Saturday, December 29, 2012

Where Were You On June 1, 2012?

There are some dates that are forever etched in the memories of Mets fans.  Some of those dates bring back harsh memories (June 15, 1977) while others are far more pleasant (October 16, 1969, October 25 and 27, 1986).  The year 2012 added another date to the pleasant list.  Tell me, Mets fans.  Do you remember where you were on June 1, 2012?

The morning of June 1, 2012 started off a little soggy, as Central Park registered a quarter of an inch of rain.  The precipitation did little to wash away the sting of the Mets' previous game, a 10-6 loss to the Phillies on May 30.  In that game, the bullpen wasted a solid effort by starter Dillon Gee, allowing nine runs over the final three innings (the first of the nine runs was credited to Gee, although Bobby Parnell allowed that run to score on a home run by Carlos Ruiz).

No reliever was spared in the late inning carnage, as Parnell (one run), Jon Rauch (one run), Tim Byrdak (one run), Ramon Ramirez (three runs, retired no one) and Chris Schwinden (two runs) combined to cough up the game to the hated Phillies.

Fortunately for the Mets, the day after the bullpen meltdown was an off day, which gave the team a 24-hour respite to regroup and focus on their next opponent, the St. Louis Cardinals, who were coming to New York for a four-game wraparound series beginning Friday, June 1 and ending Monday, June 4.

Johan Santana was set to start the series opener on June 1, needing to give the team plenty of innings after the previous game's debacle.  Ironically, the back page of that day's New York Post focused on the 20-year anniversary of the Yankees signing Derek Jeter, calling the rest "hitstory".  Little did they know they would be reporting on another kind of history in less than 24 hours, although this one would involve far fewer hits.

In less than 24 hours, the Post went from "hitstory" to "no-hitstory".

The Mets entered the game with a 28-23 record, good for third place in a tightly-packed NL East, where all five teams had between 27 and 29 wins.  As a result, the standings were fluctuating daily, making every game critical.  Going into the game, the talk was not about making "hitstory", but about a former Met making his first appearance at Citi Field since his midseason trade to the Giants in 2011.

Considering that Carlos Beltran's legacy in New York always seemed to go back to that one fateful at-bat against the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, it was quite a story to not only have Beltran back in New York, but to have him return as a teammate of Wainwright in a Cardinals uniform.  Fittingly, Wainwright would be the starting pitcher against the Mets in the series opener facing Johan Santana, who was coming off a complete game shutout of the Padres just six days earlier in which he allowed four hits and walked no one.  He would allow one more baserunner against the Cardinals than he did on May 26 against the Padres, but the latter performance would end up having a more memorable ending.

By now, you've memorized all the numbers.  134 pitches.  No runs.  No hits.  Five walks.  One generous call by third base umpire Adrian Johnson.  You've also heard all the stories.  You know Mike Baxter's story and why he will never have to buy an adult beverage in New York as long as there's a Mets fan sitting at the bar.

But you've never heard our story.  You've yet to hear the Studious Metsimus account of how we spent those magical two hours and thirty-five minutes on the night of June 1, 2012.  So as 2012 winds down, we thought now would be a good time to tell that story.  After all, if you've been a Mets fan for as long as we have, it's stories like these that fuel our passion for all things blue and orange.  Enjoy!

Taryn (my Gal for All Seasons and behind-the-scenes contributor at Studious Metsimus) and I were doing laundry that night so I had to listen to the first two innings on the radio.  We got back home in time for me to notice that both Santana and Adam Wainwright had not allowed a hit through two innings.  When both pitchers got through three innings with neither team collecting a hit, that was when I first started thinking about the no-hitter for Santana.  I said to myself, "Santana might have to throw a no-hitter to beat Wainwright tonight".

In the bottom of the fourth inning, David Wright broke up Wainwright's no-hitter and started a two-run rally.  Once the Mets had the lead (and some hits), my full focus turned to Johan's attempt to make history.  After the Cardinals went down in the fifth inning and still did not have a hit, Taryn decided she was going to go to the supermarket after the next inning.  I decided I was going to stay home.

When Carlos Beltran didn't break up the no-hitter on the ball that kicked up chalk down the left field line, I really started to feel that I was watching something special.  But Johan was already approaching 100 pitches and felt there was no chance Terry Collins would leave him in the game, especially considering his injury from the previous year.

As odd as it may seem, part of me wanted Johan to give up a hit because I didn't want the team's first no-hitter to be a combined effort.  It wouldn't feel right to see a reliever celebrating the final out instead of a deserving starter.  Notice how I assumed the Mets were going to throw the no-hitter there.  I was getting very confident about it at that point.

That confidence grew in the seventh, when Mike Baxter made the play that will make him a Mets legend forever, a la Ron Swoboda for his World Series catch and Endy Chavez for his NLCS catch.  After Johan had finished his seventh hitless inning, I called Taryn (who had left for the supermarket one inning earlier), telling her to rush back from the store because Johan was taking his no-hitter into the eighth.  She made it back within a few minutes.

In the eighth, I kept thinking that I had been in attendance at Shea Stadium the last two times a Mets pitcher took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but both Tom Glavine and John Maine fell four outs short of making history.  When Santana got the first two outs of the inning, that was the one time I felt a lack of confidence.  It was slight, but it was there.  But then he induced a harmless infield pop-up that ended the inning.  He was now only three outs away.

Only five weeks before, I had written a fairly lengthy piece on the Mets' lack of no-hitters, discussing interesting coincidences and anecdotes surrounding the topic.  I then realized that piece might be rendered obsolete if Santana could get three more outs.  I didn't mind that at all.

Taryn was sitting on the floor and I was sitting on the couch.  Neither of us moved throughout the entire ninth inning.  When Matt Holliday hit a first-pitch soft liner to center, Taryn thought for sure that the no-hitter was over.  It wasn't.  Andres Torres raced in and caught the ball in shallow center.  Then Allen Craig hit a fly ball to left field.  Although Kirk Nieuwenhuis took an odd circuitous route to it, he made the catch and Santana was one out away from baseball immortality.

David Freese came up and Santana threw him three consecutive balls.  Although he had now thrown 131 pitches, I wasn't concerned with the pitch count.  I knew that even if walked Freese, he wasn't going to be taken out of the game.  It was his no-hitter.  No one was going to share it with him.

Then came a called strike.  Two strikes away.  That was followed by a slow topper down the third base line.  As soon as Freese hit it, I thought of Paul Hoover hitting a 30-foot swinging bunt that ended John Maine's no-hitter in 2007.  That ball stayed fair. This one went foul.  Santana was now one strike away from the moment all Mets fans had been waiting for from the first time they said "Let's go Mets".

Taryn was twiddling on her phone on the floor.  I was practically hyperventilating on the couch.  Then Santana looked in, got the sign from Josh Thole and fired away.  Swing and a miss!  He had done it!  The no-hitter was complete!  I immediately leaped off the couch and into Taryn's arms, jumping up and down in place a la Billy Wagner and Paul LoDuca after the Mets had clinched the NL East title in 2006.  The tears were flowing.  Most of them were mine.   (I'm not ashamed to admit it.)

As Gary Cohen said on the air, "it has happened".  And it did.  Johan Santana had finally gotten the monkey off the team's back.  The Mets finally had their first no-hitter.  No longer did we have to keep track of the number of games the team had played without a no-hitter.  (It was at 8,019 before Game No. 8,020 ended the no-hit drought.)  After two innings, I first started thinking about it.  By the time the Mets took the lead in the fourth inning, I really started thinking about it.  By the seventh inning, I knew Santana was going to get it.  Two innings later, he did.

It was a moment I'll never forget (as you can see by this detailed recap of it).  I'm sure it's a moment all Mets fans will never forget.

It has happened.  And it will never be forgotten.


DyHrdMET said...

I remember that night well. I worked a little late, and was listening to Mets Extra (pregame) on the way home, with the talk being about Thole's return to the lineup and Beltran's return to NY to play the Mets. Nothing out of the ordinary. I flipped through the channels a bit. I might have fallen asleep on the couch. I watched a bit of TV from my DVR. And I turned on the game around the 7th inning in time to see the Baxter catch. I could sense through the television that something special was happening. The next 2 innings are a blur. In the bottom of the 8th, I started to get my recording equipment ready - easy enough to record SNY (and make sure I didn't get cut off when the listed program ended) but I wanted to hear Howie Rose at the same time, and to record it. That involved a few more wires. Even most of the 9th is still a blur. Then it happened, and I couldn't quite breathe enough to take phone calls. I knew I had to monitor twitter and Facebook and capture some of my thoughts on my own blog. And I knew I wanted to listen to the respective calls one at a time (instead of trying to listen to them both live together).

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Good story, Bear Man!

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

The one thing I remember about Howie Rose's call was when he said "put in the books; put it in the history books". Other than that, I think Gary Cohen's "it has happened" call is the one that remain in the hearts and minds of Mets fans.

I think for most Mets fans, the night of June 1, 2012 is still a blur. Watching the DVD of the game still doesn't make it seem real.

Thanks for sharing your story, o DyHrd-iest of Mets fans!

DyHrdMET said...

I think Howie tip-toeing around the words "no hitter" all night was very amusing. And I like the DVD because it has both broadcasts. I have the Mets Extra postgame and extended SNY postgame shows recorded, but there was more that aired on WFAN that night that I don't have and would LOVE to hear.

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

Maybe they're saving that extra WFAN material for the special 10th anniversary DVD/Bluray of the game, available in 9 1/2 years.

metsfaninparadise said...

I watched the game on my computer and had the privilege of calling the 9th inning over the phone for my father, who wasn't near a broadcast. It's funny, I didn't have any anxiety either, most of the last 2 innings (except, maybe, when Freese hit the "Hoover-ball"), I just KNEW it was gong to happen.

Ed Leyro (and Joey Beartran) said...

It's too bad Santana's season took a downward turn after the no-hitter. I'm hoping he has a bounceback season in 2013 because I'd rather not have my last good memory of Santana be his no-hitter.