Moments after the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 54 years, a long suffering fan in the delirious crowd at Madison Square Garden held up a sign that read “Now I can die in peace.” I thought of that sign last Friday night.
I’m as old as the New York Mets franchise since both of us were born in 1962. Technically they have me by a couple of months since they started in April of that year and I didn’t get my first Mets diaper until June.
In my lifetime I have seen the Mets win division titles and pennants and even 2 World Championships. I’ve seen some great individual players over the years including my all-time favorite, Tom Seaver, a Hall of Famer.
I’ve seen just about everything you can see from a baseball team except a no hitter. There have been plenty of one hitters but never in the history of the franchise had a Mets pitcher thrown a no hitter.
They’ve done it after wearing the Blue and Orange. In fact, 7 former Mets have accounted for 13 no hitters with other teams.
Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and David Cone were the best of the bunch and all had their historic moments after leaving the Mets.
It all changed last Friday when Johan Santana, in the Mets 51st season and in their 8020th game, tossed the first no hitter in franchise history.
Next to the 1986 post season, this is now my next “greatest memory” in Mets history.
I found out about the no hitter as the top of the 7th game to an end. Watching the 8th and 9th innings was unbelievably nerve wracking. I even sweated through the Mets at bats in the 7th and 8th, worrying that Santana was waiting too long to get back out on the mound.
My heart skipped a beat on every ball off the bat of a Cardinals player. Every fly ball felt like a flare that was going to drop in. A little roller that went foul on the third base side seemed like a puny infield hit that would torment me and my fellow Mets fans for the rest of our lives.
I did observe the proper protocol for a situation like this. I texted my brothers and my son with the generic “Are you watching the Mets game?” message. By rule, I was not allowed to type the words “Santana no hitter through seven.”
I flashed back to near misses by Seaver in his brilliant Mets career. Some guy named Jimmy Qualls from the Chicago Cubs broke up Seaver’s bid for a perfect game back in 1969 with 1 out in the 9th. I couldn’t tell you anything about his career other than that’s the guy who broke up Seaver’s perfect game and broke the heart of a then 7 year old Mets fan.
When Santana got the final out, all those years of frustration came pouring out in the form of a primal scream. I quickly called both of my brothers to celebrate and made sure to set the DVR to record the re-broadcast of the game so I have it saved forever.
After all, it took the Mets 50 years to get their first no hitter and I’m not sure I’ll be around another 50 years to see the next one.
I have my sign ready. Now all I need is for the Bills and/or Sabres to win a Championship and then I’ll be able to “die in peace.”