I stopped caring about batting average as a be-all and end-all years ago, but I never stopped caring about no-hitters.
There is still something special about pitching an entire game and not allowing a single hit. Yeah, Josh Beckett walked three today, which is why we don’t say he was perfect. But the Philadelphia Phillies could not buy a hit off him. That still makes me tingle.
Is it worth running up a pitch count that otherwise would be unheard of in 2014 to get that no-hitter? Probably not, but then again, I do a lot of things that aren’t worth it. In so many ways, life is about creating memories. When we reach the end, that, along with friendship and love, that is going to be our currency.
You know that’s why Josh Beckett said he wouldn’t allow himself to be pulled out of today’s game even if he reached 200 pitches (not that Don Mattingly felt quite the same way, going as far as pitch No. 125 before he got the bullpen working, more than splitting the difference between insanity and rationality). Beckett won’t forget this moment. I won’t even forget this moment, and I was on the opposite coast, worlds removed in proximity and ability.
We won today. We won a game, and we won a moment. And what I love about winning these moments is not just the pure experience of them. It’s the recapture as time passes. I’ve spent several moments today marveling at how different my life was the last time the Dodgers threw a no-hitter, Hideo Nomo in Colorado, September 17, 1996. I had no kids. I had no wife. I’m not completely sure I had a life. I know I was in my bachelor apartment, clawing at a tenuous career, living and dying with a Dodger team that had gone eight long years without reaching the World Series. And I got that thrill, that thrill of Nomo doing what we considered impossible.
Today’s no-hitter from Beckett was less improbable … or was it? Nomo was 28 and at or near the height of his abilities. Beckett was 34 and coming off a beleaguered season. The comparison doesn’t really matter, except to point out that merely posing it underscores how viscerally energizing Beckett’s feat was. Heaven love him, I was agonizing for him against that final batter today, an at-bat that seemed fraught with the peril of disappointment and/or injury. But it would have been hard to bear seeing him fall short.
During the fourth inning, I went to pick up my oldest two kids from their piano lessons. When I got home after the fifth inning and checked the boxscore, that was when I first realized something might be up. But I didn’t want to overreact. I didn’t even think about writing anything until after the eighth inning. Then I opened up a file, put in a couple of sentences … and stopped myself. I put the writing aside, went downstairs and commandeered my family for the bottom of the ninth. I was alone for Nomo’s. I didn’t want to be alone for this one.
I had to explain to all three kids what a no-hitter was. Why they might want to pay attention. How long it had been since the last one. This was the first time in any of their lives that they even participated in the will-he-or-won’t-he suspense of a no-hitter. They had questions, literal questions, such as whether a foul ball spoiled the no-hitter. They watched me react, grimacing, fist-pumping, to moments too nuanced for them to understand.
And then Beckett got Utley. We cheered!
I went back upstairs to write something quickly. They went back to their own chaos. Inside of an hour and for the rest of the day, they probably didn’t give it another thought. I don’t know if they’ll remember it for long. But Josh Beckett gave us that opportunity to share this memory. He gave us a moment we can keep forever.
Photos from today’s no-hitter by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers can be found at LA Photog Blog.