People sometimes wonder why I nerdily keep score at every baseball game that I attend. The answer is always the same.
“You never know when you’ll be at a no-hitter. This scorecard could be a piece of history.”
Funny thing happened this weekend. Late Saturday night, my friend and I discussed whether we wanted to travel up to Milwaukee to watch the Cubs take on the Astros in a completely random game that had been scheduled for Miller Park on Sunday night thanks to Hurricane Ike.
After much banter, we decided it would be too much of a hassle. Driving in the rain sucks. He had to work in Peoria the next day. Gas is expensive. Etc. Etc.
We are dumb.
Carlos Zambrano provided us with a lifetime worth of regrets, tossing the first Cubs no-hitter since Milt Pappas in 1972 and therefore completing an accomplishment that I never thought I’d witness as a Cub fan even though I legitimately go into every Cubs game hoping that I am about to watch the one where it happens.
But as everyone knows, the first stage of grief is denial — and as we noted, the whole thing would have never happened had we shown up in the park. We’re bad luck. Some sort of Butterfly Effect type-thing would have happened, causing Ashton Kutcher to make a bad movie that would have caused us to laugh which would have caused Big Z to groove a pitch to Geoff Blum that would have ended the no-no. Really, this theory is perfectly sound.
Despite the pangs of regret that will forever haunt me, I’m at least happy for the fact that I was able to witness the entire event on TV — something that no one outside of the Chicago area was able to do, since apparently Bob Newhart and America’s Funniest Videos were on WGN Superstation. As friend of the program AK-47 noted, “I’m more likely to see a leprechaun chasing Gary Busey through NYC than watch a (Cubs) no-hitter.” (You can’t dispute that — certainly a leprechaun has chased Gary Busey more recently than 1972. And the Cubs haven’t been no-hit themselves since Sandy Koufax did the job in 1965, so seeing them take place in one on either side of the pillow is like seeing a white buffalo).
I’ve seen the close calls in the past. There was Jose Guzman Jose Guzman (not a typo, that’s his nickname), who went 8 2/3 hitless innings in his Cubs debut in ’93 before Otis Nixon broke it up with a single. Perhaps the worst part of that experience was not seeing the no-hitter broken up, but being fooled into thinking Guzman would be awesome for the rest of his career.
Then there was Franky Castillo’s dance with a no-no in ’95 — this one coming in a late September run where the Cubs were trying to make a crazy run at the wild card after a slow start to the season, much like this year’s Astros. Anyway, Castillo, a career 82-104 pitcher best known for having the hottest wife in Cubs history, was one out from no-hitting the Cardinals. But then Bernard “The Joker” Gilkey snuck a liner past a diving Sammy Sosa that rolled to the wall for a triple to end the bid.
The hallmark for Cubs pitching performances, Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game in 1998, was also a one-hitter, with the one hit coming on an infield single by Ricky Gutierrez in the 3rd that many people still argue was a Kevin Orie error.
Basically, waiting for a Cubs no-hitter had become akin to waiting for Cubs postseason success. Lots of close calls, but never the whole cigar. So now that Z has gotten that little cigar out of the way, maybe the bigger one is just around the corner. (And I don’t mean being on the other side of a no-no).
BONUS COVERAGE: Cousin Charlie, whom you remember from our legendary trip to Tropicana Field, was in attendance at Miller Park (unlike this idiot). Later this week, once he’s collected his thoughts, we’ll share his account of the experience.