minutes, no matter the hour.  Mark Fidrych, the 1976 American League Rookie of the Year and fan favorite, had his own rituals too.  For example, he would landscape the pitcher’s mound to his liking with his hands, talk to the baseball and request that some baseballs he examined be removed from the game while he was pitching because they had “hits in them”.

Fidrych

Mark Fidrych tends to the pitcher’s mound.

Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who has struggled mightily the past couple seasons was at center stage in San Diego last night, where he pitched his first major league no-hitter.  His teammates, coaches and Giants fans could not be happier than to see him pitch so well.  It was certainly his best outing of the year and everyone was hanging in there with him as he held the Padres hitters in check all night. 

There was no defiance of the dugout rules last night; Lincecum was left alone once it became clear what was at stake and there was also no mention of the no-hitter.   However, there was a slight lapse on the field by first baseman Brandon Belt in the ninth inning. After Quentin Carlos flied out to left fielder Gregor Blanco, the ball was being thrown around the infield, as is the routine after an out is recorded when there are no runners on base.  As dictated by this unchanging convention, every one of the infielders should touch the ball.  Belt dropped the ball after it came in from shortstop Brandon Crawford.  Then for some reason, he picked it up and threw it to Lincecum even though it had not made the full trip around the infield.  Lincecum had the wits about him to remedy this deviation and flipped the ball over to second baseman Marco Scutaro, who then relayed it over to third baseman Pablo Sandoval to put matters into proper order. 

With everything thereby settled, Lincecum returned to the mound and went back to business.  He kept Yonder Alonso off-balance with curveballs and then put himself into the record books when Alonso flew out to Blanco on the sixth pitch. 

Excellent pitching, some excellent defense from Sandoval and right field Hunter Pence and some will say, scrupulous attention to the superstitions of the game, made it so. 

From → Baseball

9 Comments
  1. Man, you are writing up a storm!

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  2. The writing is easy. It’s just baseball after all. It’s the WordPress software that is challenging me right now.

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  3. Seems like you’re doing a great job! Pablo and Pence were critical to the no-hitter! They made some amazing plays to help Timmy.

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  4. Thank you. You are right about Hunter and Pablo. My commitment to brevity was the restraint from including the video of that great catch by Hunter. (See Tediousness the Limbs and Outward Flourishes.)

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